Friday, September 12, 2008

~In Our Butterfly Garden, This Very Week~

Western Tiger Swallowtail
Papilio rutulus
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom
I love how this Western Tiger Swallowtail is embracing the Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla) flower with its right fore-leg while drinking up nectar through it's straw-like proboscis. Enlarge to see details
Three Beauties Feeding on Rose Sage Nectar
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2008 jim otterstrom
Some years ago I was in our local birdwatcher store, Wild Wings, browsing through a book on butterflies when a wrinkled little woman, well into her 90s, came up to me and gently placed a feeble hand on my arm.
Looking me in the eyes, and obviously a bit distraught, she asked me what had happened to Big Bear's butterflies.
The old gal had grown up here, moving away decades ago, and was back with relatives revisiting her childhood home for the first time.
She told me that when she was a little girl, during every summer, the entire valley would be aswarm with a mass of butterflies and she couldn't understand why they weren't here in those numbers anymore.
Her remembrance created a wondrous picture in my imagination but the urgency in her question caught me off guard, and before I could respond, the relatives came and whisked her away.
It was one of those moments that stick vividly in my heart, and I wondered how much of her memory was idealizing the place of her childhood, and how much was reality.
Since then, I've often thought of all the square miles of our high-mountain Bear Valley meadows which have been replaced by roads, lodges and ski resorts, shopping centers, homes, small businesses, the golf course and the airport. I think about weed abatement regulations and how much of the wild flora in the valley is now cut to the ground just as spring is unfolding.
And, I remember the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterfly I saw laying eggs on a willow branch in Rathbun Creek. I was cleaning litter out of the creek channel one spring, as part of a community project, when I noticed yellow-fringed wings slowly folding and unfolding just a few inches in front of my eyes.
The butterfly seemed oblivious to my presence as she meticulously deposited dozens of tiny eggs, one at a time, in a spiral pattern around the branch of the willow (click here and scroll down to see a Mourning Cloak laying her eggs).
I watched with fascination until she was finished laying her eggs, making a mental note of the willow's exact location, and planned on coming back regularly to monitor the progress of the eggs.
Two days later I discovered that all the willows along Rathbun Creek had been cut to the ground by a giant weed-whacking machine, the branches chipped, shredded, and hauled away.
My thoughts then drifted sadly upstream and down, wondering how many millions of insect eggs, butterfly and otherwise, were lost through our obsessive/compulsive meddling in Rathbun Creek alone.
One of the primary purposes of Earth Home Garden is to provide habitat for the native species of Big Bear, and to expose other people in our community to the joy and ecological benefits of gardening with native plants. The number and variety of birds & butterflies visiting our garden seems to increase with each passing year.

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Blogger SimplyTim said...

Her words to omen perceived.

The image comes to mind of the scenes in the recent movie, The War of the Worlds, in which the machines and their handlers were mindlessly collecting materials of value to them, with zero consciousness of the consequences to any living being.


1:52 PM  
Anonymous wildside said...

Beautiful butterflies! Thanks for sharing.

11:47 AM  
Blogger gfid said...

these too come as far north as us. i used to find them in my greenhouse a lot, when i had one. really gorgeous pictures! an elderly neighbor has asked similar questions about where all the wild birds have gone. my grandmother had pictures of Canada Geese in such huge flocks that the skies darkened as they flew over. we homo sapiens are a bit like the sheriff in the old western movie, who says to the troublemaker, "this town ain't big enough fer both of us" .... except we're the trouble makers, and it's the planet that isn't big enough....

1:30 PM  
Blogger arcolaura said...

Hi Jim,
Are you familiar with Kitchen Gardeners International and their "Eat the View" campaign? They want a food garden planted on the White House lawn. They have a video entered in a contest for ideas to get the President to act on climate change - you can vote for it by viewing it here.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Grammy said...

I very much enjoyed your site. And the messages. I to am learning more every day. I found on the INTERNET that releasing red worms like used in fishing and compost. Are destroying the native plants. We do not realize than any thing we introduce to our environment, may change it forever.

11:22 PM  
Blogger John said...

Beautiful. For those of you who like renovations and home decorating, come visit my new blog,

8:34 PM  
Blogger clairesgarden said...

the butterflys are beautiful. I can remember a childhood with lots of butterflys, hundreds flying round and us trying to catch them to put them in jars(horrible children!!)

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Orchid Black said...

Here I am!

6:06 PM  
Blogger Malcolm said...

What a wonderfully inspiring site - brilliant photos too!

12:44 PM  
Blogger Linda Navroth said...

Hi Jim--where have you been lately? Hope everything is good!

12:24 PM  

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