How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rain, Rain Go Away!

I’ll tell you what is happening in my garden, Rain, Rain, and lots of Rain!! I took some pictures earlier in the week of the rain. Today when I got home I discovered one of the Lemon Queen Sunflowers completely over on the ground. I was able to stake it up again. I found out that there were 40 MPH winds right around my neighborhood with severe thunderstorms. We had over 3 inches of rain this afternoon. I would love to know what the totals are for the month of May. I don’t think it could possibly rain any more. The weather forecast is for increasing chance of thunderstorms for the rest of the week. Like I said earlier, doesn’t Mother Nature know that I have hives that I am trying to requeen. I didn’t go into the hives last weekend to see what was happening. I am hoping that by leaving them alone I might be pleasantly surprised next weekend and find all hives with new queens. If not I may have to combine hive number one into the other hives. My husband just found a site on the internet, Florida Climate Center, that actually gives information on the weather, trends, and records. In Miami we had a total of 14.67 inches of rain, departure from Normal by 9.15 inches. On May 22nd we had 9.70 inches of rain. The last record was set in 1966 when we had 2 inches of rain.


With all the rain the garden is growing and is alive with so much activity. The butterflies have been beautiful this year. They are a little over zealous as they are eating through all the Passiflora vines. I have Butterfly World holding two different varieties of passion vines for me. I cannot keep up with how vivacious an appetite the caterpillars have this year. I have several videos of their activity and how quickly they are devouring the vines. I am not sure I am going to be able to keep up with them this year. I guess I shouldn’t complain, this is exactly what they are supposed to do and why I am providing the vines for them. These videos are taken approximately 2 weeks apart. You can see how quickly the Long Wing Zebras have eaten through the Byron’s Beauty.

The great Sunflower Project is progressing as several of the Lemon Queen Sunflowers are in bloom. I sat and watched one of the flowers for approximately 15 minutes while I sipped on Sangria on Memorial Day. I did not see any bees visit the plants during that time. I did however see a bee on the sunflower in the morning. I don’t see a lot of bees on the Mexican Sunflowers either, but the butterflies love them. I need to actually send my results to the citizen projects. I have seen a few bees on the sunflowers but for as many bees as there are in the yard I would think more bees would be attracted to the sunflower.

The yard has also been very active with unusual wildlife. I noticed two woodpeckers on the empty palm tree a few weeks ago. When I was in the yard over the weekend I noticed two distinct round holes. My husband said he heard them pecking away earlier in the week. I am assuming they are making nests. I really don’t know a lot about woodpeckers. I guess I should learn a little more about them. This palm tree died several years ago but I have left the trunk of the tree in place. I did read that woodpeckers like to nest in decaying trees. Screech owls also like to use the nest of woodpeckers. I need to watch the activity to see what other wildlife is attracted to it. I would love to have screech owls in my yard.


We also noticed an iguana that is visiting our yard. We have seen him on several occasions. We have Cuban lizards but their faces are more angular. Of course we always have the common brown anole, and geckos that come out at night and catch moths. I have never seen an iguana in the yard before. I am not sure that this is a good thing as I believe they can become quite invasive. They also have difficulty when it becomes cold outside. Wildlife centers get many phone calls with people thinking they are dead but actually because they are cold blooded and need to be warmed up.

Another visitor and not a welcome one is the Bufo Toad (Bufo Marinus), the giant or cane toad. This species of toad produces a pasty yellow-white toxin in the parotid glands, which extend from the head backward over the shoulder region, and is released through pinhole openings in the skin. When a dog mouths or bites a Bufo toad the toxin is released and rapidly absorbed across the mucus membranes of the mouth. The Bufo toad has poisoned many dogs in south Florida. I am lucky because none of my dogs seem to be interested in them. As a lover of nature and wildlife I have never minded them in my garden but they are also a pest to my bees. I had heard that they will eat honeybees, although I had never witnessed it until recently. Most of the toads are located on the east side of the backyard. I think because it is shadier. Well they discovered my bee hives! I was out watching my bees and discovered a Bufo Toad just sitting at the bottom of the hive occasionally jumping up to catch a bee. I clobbered him with the garden rake. I felt awful but there is no way I am letting him feed off my bees. I have noticed them on several occasions now, not sure what I will do and how many bees they can eat at a given time. There are a lot of bees in the hives. I am going to have really fat toads!

It is June 1st today. Hopefully it will not be as rainy this month, and we will have a more normal summertime weather pattern. June 1st marks the beginning of our hurricane season. Hopefully we will be spared again this year. My yard is looking so pretty I really don’t want it destroyed by a hurricane. I also have no idea how to prepare my hives for a hurricane. Now is the time to find out!
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