Monday, July 07, 2008

A Garden Visitor We've Never Seen Before

Anyone who can ID this moth, please weigh in with any informed comment! We've never seen this particular moth around the garden before and would like to find out what exactly it is ... not to mention we love the combo of Halloween black and orange, so for the moment, we're calling it 'Scary Moth.' Though it really is much less fearsome when you see it up close ....
This morning, as I was drinking my coffee, Fernymoss dashed in from outside and grabbed the camera, saying something to the effect of "There's a really cool bug on the Sea Holly ... I have no clue whether it's a moth, wasp or what, but I have to get some pics of it!" We're used to unusual tiny wasps and such that frequent the Sea Holly (Eryngium giganteum) but when I saw the shots he took, I was wowed. I quickly confirmed it's some kind of moth by the antennae and feathery wings and legs, but beyond that, we're baffled! The closest Fernymoss could find in one of his field guides was "Manroot Borer Moth," but that's hardly a complete match.
We delight in catching all sorts of new insects that visit our garden (unless they're the dreaded ones like the grasshoppers, aphids and crickets or Cicada Killer Wasps who are more scary than really dangerous, unless you're a Cicada!) And Sea Holly sure seems to attract a motley crew of winged ones who frequent it, but fortunately they're usually the beneficial sorts of insects you do want around to dispatch with less savory garden visitors. Speaking of which .. Fernymoss found a very small Praying Mantis this morning on the Vibe, thus confirming that they are still in the garden! YAY!! We hope to get more of them later in the summer when they're bigger and more visible because we were delighted to see them move in last summer!

We're both aching and exhausted tonight from all the hard work we did this weekend, but despite it all, we're really gratified with how much we got done this weekend (it was our first weekend off together in several weeks, and a holiday to boot!). Almost all of the plants we've bought are in, save about six perennials (a couple of Meadow Sages, 2 new perennial Hibiscus and some Silver Mounds) everything is in the ground, with some additional seeding to happen this week. (Mainly more Zinnias, Marigolds, Nasturtiums and such).

This weekend, we went to war against all the weeds that burst forth from those copious June rains (we're now all dry and need more, ironically!), and have tackled and dispatched with most of the ones in the front boulder beds. I still have another area to clear tomorrow after work, so some of the perennials and seeds can go in there, but I hope that will go quickly. I spent a lot of time this weekend getting a ground's eye view of things as I had to selectively weed between the good and the bad, I can barely get a bigger picture view of things. One thing we both did accomplish together was working to eliminate the Heliopsis from our front beds.

This was one of our "heirlooms" that we inherited when we moved in, and for a few years, we really liked it as it is quite pretty, but bent on total domination. Now our attitude is all about eradication. Period. Enough. It's gone. Its pretty aspects don't outweigh its truly invasive nature (much as others may protest), at least in our garden. I'll have more on that in a post to come soon about the changes we made in the front gardens, but take it from us, if this stuff shows up in your garden, don't be seduced by the pretty yellow flowers (they do make good cut flowers), yank them out before they take over! At this point, we're really pooped out from all the work, and dreading going back to the 'real' (e.g. non-garden) world today, but such is the fate of the gardener who's not independently wealthy (which we surely are not!) ... but we do have our periodic escapes that make it all worth the effort, and to us, that's what really matters.

Oh, and the Bee Balm has been attracting its usual amount of attention from folks who go come by either on foot or in cars ... A woman we sort of know (friend of a friend's mother's friend type) stopped by to ask about it. She wanted to take some cut blooms home to paint them (she's already painted a picture of the back of our house, which for some reason she found interesting!). I told her they don't make good cut flowers, but that I could send her pictures to work from, so who knows what will come of that? Her previous painting actually did make the back of our house interesting, even with the clothes drying on the line!

UPDATED July 7, 2008:
Fernymoss got to rooting around in his field guides and finally identified this moth, and then confirmed it (thanks to the Google!) as Mellittia satyriniformis or "Squash Vine Borer." As dramatic and pretty as it is, I sure hope this doesn't portend doom for our pumpkin patch this year! Time will tell, but the last time we tried pumpkins, those sucking "Assassin bugs" killed the vines. I'll just tell myself, that we're not trying pumpkins this year, they just showed up! (As Homer once told Bart, the one excuse in the world that always works is: "It was that way when I got here!") We are going to keep an eye on the pumpkins though to see if they are attracting these pretty little guys (I hope not). Since we don't use any insecticides (except the mosquito spray) and don't intend to start. I'm sure there's some natural or organic way to deal with them if that occasion does occur.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Good morning. I can't id your moth, but your sea holly is looking great. Mine is a little behind yours, blooms not as far open. I'll have to start checking it more carefully for interesting insects.

I got a lot done in my garden this weekend too. When I walked thru it quickly this morning I was mostly pleased with the results of my labors:) Glad you had a great weekend.

Gail said...

Your hybrid moth-wasp is indeed awesome looking!

I envy your being able to plant this late in the may not be late in your season but anything planted here would require constant watering. We are well into our dry season and daily scan the skies for signs of rain. I could look at the tv but that would suck me into the tv zone! I already spend too much time in the internet rabbit hole as it is!

The Sea Holly is truly a good looking has many of the qualities I find perfect for the colored flowers, blue gray foliage and it attracts pollinators. I may have to give it a try...will it tolerate clay soil with heavy winter rains? Winter is our wet season.


Shady Gardener said...

I believe you're right. I DO need some of that Sea Holly! ;-) And I DON'T know the identity of your colorful visitor!! Try this site. It's my favorite!!
Someone will see your request for identification and reply. As soon as you find out, will you let me know???

Shady Gardener said...

PS What a wonderful lot of work you did this past weekend!! It did get a little warm and humid here... Hasn't this been a wonderful year for working outdoors??? :-) You'd better post a photo of your backyard!

boran2 said...

The colors of that moth are amazingly vivid, IVG.

BTW, I've downloaded Firefox 3 with a fancy skin. It is clearly much improved from 1.0. The old one was always slow to open and slow to open a webpage. The new one is much quicker.

Also, I've gottne myself out to a nursery and enloyed some savings on a perennial for my side bed, pursuant to your suggestion. ;-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
Great to hear you're a Sea Holly fan too! I've never seen it in another garden, and people going by always think it's some scary form of thistle, lol.

Glad your garden is doing well, you have so many lovely roses that must be a lot of work! We're getting some much needed rain (didn't think I'd be saying that again so soon!) tonight, so all the new things we got in over the weekend are now getting a nice drink!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Well, mostly anything I plant from seed from now on out will be quick annuals like 4 O'clocks and Zinnias or Nasturtiums that love the blast furnace heat of July and August. You can never have too many Zinnias! They're butterfly magnets and with most of them, the more you cut to bring in, the more flowers you get, so they're a win win all over!

Looks like I'll have several kinds of seeds for you come fall, and I'll add some Sea Holly too. I pulled about 7 over the weekend (sob) and they have huge taproots, so I think if you just amend where you plant them a bit, they would probably work for you. It will want full sun though (ours gets eastern sun in the morning and southern in the early afternoon and does just fine). I noticed that some of the Prairie Mallow is already starting to put on seeds, so I'll start collecting them when they're thoroughly dried.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Shady!
I'll collect some Sea Holly seed for you (Gail too!) when it gets later this summer and it's ready. I used Bug Guide and did find it there, but only after Fernymoss had positively IDed it on another site. (I'm going to post an update a bit later, so you'll know.)

It was very nice this weekend until Sunday, when the dewpoint shot up so we were sweaty messes by the time we quit around 7:00. At least we only have a few more plants to get in and we know where they will go, just have to finish a bit of weeding and they'll be in soon!

Actually that second post on the Bee Balm was taken in the backyard, otherwise there's not much of interest back there except veggies and that one corner by the fence that has run wild. I posted some pics of that herb/pepper bed a couple of weeks ago when I got that planted. But the main attractions around here are mostly in front and in the Woodland Garden on the north...

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Good for you, B2!
So you got a perennial... what is it? I'm hoping it's a hibiscus!

Glad you've revised your assessment of Firefox, because I see a definite speed improvement and page handling in the step up from 2.5 to 3.0. I need to get a new skin myself, I've gotten kind of bored with the one I've been using ('Walnut') but haven't found another that really wows me yet.

Shady Gardener said...

Yea! Thanks for saving seeds for me! Gotta go!

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