See ya, wouldn't want to bee ya!
That's not really what happened. That sentiment just makes a better lede than, I finally found a cooperative monarch to pose for me.
The female monarch, as identified by a Facebook friend, was feeding on the Mexican sunflowers last week. In fact, most of the photos in this post were all of the one butterfly.
I had spotted two monarchs earlier in the season, but they didn't stick around for photos. I am holding out hope that maybe migration hasn't gotten into full swing yet and I will soon see a higher number of the regal black and orange butterflies.
However, the monarch has made headlines lately and not for a good reason. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the butterfly to its “red list” of threatened species and categorized it as “endangered."
While my sightings of monarchs are limited, the number of fritillaries feeding on the garden flowers seemed to have increased this season.
I also noticed several eastern tiger swallowtails this season. Some were starting to look a little worn.
According to my observations, spicebush swallowtails seemed to be doing well. They were both sighted in the woodlands and on a variety of garden flowers.
Meanwhile, the bumblebees continued to relish feeding on the sunflowers. Whether or not they are truly "bee-lligerent" towards butterflies is only a question Mother Nature can answer.
That's just the nature of things 'round here.
The hummingbird feeders have been buzzing with activity.
Despite the fact that there was another feeder out back, several hummers decided to converge on the feeder in the side garden. At present, I believed there were at least six to seven hummingbirds around our house. Although it was hard enough to count them or photograph them as they sped by.
And that's just the nature of things round here.
Energy on the fly
"Coming eyeball to eyeball with a hummingbird on my terrace is as exciting to me as any celebrity I've met as a result of Downton Abbey," actress Lesley Nichol said.
I totally agreed with the quote despite that fact that I have not met any celebrities. However, I have come face to face with several hummingbirds. The experiences were very inspiring and moving.
Speaking of moving, hummingbird activity has increased at the feeders here at my home in Pinegrove Township. The rise in numbers was most likely due to fledglings feeding.
Longtime local birder and author Gary Edwards in his book "Birds of Venango County" pointed out that females and young males can often be mistaken for one another.
The younger males don't sport the ruby-red gorget that is the namesake of the hummingbird.
The Audubon field guide on their website, said that the "age of young at first flight about 20 to 22 days."
According to the post the hummers usually have one to two broods per year, sometimes three.
The post went on to say that' females may begin building second nest while still feeding young in the first."
"Thought to have declined in some regions in recent years, but surveys show no distinct downward trend," the post continued.
It certainly seemed as though there was no drop in hummingbird numbers at my feeders this season.
The air around the feeders and garden was filled with them.
The buzzing and squawking went on from dawn until a little after dusk.
The feisty little flyers continued to amaze me with their aerial combat maneuvers.
They kept whizzing by chasing one another in a game of tag in the air.
While near the garden, I felt like I might need to take my hard hat and safety glasses home in case I end up in the line of fire.
The All About Birds site described just how amazing their flying is.
"Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly straight and fast but can stop instantly, hover, and adjust their position up, down, or backwards with exquisite control," the post said.
I am not the only one amazed and inspired by these flying jewels.
A few quotes on the internet caught my attention. I thought I would share them.
Neither the hummingbird nor the flower wonders how beautiful it is. -- Unknown.
Hummingbird darts lightly through the world, spreading its message of joy and beauty, and teaching us to appreciate the wonder and magic of everyday existence. -- Unknown.
"A flash of harmless lightning, A mist of rainbow dyes, the burnished sunbeams brightening from flower to flower he flies." – John Banister Tabb
However, these little breathtaking birds may soon be departing in mere weeks.
Venango County resident Edwards wrote in his book that the fancy flyers arrive in the area in mid-April but will depart for their wintering ground by early October.
I have enjoyed their presence and will miss their aerial antics when they leave. I could truly just watch them for hours and when the time permitted, I did.
So as their days in the area are numbered, those of you wanting something other than hummingbird posts will get something else to look at. Although I can't promise that there won't be any more hummingbird photos at least until the snow flies. For those of you, like me who can't get enough of the little wonders, below is a slide of yet more hummingbird photos. I think I may have taken a picture of every hummingbird that has visited this season. That's just the nature of things 'round here.
A recent case of mistaken identity sent me to the internet to search for answers. I photographed what I thought was a bald-faced hornet on a coneflower.. However, upon closer inspection, the comparison didn't seem to match up.
There were just slight differences.
So I asked my "friends" on the Facebook page PA Insects for help. It turned out that the bee was not a bee but actually a fly. They suggested that the insect in question was indeed an aptly named bald-faced hornet fly and not a hornet at all.
Wikipedia described the insect as follows," 'Spilomyia fusca ... is a fairly common species of syrphid fly ... The adults, also known as flower flies for they are commonly found around and on flowers from which they get both energy-giving nectar and protein rich pollen. "
Another Facebook user posted, "Fly=1 set of wings," as a tip for identification.
Another insect that is often misidentified also showed up this past week. The hummingbird clearwing moth is often mistaken for its namesake, the hummingbird. The moth is actually a member of the sphinx family and like their namesake also feed on flower nectar.
In fact, a post by Beatriz Moisset on the Hummingbird Moth (fs.fed.us), said, "They fly and move just like hummingbirds. Like them, they can remain suspended in the air in front of a flower while they unfurl their long tongues and insert them in flowers to sip their nectar."
Moisset went on to write, "there are several species of hummingbird moths. ... The most familiar ones are the Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) and the Hummingbird Clearwing (Hemaris thysbe). They are both widespread throughout North America ..."
Meanwhile, another insect that is often mistaken as another is the spicebush swallowtail.
It has a very similar appearance to that of the female dark form on the tiger swallowtail.
The difference is limited to some spots.
Meanwhile, I still struggled to nail down the identities of the fritillaries that have visited my garden. They could be an Aphrodite, Atlantis or great spangled fritillary all of which have been spotted in Venango County before.
Again, I suspected that the difference was down to a couple of spots. I felt I might have to give in and download a couple of insect identification apps.
(UPDATED 8/9/2022: Apparently my first guess at jack-o-lantern mushroom was correct. A post on a Facebook page that was identified as a jack-o-lantern mushroom look very similar to my photos. A little more digging revealed that jack-o-lanterns have gills, which these did. Chicken of the woods fungi have pores. So while Kennedy did have a few mouthfuls, he didn't get sick. We will be detouring around the jack-o-lanterns. Edible, not edible, get an expert's opinion before you consume. That's just the nature of things 'round here. )
Of course, the lookalikes weren't limited to just the insect population. What I thought were some poisonous jack-o-lantern mushrooms, were not. (Oops... they were.)
The next day they had grown to reveal their true form as the edible chicken of the woods. (No, they hadn't. They were jack-o-lanterns.)
That turn of events turned out to be a good thing since Kennedy, once again, ate my photo subject. (Kennedy suffered no ill effects from these. Thank, goodness.)
Is it a fly or bee, A bird or a moth, edible or not? Nature will always keep me guessing.
That's just the nature of things round here.
"The Nature of Things" features the writings and photographs of Anna Applegate, who is a lifelong resident of Pinegrove Township, Venango County. She is a graduate of Cranberry High School and Clarion University. After a 15-year career in the local news industry, she made a change and now works at a steel finishing plant in Sandycreek Township. She is a avid lover of animals and nature, and a gifted photographer.