The Backyard Universe is all a Buzzzzz!

I spent most of my day, once it warmed up and the grass dried off, outside working on the half acre.  I watered the little garden, checked the plants for “pests” to re-locate, watered around the labyrinth then decided to clean out and re-fill the Hummingbird feeders.  On walking past our next-to-last declining citrus tree in the yard, a Citrus Greening victim, I noticed pollinators busy at their jobs.  There were the usual bees and various wasps, and then I saw a beautiful little Red Banded Hairstreak butterfly.  (I knew by the shape  it was some kind of a little Hairstreak.)  Hairstreaks are a common butterfly in South West Florida but they are rather small (compare to the bee) and easily missed if you don’t really take the time to LOOK for them on your flowering plants or trees:

02-03-13 Red Banded Hairstreak Bee3Best

Look at the beautiful orange on the wings.. the eye spots and what looks like an M on the hind wing.  If you’ve never watched a Hairstreak before,  try it!   You’ll notice they do some interesting things with their back hind wings.  For one thing, they are usually in motion, being rubbed together much like we’d rub our hands together.  GO ahead, try it!   Now take a much closer look at the picture and you’ll see the hind wings have little “tufts” looking outgrowths on them that stick up.  These will also wiggle around.  Now combine the wiggling tufts on the wings and the wings rubbing together with that big black eye spot and a predator just might think it’s looking at the front end of the butterfly instead of the back end!   Allot of times Hairstreaks will be missing part of their lower wings because this worked so well.  Hairstreaks don’t move around so fast when they have a good source of nectar.  I’ve noticed they like to hang around the area and take it easy usually resting on the blooms like this.

If you have a yard with some citrus in it consider watching and exploring there for Hairstreaks as well as other cool insects like this beautiful  Paper Wasp.



02-03-131 PaperWasp

Look at his coloration what does it tell you?  There’s lots of hot colors there red, oranges, yellows and black in bold arrangements of color.  The colors say “Keep Back”  “Stay Away” “Leave me alone” or I might hurt you to protect myself.  That’s a fair warning!   So just stand back and watch him in the tree or bush and see what he does.  Why is he on the leaf?  Is he getting pollen or hunting for worms?  If we take time to explore and listen, and question – and do a little research later, there’s allot we can learn. 

Insects truly do receive a bad rap for “intruding” upon “our lifestyles” when  in fact, they are just minding their own business!  Outside even!  Whether it is an ant patrolling a counter or a wasp outside in a tree, or a spider in a web a most common thought is Ewwww!   followed by trying to figure out the best way to dispose of it and that is really a shame for we are all part of this same living, macro organism called Earth.  The outdoors are an amazing place to explore with your family or by yourself so go outside and see what you can find.  There are beautiful creatures and plants to see and explore right outside your home.  





Weekly Photo Challenge: Free Spirit



This is my image submission for  the Word Press Photo Challenge of:  Free Spirit.

I love being out in nature, and I mean IN nature.. especially in the wetlands of our SW Florida swamps.  The peacefulness and variety of wildlife and plant life is amazing.   Numerous things abound to pique the senses at every sloggy turn.  Of course you’re soaking wet, maybe even up to your waist – careful, watch out for that fallen log you have to find a way to go over or under or that hole! – but that’s what your stick is for, probing ahead of your strides…  but…. the water is clear, cool and clean… I call it “refreshing” on a hot Spring day in South West Florida.  No, the water in the Swamp is not stagnant, it’s flowing along and you’re following it around the next turn and in my case, hoping I don’t fall down        (I tend to have problems with gravity.)  I feel best when I am out of doors, hiking a trail or wading in water with my camera and walking stick.





Beautiful but deadly.. Three leaves, let it be.

I don’t know about where you live… but here in South West Florida Poison Ivy can be a deceptively beautiful plant reaching great proportions!  I’ve seen is covering Sable Palms and good sized bushes for support.  The red color does not seem to be specific to any particular season down here either… I know of some trails here in SW Florida that have the beautiful red leaves strewn all about bushes.  As a Trail Guide, it’s one of those things that you make sure every kid and adult knows how to identify, right up there with the poisonous snakes.   While the plant is lovely, it has a bite that can ruin your day, your week and month if you get it bad enough.

Found in every State, in a variety of forms it was first written about by Captain John Smith of the Jamestown Colony.  Poison Ivy, as a toxic substance, was considered right up there with White Snakeroot to have possibly  caused the Milk Sickness experienced by Abraham Lincoln’ s  mother and many other people who drank tainted cows milk.  While very rare today, Milk sickness, also known as tremetol vomiting, was a serious problem up until 1928 when it was first recognized by the medical establishment as being an issue – why did it take them that long?   Today it seems the consensus is that it was white snakeroot that killed Lincoln’s mother.

There are many noxious plants out there and if you are going to be out in the woods, or you have a small herd of grazing animals, you need to be aware of what the poisonous plants are so you can avoid them or in the case of your small grazing herd, remove the plants as a possible food source.  (it’s always greener on the other side of the fence)  In the case of Poison ivy, ALL parts of the plant right down to the roots are poisonous.  That includes dried leaves…  even brushing against the leaves can release the oils from the plant onto your clothing, your tent, your jacket, your walking stick… you get the idea.

A good start to figuring out what plants are poisonous in your area would be a trip to your local County Extension Service, Speaking to a Master Gardener at your local Native Plant growers, and/or checking out  the USDA’s Poisonous Plants By Toxic Syndrome website  and please, make sure the kids know what Poison Ivy, Sumac and Oak look like.  Dr. Cathleen Clancy, associate medical director at the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C. said that across the United States last year, there were 63,000 cases of exposure to poisonous plants and of those, “About 43,000 of those were children under the age of six,”  Dr. Clancy said.  (2009 figure)