Fields, Knapweed and Insect Visitors

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Old fields, forest edges and road corridors harbor an impressive variety of summer flowers, many of them alien. Knapweed is one that I have grown to appreciate due to the tremendous insect activity associated with its flowers.  On a hot, muggy summer afternoon it is possible to hear a field of knapweed in full bloom before you see it….bees! I liken the sound to that of the faint hum of traffic on a distant highway.

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I appreciate the importance of this bloom as a food source for bees, and couldn’t walk away from a serving of knapweed honey. However, the main reason I trudge through the matted, thigh-high tangles of knapweed in the mid day heat is butterflies.

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Skipper

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Fritillary

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Painted Lady

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Tiger Swallowtail

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Viceroy

Photos by NB Hunter (late July, 2017). ©All Rights Reserved.

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Goldenrod Meadows and Summer’s End

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Goldenrod honey in the making

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White Admiral

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Cabbage Whites planning ahead

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A Cabbage White butterfly caught in the web of life; one of two

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Monarchs: a species at risk; one of two

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Late Spring Scenes, 2016

Becoming immersed in the continuum of spring scenes from March to June is a bit like viewing a blog post that features an endless gallery of world-class images. Each phase of spring has exceptional, defining visual qualities and it’s virtually impossible to pick favorites.

Young Red Squirrels are maturing rapidly, but still show the fearless curiosity of a juvenile.

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Buttercups are in full bloom…

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As are the Dame’s Rockets…..

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Tiger Swallowtails, our most common, large butterfly, liven up the June landscape as they follow the sequence of bloom.

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Tiger Swallowtail on hawkweed

And it’s not all about youngsters and flowers: large herbivores seize the moment, feasting on succulent new plant growth (throughout the day if undisturbed).

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A young doe (yearling) foraging in a brushy meadow

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Glory-of-the-Snow

When landscaping for wildlife (including some insects), I prefer plants that provide multiple benefits through the seasons. A flowering crabapple tree (Malus spp.) with attractive, spring flowers and persistent, colorful fruit that feeds Robins in late winter is an example. As the snow melts in early spring, my attention is drawn to a small perennial flower that also supports this landscaping priority: Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa spp.).

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Glory-of-the-Snow is native to alpine habitats in the eastern Mediterranean region and is therefore very hardy, tolerating winter temperatures down to minus 20 degrees (F) or colder, depending on the variety. In this area it is often seen blooming in a snow-covered perennial bed or lawn (they naturalize) in March or April.

The temperature was 18 degrees (F) when this photo was taken (the slender green structures framing the flower are the typical leaves of this variety).

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Aside from the obvious aesthetic appeal of an early spring bloom and carpet of blue on white, Glory-of-the-Snow also performs a valuable ecological role in the landscape. It provides a food source for honeybees, flies and other insects. Take a walk and tally up all of the flowers in bloom that might be visited by a honey bee for nectar. Here, you’ll find landscape crocuses (Crocus spp.), some willows (Salix spp.; cultivated and natural)  — but not much else.

Bees returned to feed soon after the deep freeze, when afternoon temperatures reached 45 – 50 degrees (F).

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

In the Heat of the Day!?

The summer season and waves of brightly colored wildflowers that arrive with it can be a seemingly endless array of sights, sounds and ecological interactions. There’s usually something in the mix to baffle, entertain and satisfy any nature enthusiast, regardless of their specialty. A simple, short walk through an open natural area (meadows, fallow fields, waste places) in the middle of a hot, steamy day can prove to be quite rewarding!

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St. Johnswort

My gallery is a sample of images captured in the month of July. Let’s take a hike!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.