Tag Archives: insects

When Choosing Plants, Think Food Chain

Some years ago when I began writing for a national wildlife gardening blog, I wrote from the standpoint of my personal observations and over the years I have learned and evolved in my way of gardening based on those observations. Below is the very first article I wrote and one of which I am most proud.

It still holds true today as evidenced in the “featured photo” above taken in 2016 which shows the larva of a ladybug eating the pupa of a leaf eating beetle that had dined on the Florida native Goldenrod plant shown. Years ago I may have tossed the beetles in their active leaf-eating stage into soapy water, thinking they were ruining my plants. As I observe the food chain in action, I have learned the importance of leaving them to feed others higher up since if you break the chain at any point someone further up suffers.

Dateline:  October 8, 2010*

Caterpillars of Automeris io moth

I do outreach events for the local chapter of The Florida Native Plant Society. This is our busiest time of year as the weather turns cooler and delightfully breezy.

This past weekend we were at the local Home Depot, sharing our space with Audubon as we often do. I always bring a few live bugs or small garden critters to serve as a conversation starter in how to go about creating a beautiful wildlife garden. It gets kids interested in plants and keeps their attention while I talk to the parents about biodiversity.

I only had about five minutes to locate my “friends” in the early morning hours when things are wet and critters aren’t as plentiful, but I managed to gather a treefrog, a lynx spider and a white peacock butterfly, who was just emerging. Into their display cases they went with proper moisture and plant materials.

When things slowed down at the event, Larry, the president of the Kissimmee Audubon who is also a Native Plant Society member and I got to talking. He said that he was amazed at what I find in my yard to get the conversation flowing. He remarked that not many people could do as I did the week before and bring seven different species to an event without struggling to find them.

That hunt on a single area of Bidens Alba and some native mallow species took me about 15 minutes resulting in finding a praying mantis, two different butterflies, soldier beetles, a spider, and a treefrog. I added a grasshopper which I found on a citrus tree and I only stopped because I ran out of display containers.

Afternoon events are always easier to supply because the bugs are enjoying the sun and are plentiful. Our discussion continued in how planting for butterflies is good but having a lot of different plants in a garden to support all types of native insects is critical in being sustainable and providing for a more diverse array of wildlife.

Birds like all caterpillars, not just those of the butterflies. Consider planting some native plants that support moth caterpillars. You’ll feel less upset about the caterpillars being devoured. I don’t want to give the moths a complex by pointing out that some are not as pretty as a butterfly, but if I see a bird near my Cowbane (Tiedemannia filiformis), I get a little uneasy feeling that perhaps he is eating a potential Black Swallowtail Butterfly. Alternately, if I see a bird on a Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera) I enjoy the encounter without much concern that a possible looper moth is being digested. Ok, so I’m a little shallow.  😉

I guess the point is that not every critter is going to be something that you want to hug or photograph but they may be the food for something that you want to hug, photograph or observe in your own beautiful wildlife garden.

Clearly an onslaught of stinging caterpillars (Automeris io (shown above)) on an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) can be a frightening encounter. But if you wait a day or two to see a fattened anole playfully running up and down the branches of the tree you’ll have expanded your wildlife viewing experience. And you’ll be relieved to observe that the majority of the leaves may still be intact. In the world of native plants, nature tends to keep a balance.

Loret is a retired, transplanted New Yorker. She resides on an acre of land in a rural central Florida community called Holopaw with her three sporting dogs. She is a member of The Pine Lily Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society which encourages others to plant native plants in order to reap the benefits of a beautiful wildlife garden and avoid spreading invasive exotics into our natural areas. 

*This is tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on October 8, 2010 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.


Ooops! Anatomy of a Potter Wasp Nest

Dateline:  June 28, 2013*

Potter Wasp (Eumenes fraternus)

I feel horrible.  I guess I will be up for only 2nd degree bugslaughter since I didn’t realize what I was doing.  There was no intent, I swear, Judge.

Potter Wasp Nests

Yesterday I noticed three potter wasp nests on the brick skirting around the bottom of the house.  They look like pots similar to what you would see at a ceramics store before the painting and firing of the clay, only in miniature. Without any thought I used the screwdriver in my hand to scrape these brood cells off the bricks since they were awfully close to the door.  All three “popped” open and I was shocked to see scads of caterpillars and what I thought was beetle or fly larvae.

Holy Mackerel!

Well, as research would reveal the larvae likely were young potter wasps in the Eumenes genus, probably E. fraternus based on the way the nests were constructed.  Just minding their own business, working through complete metamorphosis.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know that until today.

Eumenes fraternus nest has a distinct pottery shape like a little jug

I’ll probably get a stay of execution because, as luck would have it, a hungry green anole showed up almost immediately upon the caterpillars being scattered.  He ate the evidence.  That potter nest must have rung like a dinner bell when I disturbed it.  At least my mistake made for a happy critter next up the food chain.  Hopefully it will be seen that way and I will avoid being fed to the mosquitoes.

Had I known the larva was a wasp, I would have moved it to a rearing box (or in my case, a screened Beanie Baby box) and tried to see it into adulthood.  Having now had this educational experience, in the future I’ll be a lot more careful about removing the little pots and will place them somewhere safe rather than attacking them with a screwdriver.

Put down the screwdriver lady! The larger green larva on the left is the wasp larva, others are various caterpillars

Although I doubt there would ever be a next time since it appears that momma potter wasps aren’t protective of the nest, so you don’t have to worry about some angry, aggressive insect with the stinger coming after you if you walk by.  They are capable of stinging; they just don’t really bother.  Now that I know that, I’d just leave the little pots alone.  One can never have too many wasps to help with pollination.  The adults are nectar feeders.

The wasp larvae was at the top of the pot until the crazy human came along and flipped open it’s housing

When I see how many caterpillars were provisioned in those three tiny pots, I’m amazed.  The potter wasp lays an egg suspended from the “ceiling” of the cell by a filament. She then gathers a bunch of caterpillars that she paralyzes and puts them into the brood cell so her larva will have something to feed off.  Then she seals up the entry with mud.

A different species shows how to capture and disable a caterpillar

This is an example of how nature stays in check.  Had all those caterpillars remained on a shrub or plant, there surely would have been noticeable chewing damage.  Had someone come along and treated the shrub with pesticides, there would be less pollinators, both butterflies and wasps, and fewer baby birds because there would be no caterpillars as food.   My mistake also destroyed a potential home for others, as older mud cavities are reused by Leafcutter Bees.

Luckily, if you create habitat as Mother Nature intended, the food chain works like it is suppose to work.  There are enough caterpillars to turn into moths or butterflies, but there are also enough to grow wasps, birds and whatever other critters find the squiggly things tasty, such as my anole buddy, who probably thought he died and went to heaven.

Another beneficial lesson about a beneficial in my beautiful wildlife garden.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on June 28, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

War on Aphids

When most people see aphids on their plants they immediately seek help on how to eliminate them often grabbing a bottle of soapy water or some other recommended concoction. Me? I get positively giddy with delight.

You see, aphids are on one of the low rungs on the web of life partner’s ladder. They serve as a feast for others, growing a variety of pollinators and ultimately reptiles, amphibians and birds. Where there are aphids, critters on the next link in the food chain are sure to follow.

I’ve written before how aphids are much like butterflies in that they flock to particular host plants. You can often identify the species by using the aphid host database although you might only narrow things down to genus.

Honey, this looks like a great spot to raise our young. Look at all the aphids! (Dioprosopa clavata)

This week I got giddy…VERY giddy. I spotted some aphids on the Bidens alba, my all-time favorite Florida native plant. You would be hard-pressed to find any aphid damage on the B. alba…it grows quickly and any chewing or sucking damage is quickly covered by new leaf growth. More importantly, what followed my spotting of the aphids was a parade of critters and the benefits abound.

Adult Ladybugs and syrphid fly larva work side by side to clean up the aphids

Cornell reports:

“Although the impact of any one species of natural enemy may be minor, the combined impact of predators, parasitoids, and insect pathogens can be considerable.”

So, what infantrymen were on my Bidens battlefield?

Larva of a native spotless lady bug was on the job
Larva of Tribe Scymnini (Dusky Lady Beetle) was scouring stems
and you ocan see was having great success

Lady beetles. “A single lady beetle may eat as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.”

Even the exotic ladybugs were showing up.
And this pupa shows that future generations are possible

Hover [syrphid] flies. “A single syrphid larva can consume hundreds of aphids in a month.”

eggs of Syrphid Fly (Dioprosopa clavata) were layed
and the larva began to grow
and grow
and GROW


The pupa forms and the next generation is secure
As the empty cocoon shows

Not to be outdone, the airmen showed up:

Long legged flies. As adults, Longlegged Flies (Dolichopodidae family) are predaceous on small insects such as aphids. And with their metallic colors they’re pretty too!

Long legged flies land to eat
They are small by easily spotted with their bright metallic coloring
Some of them downright bright and shiny

In my research I learned about a new-to-me aphid web of life partner. The Braconid wasp. While cropping photos I noticed an insect I was not familiar with. Turns out it was an “aphid mummy”. Braconid wasps in the subfamily Aphidiinae are parasitoids and oviposit their eggs in aphids. What I was seeing was an aphid that had been parasitized. Soon a tiny beneficial wasp will emerge.

This aphid was parasitized by a beneficial Braconid wasp from which offspring should soon emerge


This is a new syrphid fly player in the war for me. Ocyptamus cylindricus species group

The waste aphids produce is known as [honeydew]. I found the following of interest:

 Adult hover [syrphid] flies require honeydew or nectar and pollen to ensure reproduction, whereas larvae usually require aphid feeding to complete their development (Schneider 1969). However, there are exceptions: in the absence of aphids, larvae of some species can subsist and complete development on diets made up solely of plant materials such as pollen (e.g., Melanostoma and Allograpta obliqua [Schneider 1969] and To x o m e r u s [Mesograpta sp.] [Cole and Schlinger 1969])

One of the Toxomerus sp. of Syrphid Flies. The honeydew may be what attracts them

So, if you remove aphids from your plants you may defeat attracting future generations of beneficials. Given, I would treat aphids on a houseplant by wiping them off since natural predators won’t have ready access to perform pest control indoors and thus the plant would suffer. On the other hand, its seems that aphids on your outdoor plants can benefit your garden by attracting those wonderful pollinators, predators and parasitoids especially those whose larvae use aphids as hosts.

Spined soldier bugs (Podisus maculiventris) are predators who probably are lying in wait for those that feed on the aphids….or perhaps may nosh on an aphid or two themselves

Don’t spray the aphids and then buy commercial ladybugs in an attempt to keep them in check. Likely, you’ll only to have them fly off. If you already removed the aphids or discouraged them in any way, adult ladybugs will go to lay their eggs where there is an ample supply of the host for their young…like my house. 😉

Looks like the dusky lady beetle larva did a good job of cleaning up the aphids

While other branches of the Bidens had signs of aphids from time to time, the branch in the original photo was scoured clean within a day. Give natural control a chance to develop and hopefully you will see the circle of life perform beautifully at your place too.

Tip: Group different genera of plants native to your area using the “right plant, right place” theory and avoid monocultures. That way your garden will attract a mix of native insects and predators and never look overly chewed since it will have balance just like Mother Nature intended.

Select resources:

ENTFACT-105: Ladybugs by Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Hoffmann, M.P. and Frodsham, A.C. (1993) Natural Enemies of Vegetable Insect Pests. Cooperative Extension, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. 63 pp. (Anthony Shelton, editor). Accessed August 27, 2017, from http://www.biocontrol.entomology.cornell.edu/

Aphids on the World’s Plants: an online identification and information guide.



Ants: Walking Wallendas in My Garden

Dateline:  August 2, 2013*

Acrobat Ants (Crematogaster) at the Bidens buffet

There are all sorts of ants and I was drawn to a group that was hanging out on a leaf of Bidens alba, a Florida native plant that is a bundle of biodiversity.  This group of ants was like none I had ever seen before.  Medium sized, shiny and with a heart shaped abdomen. What I found more interesting is that it was a reasonable gathering of say 50 or so, not thousands as I would normally expect of ant conventions.

They were engrossed in eating some white looking glop, the color resembling Elmer’s glue gone bad.  A lone fly was off to the side, standing watch.  I snapped a few photos to see if a closer look via zoom would tell me what was so fascinating as to draw this crowd.

Is the fly guarding the group? or is he trying to figure out how to sneak in

I learned these valentine looking scavengers are called Acrobat Ants. They are in the Genus Crematogaster.  I’m not ready to get these guys down to the species level with 10 different species in Florida that look rather alike to me.  I got itchy just looking for Genus.

Is the fly sick of waiting?

The habit of bending the gaster up over the thorax when disturbed is likely how it got the common name Acrobat Ant. The worker looks a little like he’s walking on his hands, so to speak.

Food for Acrobat Ants include

“honeydew, extrafloral nectar, scavenged protein from bird and other droppings, carrion”

Even a close zoom look didn’t reveal what the glop was but based on the listed foods, I figured it must have been bird poop.

The next day I returned to the scene of the crime and all the ants were gone, as was the fly.  There, on the leaf was a tiny spine bone.

Okay, what the heck is this?

My first thought was to dial up Dr. Temperance Brennan.  Of course she’s a fictional anthropologist and these bones seemed way too small to be human, so I opted to use an Internet search engine.  “T-i-n-y V-e-r-t-e-b-r-a-t-e” I tapped into the search box. Up popped some news results about a certain frog being the world’s smallest vertebrate.

I recalled seeing a lot of the juvenile invasive Cuban treefrogs in recent weeks, so I thought that frog might fit the bill.  Next search:  F-r-o-g S-k-e-l-e-t-o-n.  Up popped a very nice image of a labeled bullfrog skeleton.

Eureka!!!!  The vertebrae matched my find.  And, the small pointy piece is a urostyle.  And to think I failed biology.  Look at me now Ms. BiologyTeacherWho’sNameIForgot.

the remaining vertebrae and urostyle made identification as a frog pretty easy

I wonder where the rest of the frog bones went.  Did the acrobat ants bury the evidence?  Who did the actual killing? Was the fly merely a witness? Or did he have a role in this massacre? Well, I’m no “Bones”, so it shall remain a mystery.

At any rate, acrobat ants play a role in carrion cleanup, like vultures but on a smaller scale.  And, I’ve learned that they are an important food resource for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker:

C. ashmeadi workers make up the majority of this woodpecker’s adult diet, especially in the winter (Hess and James, 1998).

It seems that Acrobat ants are found in damp or rotting wood so they aren’t as big a house pest as many other ant species.  They may even cue you in to water infiltration problems if you find them in your home. Another interesting new species to add to my buggy life list.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on August 2, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.


Bird Population Soaring

Pleased to report that in March 2017 I can add a new nesting bird species to my piece of paradise.  High in the Longleaf Pine Tree (Pinus palustris) Crows have taken up residence. Based on their sound they are more likely Fish Crows (Corvus ossifragus) than American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos). Now we wait to see if they are successful.

This Crow’s nest (Corvus sp. likely ossifragu) sits in the top of a Pine Tree (Pinus sp.)

Dateline:  May 22, 2015*

four healthy eastern bluebirds

Spring 2015 is once again proving to be a banner year for bird broods in my beautiful wildlife garden.  Bluebird brood #2 has successfully hatched and 4 healthy mockingbird babies located in a holly shrub not 15 feet away joined them this past week.  It is dizzying watching the two sets of parents feed the 8 hungry mouths. As the days go by the number of feedings increase and the size of the insects get larger and larger.  Both sets of parents participate in feeding the youngsters.

Mockingbird eggs were in a shrub close to the bluebird nesting box

Earlier this month I spotted a baby dove nestling with one of the parents.  I was lucky to catch sight of them for the next day baby was on its own sitting in the nest and one-day later all was quiet.  The baby looked a good size and must have fledged in the early morning to avoid confrontation with the resident bird dogs.  Doves generally lay two eggs and apparently this brood only one hatched.

Dove baby and parent were spotted in thick shrubbery

Having the right conditions and plenty of readily available food in the form of insects is imperative if you are to be successful in attracting nesting birds to your garden.

two days later baby mourning dove was ready to fledge

The mockingbirds and doves like dense shrubs. The mockingbirds reused a nest from last year in a holly cultivar.  The doves reused a mockingbird nest from last year that was in a bottlebrush shrub.

Mockingbirds were caught in the act of hatching late one evening

I use to hem and haw over whether to leave nest remains or to remove them.  Now I leave them unless they are completely disintegrating.  The birds do refurbish them and I have had successful nestlings in the renovated nests.

Two days later mockingbird babies are getting feathers

Bluebirds are cavity nesters so I maintain a nest box in the yard.  I generally clean out the old nest about two days after fledge, but this time I didn’t get a chance to.  Mom and dad just brought in some clean materials and freshened up the existing nest and as can be seen, the four little ones don’t seem to mind “used” digs at all.

Mockingbirds like to nest in dense shrubs

Plant a variety of native plants to provide larval host materials for the insects that are key to making your garden attractive to birds looking to set up homes.  If they see easy access to a food source, coupled with the right type of habitat, they are sure to stop, stay and raise their young.  Then you can enjoy year after year of entertainment.  A variety of berry-producing shrubs will keep the adults around and satisfied through the winter.  During nesting season birds tend to eat more insects while later in the season and as the winter approaches they seek berries and seeds to fatten up.

The bluebirds start with small insects for the little ones.

I have a variety of blackberry, elderberries, holly and beautyberry shrubs that the birds all seem to relish.  Bluestem grasses, Black-eyed Susan, Bidens alba and a variety of other wildflowers feed the need for seed.  Be sure to have a readily available water source as well.  It can be as simple as a shallow dish or as large as a full size pond.

As the babies get bigger, so does the prey

And don’t be to tidy with the garden.  Leave some dried debris so they have hiding spots that also provides a plethora of building materials.  It won’t be long until the masses take up residence in your own beautiful wildlife garden and you can watch them soar.

This is an update of a tale originally published by Loret T. Setters on May 22, 2015 at the defunct national beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.



Butterflies are Free

Dateline: March 6, 2015*

Planting beautiful and aromatic nectar sources is an easy way to attract adult pollinators. A flower garden will really draw them in. And everyone enjoys the beautiful colors of the flowers and the butterflies and bees that land.

Larval host plants may get them to STAY rather than just pass through your beautiful wildlife garden

But, it is equally important to provide for the next generation. This means planting larval host plants. Often insects are plant species specific when it comes to where they lay eggs or raise their young.
This of course involves accepting chewed plants or insect housing in the form of galls.

Insect Gall on Wax Myrtle…think pollinators…think bird food!

If you do some research into the butterflies and other beneficial insects that occur in your range, you may be surprised to learn that the plants you spend time yanking out or dousing with weed and feed are the very plants that our insect friends need to feed on. Those lumps you spray to prevent unslightly plant or tree “damage” may house some pretty important pollinators or pest control agents.

So, consider this: the lacier the leaves, the more young feeding which translates into a larger population of butterflies, moths, beetles, etc. which translates into more bird food.  Same with galls which may tarnish the pristine smooth look of a tree branch. Many provide housing for wasps or flies that are excellent pollinators as well as biocontrol for pest species. Think those chewed leaves or bumpy things are unsightly now? Have I given you something to think about?

The saying goes “You catch more flies with honey…”. Well, I say you can get more pollinators with “weeds”.

Fly gall (possibly Eurosta sp.) on Goldenrod
Unknown gall on Saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia)
Redbay Psyllid (Trioza magnoliae) gall on Swamp Redbay Tree
gall wasp (possibly Andricus sp.) on live oak tree

Galls come in all shapes and sizes providing interesting textures on plants

Some of my favorite flora volunteers in my Florida garden are:

  1. Turkey Tangle Fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora), a native groundcover that hosts the White Peacock (Anartia jatrophae) butterfly
  2. Virginia Pepperweed (Lepidium virginicum), a native edible that hosts the Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) butterfly
  3. Cudweed (Gamochaeta spp.), a low growing nondescript flower that hosts the American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) butterfly
  4. Southern Plantain (Plantago virginica) another low growing nondescript plant that hosts the Buckeye butterfly and provides seeds for numerous ground feeding birds.
  5. Indian Hemp (Sida spp.) a woody shrub-like member of the mallow family that hosts the Checkered Skipper and Mallow Scrub Hairstreak butterflies
  6. Southern Beeblossom (Gaura angustifolia) hosts the Clouded Crimson Moth (Schinia gaurae)…so pretty that it would give any butterfly a run for its money in the beauty department.

This list is not all-inclusive and a few butterflies mentioned are generalists who may use more than one species of plant.  It is just a sampling of what is available to grow butterflies if you just stand back and let it happen. Butterflies in your range may be different and may use completely different plants, so do your research.

These native plants are free in my beautiful wildlife garden…so that makes the butterflies free.  Moths too!

For addition tips on attracting butterflies to your beautiful wildlife garden, check out the archive of The Ultimate Guide to Butterfly Gardening.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on March 6, 2015 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.


A Dozen Diurnal Moths

Dateline: August 13, 2015*

Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix)

Diurnal moths fly during the day rather than at night like the majority of moths.  Some are quite pretty and are often mistaken for butterflies.  One way to differentiate between the butterflies and moths is to look at the antenna.  Moths have feathered antenna and butterflies have clubbed ends.

So, here is a dozen diurnal moths that have visited my Central Florida yard from time to time.

Bella Moth (Utetheisa ornatrix) uses Rabbitbells (Crotalaria rotundifolia) as a larval host in my garden:

Bella Moth nectaring on Bidens alba

Small Frosted Wave Moth (Scopula lautaria):

Frosted Wave Moth

Clouded Crimson Moth (Schinia gaurae) uses Southern Beeblossom  (Oenothera simulans) as a larval host at my place:

Clouded Crimson nectaring on Bidens alba

Red-waisted Florella Moth (Syngamia florella) uses Rubiaceae family of plants, including Buttonweed (Spermacoce spp) as larval hosts:

nectaring on Bidens alba

Diaphania Moth (Diaphania modialis) Host: Creeping Cucumber (Melothria pendula):

Diaphania Moth on Bidens alba (are you beginning to see a pattern?)

Coffee-loving Pyrausta Moth (Pyrausta tyralis) host: Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa ) :

coffee moth nectaring on Tickseed (Coreopsis sp.), the state wildflower of Florida

Yellow-collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) Hosts: grasses, lichens, and spike-rushes (Eleocharis spp.):

scape moth nectaring on Saltbush; Look at those feathery antenna

Litter Moth (Idia americalis) larvae feed on lichens:

Litter moth

Milky Urola Moth  (Argyria lacteella):

Milky Urola nectaring on Saltbush

Snowy Urola Moth (Urola nivalis)  lavae feed on grasses; Ligustrum:

snowy urola moth

Yellow-Banded Wasp Moth (Syntomeida ipomoeae) Host: morning-glory (Ipomoea spp.):

wasp moth nectaring on Bidens alba

Black-dotted Spragueia Moth (Spragueia onagrus) hosts: Saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia), Castanea pumila, Zea mays:

Spragueia moth resting on leaf of Bidens alba

Add some native larval host plants to attract these beauties and increase their populations your garden.

Larval host Resources:
HOSTS – a Database of the World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants
Butterflies and Moths of North America

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on August 13, 2015 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.


Love is In the Air in My Native Plant Garden

Last of the Valentine’s Day love series.

Dateline:  February 13, 2015*

It’s that time of year!  Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day 2015, so I thought I would share the annual lovefest in my garden.  I attribute my many reproducing critters to having the host plants they need to survive. They are the native plants that grace my wildlife garden.  A different kind of love involves the predators who enjoy the prey that feed on the native plants.  You can take a look at the partnering of some native plants and insects through the eyes of Ellen Honeycutt and from my place in other past years.

So, I bring you the power of love in my garden:

>Banded Winged Dragonflies find the taller sedge next to the pond a perfect love nest
>Banded Winged Dragonflies find the taller sedge next to the pond a perfect love nest
Brown anoles show no shame on the bricks around the base of the house
Brown anoles show no shame on the bricks around the base of the house
Not to be outdone, the native green anoles take to the fence
Not to be outdone, the native green anoles take to the fence
Diptera find dry plant debris perfect
Diptera find dry plant debris perfect
Although Gulf Fritillary Butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) use Passiflora incarnata as a host, they seem drunk in love from the sweet scent of Bidens alba
Although Gulf Fritillary Butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) use Passiflora incarnata as a host, they seem drunk in love from the sweet scent of Bidens alba
Leaf-footed Bugs (Acanthocephala terminalis) hide in the Coral Honeysuckle
Leaf-footed Bugs (Acanthocephala terminalis) hide in the Coral Honeysuckle
Lilypad Forktail Damselflies (Ischnura kellicotti) prefer the horizontal surface of American White Waterlily (Nymphaea odorata) from which is drawn their common name
Lilypad Forktail Damselflies (Ischnura kellicotti) prefer the horizontal surface of American White Waterlily (Nymphaea odorata) from which is drawn their common name
Lovebugs are always in love as this group shows while nectaring on Tall Elephantfoot (Elephantopus elatus)
Lovebugs are always in love as this group shows while nectaring on Tall Elephantfoot (Elephantopus elatus)
Craneflies hit the blackberries
Craneflies hit the blackberries
Fruitflies use the Bidens alba where the female will lay her eggs keeping the seeds in check
Fruitflies use the Bidens alba where the female will lay her eggs keeping the seeds in check
Mydas Flies like the dried parts of Blue stem grasses
Mydas Flies like the dried parts of Blue stem grasses
Whirlabout Skipper Butterfly (Polites vibex) don't go very far from the grasses which is their larval host
Whirlabout Skipper Butterfly (Polites vibex) don’t go very far from the grasses which is their larval host
argined Leatherwing Soldier Beetles (Chauliognathus marginatus) find Rattlesnakemaster (Eryngium yuccifolium) to their liking
Margined Leatherwing Soldier Beetles (Chauliognathus marginatus) find Rattlesnakemaster (Eryngium yuccifolium) to their liking
Stinkbugs on the Patridge Pea which is a host for many butterflies as well
Stinkbugs on the Patridge Pea which is a host for many butterflies as well
Last but not least the oldtimers get in on the act as these tattered Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) have a last hurrah
Last but not least the oldtimers get in on the act as these tattered Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) have a last hurrah

Happy Valentine’s Day.  May you show the love of nature by planting your own native plant and wildlife garden.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on February 13, 2015 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden[dot]com . Click the date to view reader comments.


Garden Love is in the Air

Dateline: February 13, 2013*

Tomorrow is Valentine’s day and I just thought I would share the love of my garden with you all.  Hmmmmm, maybe that is love IN my garden.  I did a similar article a while back, but there can never be too much L♥VE!  I present to you, some more of my mating friends and what entices them to visit my place.

anoles052110-e1360713863995Green Anoles (Anolis carolinensis):  These comical reptiles eat insects so they are attracted to plants, such as Bidens alba, that attract insects.  I’ve written in the past about their affinity for the Syrphid Fly.

syrphidfliesinlove091511-e1360714015279Speaking of Syrphid Flies: They are bee mimics who perform pollination duties. Larvae are predators of aphids, thrips and caterpillars. This couple is likely Toxomerus spp.

deltabeetle052512-e1360714579715Delta Flower Scarab (Trigonopeltastes delta):  Here they are shown on Rattlesnakemaster, but I’ve also found them on Barbara’s Buttons. Larvae are found in decaying wood.

beetlelove052012-e1360714124370Yellow-marked Buprestid Beetles (Acmaeodera spp.): This couple seems to love the Black-eyed Susans.  Larvae are wood borers, maybe not the best thing, but heck, the holes will give haven to solitary bees and I’m sure the birds would add them to the menu…they look “lemony”.

matingbandeddragonflyjune2012-e1360714469324Banded Pennant Dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) stop by the pond since I leave dead branches as landing stations.

matingcassiusblue072812-e1360714432166Cassius Blue Butterfly (Leptotes cassius):  They stop at my place because I provide a native larval host plants, Doctorbush (Plumbago zeylanica aka P. scandens).  This butterfly has been declared a Federally-designated Threatened species due to similarity of appearance to the endangered Miami Blue Butterfly.

matingpalamedesswallowtailsaugust2012a-e1360714498195The Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio palamedes) relies exclusively on Redbay (Persea borbonia) as a larval host, which has been afflicted with laurel wilt disease brought on by a fungus carried by an invasive insect. This beetle’s presence threatens not only the tree, but this beautiful species as well.

These two have a peeping tom hanging out in the lower right hand corner.
These two have a peeping tom hanging out in the lower right hand corner.

Grasshoppers:  Ok, we can’t always love what’s in love around our place, but grasshopper nymphs are a major component of baby bird food, so sometimes in the interest of our wildlife friends, it is necessary for us to look the other way.  These guys are shown on dogfennel, which is unlikely to show any lasting damage.

matinggulffrits091611a-e1360715623368Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) uses Passionvine as a larval host.  At my place, I provide native Passiflora incarnata and this prolific butterfly flutters around in droves.  They even stayed all winter this year and I have had caterpillars throughout the season.

So, this is my troop of lovers.  Who do you love, or who is in your love nest?

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on February 13, 2013 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden[dot]com . Click the date to view reader comments.


When Bugs Hug

Continuing the Valentine’s week love, a republish of a lost post. Dateline: February 14, 2014
val-500x400Happy Valentine’s Day 2014.  I’ll start with a disclaimer that not all insects are bugs, but all bugs are insects. For this article I’m lumping arachnids under the bug umbrella too.  Heck, they crawl around, don’t they? Besides, spiders are often the biggest huggers of them all!

In past years for the holiday of love, I’ve posted photos of the mating creatures in my garden.  This year, I’ve decided to go a different route, and share species that are hugging other species.  IPM at its best, it brings on a whole new meaning of love you to death.

So, start humming “Let me put my arms around you Baby” while we take a walk through the garden of love:

Carolina Mantid gives a smooch to a skipper butterfly:mantidskipperjune2012-500x333

Milkweed Assassin Bug (Zelus longipes) offers a big kiss to his diptera friendassassin012412-500x500

This female jumping spider squeezes her grasshopper friendjumpingspidergrasshoppersept2012-500x500

The grasshoppers appear to be a favorite date. This yellow garden spider shows the love too:spiderhopper080311a-500x500

Jagged Ambush Bug (Phymata fasciata) put the moves on a skipper butterflyambushbugskipperjuly2013-500x500

The crab spiders always share the love:crabspiderlimejuly2013a-500x500

This Robberfly loves BBB (Big Beautiful Bugs)

robberfly with Horse Fly (Tabaninae)
robberfly with Horse Fly (Tabaninae)

While some Hanging Thieves love bees to death:hangingthiefrobberflyaugust2012-500x500

Others just show the love to the flowers such as this frogfruit:robberfly060910-500x333

A motherly hug is exhibited by a fishing spider as she protects the children:fishingspiderwithsac082012a-500x500

This spider was unaffected by the “cologne” of a stink bugbugshugspiderstinksept2013-500x500

Peacock butterflies can be so beautiful that the garden spiders just can’t resist:toughspiderpeacockaugust2011-500x333

Sometimes the bee killers live up to their name:robberflybeeoct2013-500x500

yet other times they are happy to just receive flowers:robberfly093013-500x500

So I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s day and keep a happy balanced garden by planting native plants and avoiding pesticides. Hug your favorite.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on February 14, 2014 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.