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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seeds for the Seed bugs, Leaves for the 'Pillars

And wine for the woman who makes the rain come? Well, I do turn the sprinklers on every 1/2 a moon . . .

The theory goes (doesn't it?) if you don't allow seeds to ripen, your plants will continue to bloom longer. So for the sake of keeping up appearances I've been trying to trim off the milkweed seedpods as they fatten on the parkway plants. At the same time I tip the stems back to encourage more branching of the plants. So far so good, except as summer progresses the pods are ripening literally faster than I have time to trim them.

A complication any time you manage an insect resource plant is to balance the need to avoid disruption to the breeding, feeding or pupating insect population with your necessary aesthetic. Milkweed is the sole food plant for monarch larvae. There was some egg laying activity in May, so for awhile I did no trimming but monitored the plants. I didn't see any caterpillars, so I resumed trimming after carefully checking for eggs or 'pillars. In the past couple days more egg-laying butterflies have been visiting. I will now stop trimming, let the seed pods ripen and split, then clean up the plants in a month or so depending on how the caterpillars (if any) are progressing and the level of complaints from the neighbors and garden police. One might wonder why I planted milkweed in a high visibility area if I prioritize keeping up appearances. Bingo!

Meanwhile, the milkweed bugs (Lygaeus kalmii) have maintained their population among the seeds that get away from the gardener.

The bug poised on the leaf tip was stroking its beak with its two front legs in what seemed like a cleaning motion; maybe removing the sticky milkweed residue?

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