12 July 2013

Visitors: expected, unexpected and missed

There are various creatures we expect to see at this time of year. Colorado potato beetles and their offspring, for instance.

Check. (And ewwww.)

Then there are creatures that we don't normally see. I went for a bike ride yesterday and saw two very tall birds in a field beside the road. I thought at first that they were herons, but when I looked at the photo more closely I realised that the colour was all wrong:

They're actually Sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis), which usually pass through but don't breed in this area, from what I've seen online, but this looks like a parent and youngster to me.

Then there are the expected-but-missing. This year it is the caterpillars of Monarch butterflies, which are usually munching their way through the milkweed plants by now.

There are some milkweed plants down at the bottom of this photo, and if you look really closely in the middle of the dark area at the top, you might just see a small flash of orange. This is only the fourth Monarch I've seen this year and there are widespread reports that there have been fewer sightings of this particular visitor than usual.

I spent a while this evening inspecting a lot of the milkweed plants in the hayfield. As usual they were host to many different insects: ladybirds, spiders and beetles.

But I didn't find a single monarch caterpillar. Around this date in 2009 I hadn't noticed any Monarchs but the caterpillars were easy to find. I hope their numbers recover.


Soilman said...

How do you deal with the Colorado beetles? I hear they absolutely devastate potato crops. Is there a solution?

Amanda said...

Hi Soilman - Constant vigilance! You just have to keep an eye on them and pick them off when you see them (they don't move very quickly, so that part is easy). The chickens enjoy eating them, so that's how I dispose of them. This year (so far, anyway), there haven't been too many of them - I've only seen two adults and I suppose about 30 larvae.