Archive for June, 2015

Early Summer 2015

June 26, 2015

Now the inflorescence of spring has largely died down — though not completely — and we start to head into the hot, dormant days of summer. There’s every indication this summer will be worse than most, as we’ve already hit 90+ degree weather even though we’re only two days into official summer. But I guess that’s to be expected when we’re experiencing global warming.

There’ll always be something worth looking at in my garden, though — such as the simultaneous flowering of the fuchsias (Epilobium septentrionalis ‘Select Mattole’) and the Red Buckwheat (Eriogonum grande rubescens):



And a new Red Buckwheat on the west side is flowering for the first time as well:


One of the things I’ve had to do is move the fountain a few feet toward the road, as it was being overgrown by the Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii), which has come into full bloom. (I always forget how huge the Cleveland Sage gets!)









The Winifred Gilman Sage is gradually losing its blossoms, but still looks beautiful:



My Seaside Daisies (Erigeron glaucus) finally produced a few blossoms, as well as the Asters behind them (Aster chilensis):


I’m not sure what’s happening with the Seaside Daisies just to the right of the blooming ones — they have not bloomed since I planted them a couple of years ago, even though they are supposed to be the same variety. For some reason, they are taking their time; it’s very odd.

The saga with the Monarch caterpillars and the Tachinid flies continues … I keep losing caterpillars and/or chrysalises to these dreaded predators — every one has died since my last post. I can’t seem to find any reliable information on how to combat them. Meanwhile, as the weather heats up, more and more butterflies visit my milkweeds and lay their eggs. I’m hopeful that sheer numbers will make it difficult for the flies to infest every caterpillar, and a few may yet survive. Such a disturbing trend!


Tachinid Flies

June 10, 2015

Last month I found a caterpillar hanging in the “J” position from the wall on the side of my house — I thought “Oh good, my first butterfly is coming!”.

A couple of days later this is what I found:



I could not imagine what had happened to it — especially since a few days earlier I had discovered another caterpillar in similar condition hanging from one of my succulents. What was going on?

The key, it turns out, is the little white string coming out of the bottom of the caterpillar. This is the tell-tale sign that the caterpillar has been infected by the dreaded Tachinid Fly.

Tachinid flies are parasitoid insects, meaning they lay their eggs in other insects. For this reason, they are generally considered “beneficial” insects, in that they can destroy pests without the need for pesticides. Unless, that is, you don’t consider Monarch caterpillars to be pests. These flies deposit their eggs in the growing caterpillars. They don’t kill the caterpillar immediately — usually the fatal blow comes after it has attached itself in order to pupate, or sometimes even after it has formed a chrysalis. Then the eggs hatch and the pupae exit the creature by means of the aforementioned string. Unfortunately, I haven’t been around to see the actual exit, so I have been unable to destroy the pupae. That means they have likely developed into even more flies.

From what I have read, 17% of Monarch caterpillars are destroyed by Tachinid flies. I guess I’ve been lucky up to this point … I haven’t had any until this year.

Here are some of the other victims of this insidious creature I’ve found around my yard:





Altogether I’ve lost at least seven caterpillars so far. I don’t know what to do about it, except to ride it out. There is precious little literature about how to get rid of this pest, seeing as it is considered a beneficial predator by most gardeners!

I have had two butterflies so far this year, one on the top of my garage door:


The other one emerged just this morning from a chrysalis on my neighbor’s gate, and flew off before I had a chance to immortalize her on film.

I can only hope that these flies disappear at some point!