Pawpaw Trees and Zebra Swallowtails

Guess what? I was in the garden one evening. I know…what a shocker!

All joking aside, I spotted a Zebra Swallowtail that evening. Only the second one I’ve seen in the garden this year, and maybe the fifth or sixth one I’ve ever seen in the garden.

It got me thinking about symbiotic relationships and this crazy world we live in. Why symbiotic relationships? Because I know that Zebra Swallowtails feed on pawpaw trees. In fact, pawpaws are the only host plant for Zebra Swallowtails. Why crazy world? Because I think about all the development going on in cities and suburbs and rural areas and wonder how many people know that, without pawpaw trees, there will be no Zebra Swallowtails. What a shame that would be – they are some of the most beautiful butterflies I’ve ever seen.

Zebra Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush
Zebra Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush
Zebra Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush
Love those colors
Zebra Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush
Check out that long, thin tail

Live in an older neighborhood, I’m sure there’s a stand of pawpaw trees somewhere within butterfly flying distance, just not sure where. I think I’ll ask my neighbor, who has lived in the neighborhood most of his life, next time I see him.

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Butterfly Love

I was in the garden minding my business stalking bees and butterflies when I noticed two monarchs flying around. When they both landed on a butterfly bush, I went over to check them out and take some pictures.

After watching them for a bit. I turned around to ask John a question and imagine my surprise when I turned back around and spotted this!

I yelled the monarchs are mating! to John and proceeded to give them zero privacy. But they didn’t seem to mind.

You know I almost died from the excitement of monarchs mating RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, IN MY GARDEN, ON MY BUTTERFLY BUSH. I took a zillion pictures and even a video (which I’m not sharing because there wasn’t any movement and all you can hear is me babbling about monarchs “doing it” because I’m mature like that).

At one point, they briefly switched positions. Or whatever monarchs do when they’re really getting into it, I guess.

Of course, in the middle of all this excitement, a hummingbird moth stopped by. It’s been a great year in the garden for these moths. While I don’t spot them daily, I have seen them a few times a week.

How does this story end? Hopefully there are monarch eggs on the milkweed in the garden. Time will tell!

On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen

Well really, just on Dasher. Specifically this blue dasher dragonfly perched on a garden stake near the koi pond. Very cool and sort of sci-fi.

It’s hard to pause in the garden this time of year. I’m always weeding or harvesting or planning for the fall or wondering what’s wrong with this plant or that plant or chasing butterflies like a madwoman.

But, when I do pause, I’m always astounded by what I see – like this very cool and sort of sci-fi dragonfly. We spent a few minutes checking each other out. I might have been more intrigued but you never know!Dasher dragonfly perched on a stake in the gardenDasher dragonfly perched on a stake in the garden Dasher dragonfly perched on a stake in the garden

Pesticides, Fungicides & Herbicides…Oh My!

Pesticide.

Fungicide.

Herbicide.

Genocide.

Homicide.

Suicide.

What do these all have in common? The suffix “cide”, which means killer or the act of killing.

To be clear, I’m not equating the aforementioned to each other; I cannot imagine the horrors of genocide, homicide, or suicide.

But I am feeling heartbroken and sick to my stomach because of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

I’ve worked hard to create an organic oasis in both our yard and the yard of our rental house yard (which is right next door).

I don’t talk about it much but everything I do as a gardener is tied to helping pollinators. My husband, John, calls me his pollinator and even tells people I’m a pollinator.

And it’s true.

I don’t just plant annuals; I plant annuals that are known to attract and feed pollinators. Same with herbs and perennials and bushes and trees and…well, you get the picture.

This spring, we decided to turn part of the rental yard lawn into a mini-meadow. While John did the hard work of removing the grass, we’ve both enjoyed watching the seeds sprout and the seedlings emerge. The new meadow is against a fence, on the other side of which is a public park. In addition to being pretty and attracting pollinators, the meadow may also give parkgoers ideas for transforming their own yards.

Wildflower meadow | Horseradish & Honey
The meadow in our backyard

One evening earlier this week, I was sitting on the deck and John was next door watering the wildflower seedlings and some other perennials we transplanted. I noticed a tractor in the park but didn’t know what it was doing. When they cut the grass or groom the baseball fields, they typically do it early in the morning. But I thought maybe they were running way behind and playing catch up.

Well, I was wrong.

John told me they were spraying the grass in the park. And I just about flipped out.

After I said a few choice words and managed to calm down, he told me talked with the woman driving the sprayer and explained we were growing wildflowers and he would appreciate if she didn’t spray close to them. According to John, she was very nice, told him she is the only one who sprays, and she’ll remember.

Me being me, I asked him if he asked her how she feels about poisoning herself and Mother Nature. It was hot that evening and she was covered head to toe.

My first reaction to all of this is wanting to line the side fence in the rental yard and both back fences with signs like:

  • Your Kids are Playing in a Death Zone (Did I mention they were spraying while kids were playing baseball?)
  • Sycamore Township: Where Green Playing Fields are More Important Than Your Health
  • You’re Breathing What They’re Spraying

I’m still overwhelmed and working through the dismay. However, instead of going around and around in my mind, I decided to treat this like a work project so I came up with the following to do/to remember list:

  1. Focus even more on our organic oasis and expand it little by little each year.
  2. Keep donating to organizations like the Xerces Society.
  3. Help the native bees by putting up bee houses and waiting to clean up the garden until well into the spring.
  4. Certify my garden as a wildlife habitat and proudly display a couple of their signs along the fences.
  5. Continue hosting a hive through Gaiser Bee Co.
  6. Reach out to the Parks & Recreation Director to learn more and share my concerns.
  7. Be an informed consumer and choose to spend my money in ways that support my beliefs.
  8. Keep learning.
  9. Keep sharing.
  10. Remember that my religion is nature. While I cannot affect the entire world, I have to believe that what I’m doing helps.

My Religion is Nature Oliver Sacks Quote | Horseradish & Honey

What I’m Listening To: Pollinator Pathway

We all know about the plight of honeybees. In fact, most save the bees campaigns focus on them. However, did you know honeybees aren’t native to North America and were imported to the United States in the 1600s?

And, did you know the myriad of native bees, butterflies, moths, and other native pollinators also need help?

Want to learn more? Listen to this podcast.

In Defense of Plants founder Matt Candeias recently interviewed Sarah Bergmann. She is the founder & director of the Pollinator Pathway. It’s a long podcast but well worth your time. You’ll learn about things like ecological judo and the lack of biodiversity in farms.