Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Living together in harmony?

I wasn't sure how she was able to fly with her load of pollen.

ID still needed. Will post on BugGuide

Is it all because of the exotic and invasive and beautiful Verbena bonariensis?

The last week has seen unprecedented butterfly activity on the terrace, and the verbena is where they hang. A few years ago I designed a garden for a Park Slope rooftop where we planted New York ironweed (Vernonia novaboracensis) as a native alternative (although it is far too robust to be an aesthetic stand-in) for tall and slender V. bonariensis.

I think it's time to check on that roof garden again, and to ask whether insects have been attracted to those flowers. I'm not sure that the owner would notice. I sit and work close to the open sliding door, so that the flutterings outside have been a constant distraction/inspiration.

The Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae) are new this year.

Constantly on the move, but not as fast as the little skipper (Herspiriidae family), below, poised for take off. Apparently many skippers look similar, so another candidate for BugGuide submission.

The skipper, again.

Here was my cunning swallowtail butterfly trap: parsley, center stage.

..so it went for the fennel?

At last, where she belonged:

Oscar, the offspring; only surviving member of the family, in fact...


Grab a drink, a strong one.

Up on the farm...


' Je-hosaphat.

I had seen this...this...Thing, through the skylight from the apartment below, and thought it a curled up leaf.

No. It was a caterpillar, longer than my middle finger and fatter. And perfectly matched to the black cherry tomato's stem. Which was bare of leaves. A caterpillar that eats tomato leaves? I suspected a mothy heritage, not sure why...size, maybe. I get big moths in lily season. The tomato connection made it very easy to look up, of course.

Tobacco hornworm, I think: Manduca sexta (7 white stripes). Very similar to Tomato hornworm, which ought to be more common here.

Child of moth indeed. Carolina Sphinx Moth if it is the tobacco hornworm...And I've found pictures of them actually eating the tomatoes themselves. Wait! Yesterday I found a black cherry half eaten. Grrrrrrrrrrr

Once I got over the initial revulsion, I found it to be quite beautiful. But did it have to pick my favourite tomato? Still, I weighed tomatoes over chrysalis-observation and the possible chrysalis won. For now.

I'm already changing my mind...


  1. Lovely butterfly shots.

    YIKES! That hornworm is really something. Your link says the pupa will form underground so you may not care enough to keep horny alive. Unless the tomatoes are beyond salvaging.

    Oscar looks close to chrysalis time based on what happened with ours. If you observe him doing a big loose poop, that's the signal. You may wish to enclose the parsley plant in netting and provide some twigs, otherwise it will likely crawl away and disappear and form the chrysalis on a brick on the roof surround.

  2. Beautiful pics Marie! Way to work the camera!

    How did that bugger end up on your patio? Did you have any issues getting him off of the branch? They have a grip like nobody's business.

  3. Marie,

    Check out Doug Tallamy's Bringing Nature Home. Based on your insect excitement and love of plants, I think you might appreciate it. It's definitely made me rethink some things.

    Thanks, as always, for the beaufitul images and stories :)

  4. Wow, so much going on. Curse those Cabbage Whites, they've infested my broccoli before I could get a cover on them!

    Tobacco Hornworm! Am familiar with the tomato variety. Hmm. Too fat to squish. I suppose the pruner would do. Can't the birds do the dirty work?

  5. And here I am in the middle of the English countryside and have never seen so few butterflies as this summer.

    I have quoted your fabulous peach sponge on my blog today with a link to your blog - trusting that is ok with you?

    LOVE that cake! Bless Mr Slater!!

  6. Those tomato eating caterpillars are ruthless! I respect your awe of them, but I've lost too many big tomato plants to them to be kind to them. Since it's near the end of tomato season I especially want them GONE. Beautiful pictures though, and I did actually have a tiny moment of compassion.

  7. Ick, the hornworm is so pretty yet so destructive!!

  8. Oh what a lovely post, Marie! I used to spend many childhood afternoons mesmerized by Cabbage Whites kissing the lantana in our neighbor's yard. And my old "friend", the tomato hornworm. She makes swift work of the crop, doesn't she? They squirt pretty good, too ... just sayin'.


  9. Hi Marie-

    Beautiful blog. I think I met you once at BBG, possibly in the Native Flora when the lilies were blooming. I think I have an ID for your butterfly. The American Painted Lady. Vannessa virginiensis. But I am no expert. I'd taken a picure of one earlier in the season and tried to ID it myself. Your blog just made me hungry, although not this particular catipillar post.

  10. So funny to read this -- I still remember growing tomatoes in Florida and dealing with these guys. I was a peace-loving vegetarian at the time and yet still had murderous visions of displaying the dead body of one hornworm to scare off the others ... They just kept coming and eating and eating and eating my tomato plants.

  11. I just loved your site, congratulations.
    São Paulo - Brasil


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