Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pipevine Swallowtail Eggs

For the first time ever I have Pipevine Swallowtail eggs in my backyard!!!!!!!!! I have waited forever for this moment!!!!!!  I hope they like it here!!

The eggs are the rusty-gold blurry dots near the end of the Aristolochia Californica vine. They are generally laid in groups. Most butterflies lay their eggs one at a time, the the Pipevine Swallowtail lays its eggs in groups. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pipevine swallowtail

Below is a picture of a Pipevine Swallowtail. This butterfly was in my backyard in Berkeley, California yesterday. I have had pipevine, Aristolochia Californica, for more than ten years, but I have never seen the associated butterfly or any caterpillars on the plant. I am very excited about this long-awaited butterfly showing up in my backyard. I have heard that the wilder areas nearby are very dry because all of the rains were so early this year. As a consequence, the butterflies are visiting watered gardens to find lush hostplants. I have no way of testing this, but it seems like a plausible explanation. I am hoping that I find eggs soon.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


A bee was working the passion flowers in my front yard a few days ago. Looking at the pictures, it is easy to see how the anthers (with the yellow edges) are designed to deposit pollen on the back of the bee while it is busy collecting nectar. I think this honey bee is a bit small to get thoroughly coated coated with pollen. If you try breaking open a flower, you can find a circular tunnel filled with nectar. Passion flowers have copious nectar hidden away. No wonder this bee stuck around letting me take several photos.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bilingual Nursery School in Venice, CA

 This passion vine was growing at the French/English preschool on the Venice Home and Garden Tour. I saw a Gulf Fritillary, but I didn't manage to get a picture of it. Oh well.
 Clearly, the kids are studying butterflies, although this poster depicts exotic butterflies, not locak ones. I wonder if they are raising butterflies in the classroom. I couldn't find anyone associated with the school, or I would have suggested it. 
The school was made up of three cute little bungalows and a large schoolyard with trees and plants. Look like the perfect place for children. I think I want to go back to nursery school!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Color Contrast

I think this was my favorite room on the Venice Home and Garden Tour. I love the orange kitchen with the maroon leaves outside. Sorry I couldn't get the guys out of the picture. It was another very crowded and tiny house and they were deep in conversation. I didn't want to be rude, so I just snapped a photo.  I'm not sure this really has anything to do with butterflies or insects. But Western Swallowtails do lay their eggs on plum trees, and I think that is a plum with dark leaves outside the window. So this amazing design statement could be part of a butterfly garden. Whoo-hoo!

Friday, May 10, 2013


These bronze ants are embedded in the concrete sidewalk outside the sculpture garden mentioned in my last post. They were also in a walk way at a home on the Tour. I think they are a marvelous and subtle addition to the streetscape. Most people didn't even notice. But I am not most people. ;-)

Thursday, May 9, 2013


One of my favorite spots on the Venice Garden and Home Tour was number 21, an outdoor gallery. Nestled in nearly every corner and in the cracks fo the grass stairs was pellitory. When I pointed it out to the artist, she couldn't believe that I was excited about a weed. But when I told her that it is a host plant for Red Admirals, she got excited, too! Everybody loves butterflies.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Funny Front Yard

On Saturday I attended the Venice Home and Garden Tour in Southern California. Some of it was was redundant. I think almost every home had a patio made of big flat stones with small stone or plants in between them. It was nice. But not new.

However, one of the first houses I looked at had a very unusual front yard with weedy grasses being the main plants. I think it was oats and rye. Great start to a butterfly garden! I told the homeowner that skippers like the lay their eggs on grasses. He said he like the grass idea, but that the grasses were dying back. I suggested Ehrharta as a great alternative. It is very green and grows all year long

Some people may think that suggesting a weed is a bad idea. But skippers love Ehrharta! It is a great host plant! Easy, low maintenance. The perfect grass for shady places. 


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tabebuia heterophylla--Pink Flowering Trumpet Tree

I visted Decanso Gardens in Pasadena on Sunday. It was a wonderful place from start to finish. Before the car was even parked in the lot, these big trees covered in pink flowers bowled me over. The flowers look a bit like those of Catalpa, and indeed, this tree, Tabebuia, is in the same family, Bignoniaceae. When I walked up to one of the trees to get a closer look, I found a bee sleeping in a flower. The day was rather overcast and drizzly. I wonder if the bee ever woke up.

The  tree is native to Central and South America. It does well in Southern California, judging by this specimen. But I have never seen one in the Bay Area, so I guess it is too cold here.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Battus philenor ova

Pipevine Swallowtails are laying eggs again. Here a couple of rusty gold eggs are visible where the leaf joins the stem. Unlike most butterflies, Pipevine Swallowtails lay their eggs in groups. The eggs are laid near the growing tip of the vine, and the larvae like to eat the young leaves. Before I knew better, I fed the first instar caterpillars older leaves, and they all died. So sad!

Sorry about the lousy picture. I need a better camera.