Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bee and Butterflies

We finally found a bee! Without even searching, Will happened upon it at the playground behind the police station after our field trip last week. I was busy chatting with friends, but when I heard her shout for me I immediately darted away without explanation, then spent several minutes with Will running after the bee, dropping to my knees to photograph it whenever it found a lovely flower, then running after it again as Will helped me spot its new location.

The friends were all homeschoolers, as well, of course, so nobody thought that this was weird.

The kids think that this is a bombus impatiens, or Common Eastern Bumblebee.

Its identification was impaired, unfortunately, since I did not realize that the best way to photograph a bee for identification is to photograph it from the top. You get a clear view of the coloring of its head, abdomen, and thorax that way. Ah, well... an identification that pins it as part of the most common of our bumblebee species is probably not incorrect.

This photo and all the accompanying information are now at Bumble Bee Watch, waiting for an identification to be confirmed by an expert. So exciting!

Will tried her best at prepping and pinning a butterfly, but unfortunately it did not go well.

This is possibly a Northwestern Fritillary.

We watched a video tutorial together, one that I think explained the process pretty well, but the reality is that, like many things, it's very, very difficult to do without practice. Will also forgot to use paper strips to hold down the wings, instead using more pins, but of course without the paper strips the wings curled up and the pins tore them.

I really, really, really do not want to pin a butterfly, but I think I'm going to have to learn how to do this for myself, so that I can better teach her. Sigh...

I only permit Will to catch and euthanize (we're quite satisfied with the freezer method) butterflies that are common in our neighborhood, so she didn't catch this next one; instead I again chased after it like a loon, and it led me a merry chase! At one point it actually flew OVER THE HOUSE, so that I had to run around the entire house like a maniac, screaming to everyone else "Where is it? Where is it?!?"

Matt was all, "It's back at the same flower that it started at! Can you just stop chasing it and let it settle?"

Well, fine.

This, the kids think, is a male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail:

They're apparently, at least according to the information that the kids found, more common than the Northern Fritillary, but we see loads of Fritillaries, and this is the first Eastern Tiger Swallowtail that I have ever seen in our yard.

For all the work that we put into our gardens this year, the number of things growing in them is pitifully small--several strawberry plants that I didn't get a single strawberry from, a pumpkin plant that's currently growing one pumpkin, a couple of basil, three tomato plants, and three peppers. This butterfly garden of Will's sports only two milkweed, a prairie something-or-other, and this beautiful plant that the swallowtail loves--a friend gave the seedling to Syd for her birthday, and told her that it was a Mexican sunflower.

It makes me very happy, though, that even this one flowering plant is enough to bring in butterflies for us to enjoy. Next year, I WILL have more flowers, and I WILL have more bees and butterflies!


Tina said...

That's exciting that you found a bee! We tried your freezer method the other day when we found a mostly dead bug on our front step. It looks like the bugs that have been tormenting the horses during lessons, so we wanted to be able to research it. We haven't yet, but we will.

I think our next book purchase will be the Audubon Field Guide Spiders and Insects. We've borrowed it a few times from our library and it's been pretty helpful.

Emma has a deck of playing cards that Gramma got her, that each have a different butterfly or moth on. She loves them.

We are going to have to check out this Bumble Bee Watch program. We love to watch and photograph the bees.

If you have an active freecycle in your area, try asking for plants that attract butterflies. My mother-in-law is always trying to thin her expansive garden out by giving some of her plants away. Oh, and bees love lavender, which smells awesome and is suppose to keep mosquitoes at bay.

julie said...

Okay, I am putting that spiders and insects field guide on hold at the library right this second. I never realized such an awesome reference book existed!

I got pretty into identifying local wildflowers this year, and passed the little that I could figure out on to the kids. 2016 is our year for tree identification!

Tina said...

I briefly dreamed of purchasing the entire Audubon field guide series for Emma for Christmas this year, but I didn't. I never actually looked to see if it was possible to get the entire collection at once. We will be purchasing some Michigan field guides as soon as we get to Michigan though.

We dabbled in tree id this year, but never got to into it. If we end up with trees on our property when we get to MI, we will probably dabble some more. However, most of our time and energy will be devoted to figure out how to raise happy chickens :0)


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