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misssherryg

American Lady Cats at Yearly Peak

MissSherry
14 years ago

America lady/Vanessa virginiana caterpillars are at their most numerous at this time every year, and this year is no exception. Just about every cudweed/Gnaphalium pensylvanicum plant has an American lady nest on it, and I still see adults flitting around them, like they're checking it out to see if there are any plants without a nest/cat.

I let cudweed grow in my garden beds. It dies back to the basal rosette in summer and doesn't look ugly. While I was out there today watering, I saw this cat outside its nest, eating. Its spikes and overall body color were pale, so it apparently just molted and was eating to refill and stretch that skin again! :)

{{gwi:464108}}
Sherry

Comments (16)

  • nebu
    14 years ago

    Wow, I don't think the American Lady resides in my zone. Very unique Caterpillar and very cool looking butterfly as well.

  • MissSherry
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Yes, Nick, I think they're a beautiful butterfly - I especially like the pink on their undersides -
    {{gwi:449577}}
    Sherry

  • caterwallin
    14 years ago

    Sherry, Absolutely gorgeous pictures! I can't remember offhand when I got American Ladies here last year, but they loved the pussytoes. I tried taking cuttings last year and starting new plants that way, but only 3 out of 12 made it over the winter. So now I have 6 plants. I wintersowed pearly everlasting and artemisia, so I think they'll have plenty to eat here. I have an entire bed that's about 4'x 35' just for the AL host plants. I just love those cats and the butterfly too of course. I like that pink on their undersides too.
    Cathy

  • todancewithwolves
    14 years ago

    Spectacular photo's. As I said before, I'm amazed at the many species you have in your county/state. I'm lucky if I ever see one butterfly.

    Edna

  • MissSherry
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Thanks, Edna!
    That's really too bad about not seeing any butterflies. Maybe you can get a colony of California pipevine swallowtails going from the eggs that Penney sent you - I sure hope so! And maybe you can plant plenty of host plants for those darling painted ladies pictured on your other thread. These two species would be an excellent start - pipevine swallowtails and the Vanessas are some of my faves!
    Sherry

  • susanlynne48
    14 years ago

    I cant seem to grow pussytoes or Pearly Everlasting to grow, so got some Artnamisia stellerania and helychrisum to try this year. The gnaphaluim got mowed down b4 it could flower and self sow last year. Not seeing too many bf's yet myself but monarch cats are about 3rd and 4th instars now.

    Susan

  • tdr4
    14 years ago

    Great pictures. I think that I have identified cudweed and letting it grow, but I haven't found any cats on it. I released 2 monarchs today & had several gulf fritteries from plants that I bought in Dec. at Home Depot.I have Giant Swallowtail cats. I am going to keep checking for the American Ladies.

  • caterwallin
    14 years ago

    Susan, Sorry to hear that you can't get pussytoes or pearly everlasting to grow there. I wonder why that is? I'm glad I was able to obtain some seeds of the Artemisia stelleriania from someone last year. I had seen pics of the plant online before that and thought how pretty they looked, and after wintersowing them and having them come up several weeks ago, I can see that they are a very pretty plant. Now I hope that the ALs will think that they taste good. I've never tried helichrysum but have seen people mention it here several times. I was thinking that gnaphalium is a perennial, but your comment about it getting mowed down before it self-sowed makes it sound like it's an annual. Now I'm not sure. I thought both pearly everlasting and sweet everlasting are perennials.
    Cathy

  • MissSherry
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    Cathy, I think gnaphalium is a perennial in my area - 'can't say for sure about where you and Susan are. I always find it growing in the same area where I found it last year, but it may be that those plants that have the tough leaves the butterflies won't lay eggs on are the ones from the year before. I've noticed when I pull up the tough ones that they have long roots, and cudweed appears to spread both by roots and seeds, at least here.
    I planted several Helichrysum plants, most died, but the remaining ones haven't been used, so it's definitely not a favorite.
    Sherry

  • caterwallin
    14 years ago

    Sherry, It just never really occurred to me that some of these plants that I'm planting might not be perennials, but I already have them wintersowed and they've sprouted. I'll plant them and see if they also come up next year. Being that I'm in PA, I guess it's not necessarily a perennial here. You're lucky that it is there. I've been trying to mostly have all perennials. I'm sorry to hear that you haven't had much luck with the Helichrysums. I doubt if I'll try them since I'll already have four different kinds of plants for the American Ladies.
    Cathy

  • caterwallin
    14 years ago

    Sherry, One thing I was going to ask and forgot...so do both pearly everlasting and sweet everlasting spread in a similar manner that you know of? I forget which one I had in a big pot that died out over the winter and then came back up only in a different place from where it had been before. I have both kinds this year and am trying to decide where I want to plant them. If they're both plants that are going to start popping up from underground "arms" away from the original plant, I might want to put them away from my "regular" butterfly plants so they don't try to take over everything. If they spread in a similar manner as common milkweed, I would probably put them in their own bed and in a spot where I could mow around. Then if any would be growing in the grass, they'd simply get mowed off. I would, of course, check them first to make sure no cats are on them.
    Cathy

  • MissSherry
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    I don't know about pearly everlasting and sweet everlasting, Cathy, and it may be that cudweed just spreads outwardly, you know, the central plant keeps getting bigger. There's so much of it here, I've never monitored individual plants. It's just that when I pull up the tough plants out of my garden, I sometimes pull up close "babies" with it that have come up real close to the mother plant.
    I've read that American ladies have a migration of sorts, that is, they move northward in the spring/summer, then back southward in the fall. I'd say that's true, because even if I personally release many many adults, their numbers are low in summer, which is when the local cudweed dies back to the basal rosette.
    If your plants spread too much, you can always trim them back or cut them back at the roots.
    Have you checked your local fuzzy weeds with whitish leaves to see if you can find an American lady nest? If you find one locally, then that plant would be the best for you to have in your garden, even if you have to pull some of it out each year.
    Sherry

  • caterwallin
    14 years ago

    It sounds like you have an everlasting jungle there, Sherry. ;-) I can see w hy it would be hard to keep track of individual plants since you've had your plants for probably a bit longer than I have. Being that my garden was just started several years ago, I can still keep track of individual plants of all the types...well, sort of...but that soon won't be possible. I'm curious to see how the everlastings will be here. Maybe I'm a more regimented type of garden person than other people, I don't know? Just don't ask to see the inside of my house though...ha! I have my plants in sections and they aren't allowed to step over their boundaries or they get yanked. My purple coneflowers are notorious for coming up in between the bricks in the path and getting pulled by the hundreds. I'll never plant Rudbeckia hirta here again because it wanted to go all over the place! I'm considering doing away with the last of my anise hyssop because I spend way too much time pulling up thousands of seedlings of that. Besides, it doesn't attract butterflies here at all anyway. I used to have 60 plants and am down to about 10 and it's still too many apparently. I have a bad back and hate to be bending over much. So it literally causes me pain to have to be pulling plants out so much. I put in some pathways to try to keep the garden sectioned off to make it easier to care for, but now the plants some up between the bricks! I really do love plants but sometimes they give me fits with their wanting to be overly prolific. Then in my upper garden where I wish they'd take over the weeds, the weeds want to take control. Anyway, I had wanted to ask that about the everlastings spreading because of the difficulty I have trying to keep things pulled where I don't want them.

    No, I actually didn't check the local fuzzy weeds with whitish leaves for American lady nests, but that's a good idea. I think I at least know what to look for now, being that I've had pussytoes for several years now with cats on them. I actually think that I did have AL cats earlier than I realized, thinking back on it. Before I knew better, I remember the first year (or maybe it was the second year) that I had the pussytoes, I noticed that they looked unhealthy. I thought it was because of the weather, but now I think that I had cats that year and didn't realize it. I'll be watching for those American Ladies to show up here. They seem to love the pussytoes that I've had here for a few years now, but I just thought I'd plant a few other species that they are known to like. It will be fun seeing which they like the best.
    Cathy

  • leslie123
    14 years ago

    I don't have a single American Lady, either, and I'm not so far from you, Misssheri. Bummer. I have tons of cudweed, too. Some singly, some in clumps (I've not cut my backyard few & far between.

  • MissSherry
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    That's a shame, Leslie!
    Two of mine in the cage are now pupating, and one chrysalis is clear, with the butterfly inside visible - 'should be seeing the butterfly some time today.
    I've forgotten where you are in LA - if you're in town, that could explain it. My mother lives in town in Hattiesburg, and I rarely ever see a butterfly there. The butterflying out here in the country is so much better!
    Sherry

  • MissSherry
    Original Author
    14 years ago

    I released the butterfly about an hour ago, my first release of the year that didn't overwinter from last year -
    {{gwi:464110}}
    Two more pupated this morning, plus my first red admiral pupated, nearly all the giant swallowtails have done so, a spicebush swallowtail pupated the other day, and my first palamedes swallowtail just had a huge bowel emptying - the real butterfly season is beginning! YAY!
    Sherry

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