butterflies etc.

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A week or so ago, while out on one of those fabulously sunny days we had
before the rains came back, I was surprised by a nice bright orange
butterfly streaking through the garden. I only caught a glimpse, mostly
color, so I don't know which of the anglewings it was, but it was a joy to
see, and surprising for the first butterfly of the season. Mourning Cloaks,
unfortunately, are not very common in my garden, I only get straglers from
the wooded park once every five years or so, but I do get several late
winter butterflies if I look closely enough to see them- Pine Elfins and
Nelson's Hairstreaks are pretty commonly the earliest butterflies I see,
mostly sunning themselves around the rockery where a salal bush gives them
food and protection. Cabbage Whites are almost as commonly the first ones,
though lately they seem to be decreasing in numbers, despite the
cabbage/kale thing I grow specifically for them. And of course Spring Azures
occassionally make it out early enough to live up to their name.

For the mason bees, what I remember is that they want morning sun in winter
to wake up properly. East facing would work, south would be fine too, though
you may want to move the filled blocks into a shadier area once it gets warm
in summer to prevent them from overheating. My main block is one the south
side of the house which is shaded by two large maples in summer, so is
protected. As far as the mites are concerned, since I am not asking them to
work (ie, polinate our pathetic excuse for an old apple), I try to offer
enough blocks that they can move into a new one if the old one gets too many
mites. Overall, I think the population stabilizes all right, assuming you
have enough blocks. And every few years I try and remember to make a new one
for a fresh start. The mites are part of the natural cycle, I figure the
bees will adapt if given a chance. Oddly enough, I think I have a different
species than the one described in the book. Mine are a bit bigger, and seem
more active later in the season than he describes. <shrug>

Brett Johnson
Green Man Gardens
bnbjohns@attbi.com


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