This past fall I achieved one of my life goals, which is to see a Painted Bunting. Not only was it fulfilled, but the bird and a few friends lived in my back yard for the winter, until mid May. It was magic.
In the butterfly world, I've wanted to get Atala butterflies to my yard for a few years. We purchased Coontie cycads 2 years ago for this purpose. Only 2 plants because they are expensive. I tried planting seed one time, but you have to peel the orange flesh from around the seed and after I buried them, animals and birds dug them up and finished off the rest of the pulpy flesh and the seed. Besides, they take a LONG time to grow. This type of plant is supposed to be prehistoric, as in dinosaur times, so they are used to lots of time.
I've also seen Atala butterflies in my yard on different occasions - one at a time. A single Atala might be resting on a bush in my yard - I think I even got pictures of one before, but none laid eggs and the Coonties remained untouched.
Finally, this past week, I spied an Atala butterfly hanging around my yard. Not only was she hanging around, she was laying eggs on the larger Coontie plant we have. Most butterflies lay one egg at a time and don't take much time doing it, but Atalas take minutes, not seconds, to lay eggs, and they don't necessarily lay one at a time. I was thrilled to see several tiny round spheres on the underside of one of the Coontie leaves after Mrs. Atala left.
This morning, either the same or another female Atala returned to my yard and laid more eggs on the other Coontie plant.
My husband immediately looked at me and said, "We have to buy more Coontie." He promptly went inside and looked up local nurseries that might have the plants - believe it or not, for a Florida native, they are very hard to find.
We located some at a large commercial nursery where I never would have expected to find them. We tried the local ones, owned by individuals, but no luck. My favorite nurseries are family owned, sell home grown veggies and sometimes chicken eggs, too. They often have native plants and they aren't employees - they own the joint.
But, anyway, we found what we needed at the Big Box Nursery. We bought 2 more plants at $30.00 each, which, on a limited budget (which stretched to allow the purchase of an extra unplanned plant, as well as 2 smoothies) was enough for this weekend.
I'm looking forward to the Atala eggs hatching and tiny caterpillars devouring the Coonties, which will recover. Besides, I only bought them for the butterflies - they don't exist in my yard for any other reason.
Here are some pictures. First - Mrs. Atala - isn't she beautiful?
Here are the eggs she laid.
Next, a Julia butterfly, then a Polydamous and finally, an Oleander butterfly that looks like a wasp.
Some gratuitous flower photos - I LOVE them!!
Another weed favorite - a tiny brushy flower that comes in lavender, bright orange-red and yellow. I often let them be if they are in amongst other flowers and not on mowable territory. Some of those "weeds", like "Frog Fruit" and the green "Shrimp Plant" grow all over the place and are larval plants for butterflies. White Peacock butterflies lay eggs on the frog fruit and Malachite butterflies - another butterfly I want to get into this yard somehow, along with Ruddy Daggerwings - lay eggs on the green Shrimp Plant weeds. I have to go to a local park once I let a bunch of green Shrimp Plant weeds grow, and try to find some Malachite caterpillars. I've seen them at Tree Tops park, but not the caterpillars, but then I have to look in a book to see what their caterpillars look like.
A Mexican Daisy (or Sunflower, can't remember which) that hasn't opened up yet. Very modest.
Mexican Petunias are beautiful, hardy and self seeding - they will spread through your entire yard if you let them, and they are beautiful. Below is one that hasn't opened yet. Every day new flowers come out in the morning, and by afternoon they have fluttered to the ground. By late evening, you can see tomorrow's buds getting ready.
A species of Milkweed with ants on it. We didn't have as much luck with Monarchs this year. We had plenty of Milkweed and plenty of caterpillars, but some didn't live to make their chrysallis and we found them dangling from where they had begun to shed their skin. Some, I fear, were eaten. I know Milkweed is supposed to make them unpalatable to critters, but perhaps some of them get used to it and eat them anyway. I have seen Assassin bugs around - they kill caterpillars and they've taken a toll on the Monarchs and the Yellow Sulphurs.
A Spanish Needle that hasn't opened yet. I think we have a lot of ants - maybe I should do something about them?
Don't see many honey bees these days, sadly. Below is one fellow on the Spanish Needles. I wish I could do something to keep bees from getting diseases that kill them, like put medicine on their flowers, but I'm afraid that's probably not feasible.