Thinking Thursday: Gut Punch(es)

Butterflies Are Disappearing

Don’t get me started (again, my husband would add) about the lack of butterflies in the garden so far. I spotted red admirals in early May and figured the rest of the butterflies would be following soon. 

Well, I was wrong. I realize I don’t spend every waking minute in my yard—although I try to—but the lack of butterflies makes me sad. And concerns me and others.

This recently published study, which found an average population decline of 2 percent per year in Ohio’s butterfly populations, was/is an emotional gut punch. There are a couple bright spots in the study, though:

  • Butterflies found in Southern Ohio seem to be doing better than northern butterflies. Perhaps this is because they’re used to the warmer weather we generally have in the southern part of the state?
  • Some butterfly populations have increased. For example, the wild indigo duskywing “is doing really well in Ohio because a plant it eats is used as erosion control on construction sites. It’s three times more numerous now than it was 20 years ago.”

I believe that anything I do personally can make a difference, which is why we don’t use pesticides and I have made an effort to plant native, pollinator-friendly plants in addition to the vegetable and fruit plants. But there are times I wonder if my small wins actually DO make a difference.

Eastern tiger swallowtail

Bye Bye Bee Census

I keep thinking about the canary in the coal mine. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the miners hurry up and get out of the coal mine if the canary died?

The USDA is temporarily suspending data collection for the annual Honeybee Colonies Report due to budget cuts.

While I’m all about helping ALL bees, are honeybees our new canary in a coal mine metaphor?

Bee on butterflyweed

June Buzz

Bees and fireflies were the insect stars in the garden this month.

At the beginning of June, peas and strawberries were definitely the vegetable stars. However, beans are definitely taking over the starring role to finish out the month!

Although June started rainy and cool, and many of the perennials and annuals took their own sweet time growing and flowering, there were lots of bees visiting the garden.

Why? Part of it is because I direct sowed Lacy Phacelia seeds in 4 or 5 different areas in mid April. There’s a reason it’s also commonly called Bee’s Friend. Once it starts blooming, bees visit it from dusk until dawn.

Bumblebee enjoying lacy phacelia | Horseradish & Honey blog
Bumblebee enjoying Lacy Phacelia

Want to add Lacy Phacelia to your garden? I got my seeds from Hudson Valley Seed Company and couldn’t be happier with the germination and overall quality.

Fireflies immediately take me back to my childhood. I’m sure they are super thankful that I outgrew the habit of capturing them in jars. What were we thinking? I guess it was just the thing to do.

I now know that fireflies do so much more than light up. And they’re one more reason why we let the backyard get kind of wild. 

I spot fireflies all over the place in the garden and yard—especially on the tall grass. But you never know where a firefly might be hanging out and it’s not unusual to see them on the flowers in my vegetable gardens.

Firefly-Orange-Marigold-Horseradish-And-Honey
Love this color-coordinated firefly and marigold!

I love that our koi pond provides a habitat for more than just fish. Dragonflies showed up earlier than last year and have been hanging around the pond and in the garden. 

Interesting fact: Dragonflies can fly in any direction. Learn more about these fascinating insects.

How cool is this Blue Dasher dragonfly? There are usually 3 or 4 flitting about and they aren’t afraid to fly right up and check me out while I’m checking them out.

Blue Dasher Dragonfly
This Blue Dasher dragonfly is super cool!

What I’m…

Harvesting: Last of the peas and bok choy, a few strawberries and raspberries, beets, radishes, bush beans, jalapeños, cilantro, basil, lemon basil, chives

Making: Pesto! I’ve been making lots of it, without a recipe, and not always using basil or pine nuts. I know, what a rebel! It has been SO GOOD!

Reading: How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons. I’m trying to learn more about sustainable gardening practices.

Wanting: A vegepod. I saw one in person a few months ago and I’ve been lusting for one ever since. Not sure how much longer I can resist.

Looking Forward To: Ripe tomatoes in July!

And There Goes June

Oh, June. What a month we’ve had in Cincinnati. Cool and rainy. Warm and rainy. Rainy and rainy.

Looks like the weather is changing this week—the final week of June. Not much rain in the forecast, lots of sun, and temperature goes up steadily to into the upper 80s.

In spite of the weather, or maybe because most of my veggie plants are in raised beds, the garden is coming along—slowly—but I know the first ripe tomato is coming soon. I’ve got my eye on this Roma!

Roma Tomato | Horseradish & Honey Blog
Patiently waiting for ripe tomatoes!

And the cool season crops have loved their extended growing season. Asparagus was plentiful, we’ve had peas for dinner a handful of times, I recently harvested beets, and the radishes are still mild and quite tasty.

Freshly-harvested Radishes | Horseradish & Honey
Mild, tasty radishes

While the zinnias, which usually draw in the butterflies, have just started blooming, I was lucky enough to spot a monarch caterpillar on the common milkweed last week. I’m hopeful the butterflies will show up in droves soon!

Monarch Caterpillar on Common Milkweed | Horseradish & Honey
Monarch caterpillar on common milkweed

Our newest wildflower patch is also off to a stunning start. It sure has been nice to have Mother Nature water it for free!

Newest Wildflower Patch | Horseradish & Honey
Love this mix of wildflowers!

Really, I’m not complaining. June 2019 has been a lesson in patience and being grateful for what we have.

Butterfly Stalking Season Has Begun

THE BUTTERFLIES ARE BACK!!

Sorry for shouting but I’m super excited.

We’ve had some really nice weather over the last week, perfect for dinners on the deck and enjoying beautiful spring weather.

One evening last week we were in the middle of eating dinner when I spotted a very small butterfly flitting around the yard. I stopped eating and yelled, “I’ll be back, there’s a butterfly in the yard!”.

I grabbed my camera and I was off, stalking the first butterfly of 2019.

It took a few minutes for the butterfly to land and I immediately knew it was a Red Admiral. These butterflies are small. Even when fully grown, they only have a wingspan of about 2 -3 inches.

They have distinct colors and markings, even with their wings closed.

Red Admiral Butterfly – Wings Closed

You can’t miss them with their wings open. The bright orange draws you in.

Red Admiral Butterfly – Wings Open

I love their knobby antennae, too. If you click on the following picture, you’ll get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

Red Admiral Butterfly Resting in Arborvitae

I registered the sighting with Butterflies and Moths of North America. I’m trying to be better about sharing what I observe in my yard and it only takes a couple of minutes to upload a photo and enter details about the sighting.

Finally, I also spotted an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail that was very anti-paparazzi and didn’t even pause as I chased it through the yard with my camera. While the hubs sat on the deck and shook his head.

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