MILKWEED ACTIVITY!

I am back in Maine after nearly a week of work in Connecticut. I barely budged from our property with huge tasks of packing up belongings to bring to Maine and making sure the grounds are in good order. It is always interesting to see the contrast in plants that are blooming. As I drove down, I said goodbye to the Lupine and hello to the Blue Chicory along the roadsides. My flower beds were overrun with Mugwort and Garlic Mustard, two abominable invasives. I cleared them out and left a multitude of Milkweed, Bee Balm and Ground Cherries, plus ferns of course. I had the most fun with the Milkweed which was bursting into bloom. Take a close look at these blossoms! Each floret could stand alone, but these are big clumps. How does a buzzing insect decide which floret to drink from first? I kept looking for a Monarch Butterfly, but they must still be on the wing heading north. In their place was a multitude of beautiful beetles that caught my eye.

Here are a few of them. This first one is a beautifully patterned beetle, called a Red Milkweed Beetle. Some were busy mating, others just hanging on stems and leaves. These adults are immune to poison in Milkweed, but their larvae are poisonous to birds.

Here is another interestingly decorated beetle that seemed to relish the Milkweed leaves, despite their poisonous contents. If you were to dream up a design for a beetle, you couldn't do much better than this! Both of these insects have hard covers for their wings called elytra.

The temperatures in Connecticut were downright springlike, dropping down to the 40's overnight and reaching up into the comfortable 70's during the day. The humidity was low and outside activities were performed in comfort.

Back here in Maine, the temperatures have risen up to the 90's and the humidity makes things very uncomfortable. thank heavens for the cool ocean water to cool off in. My first walk was on Tuesday with a destination of Starfish Cave. We had a huge crowd with a lot of first timers..........but get this: for the first time ever in 15 years of climbing into the cave, there were NO SEA STARS inside! I was shocked and many people were surprised and disappointed. There were urchins and anemones, plus the usual array of snails and crabs. What has caused those beautiful star shaped animals to leave the cave is a puzzle, remaining to be solved.
5/26/07 Beetled and bewildered Ronnie