As summer winds down in late August and September, we see a rush in the number of pollinators visiting our gardens. The butterflies and bees and everything else have all come out of the woodwork so it seems. Every Sunday afternoon I take a stroll through some shady woodland or sunny meadow, looking for unknown or rare natives. While I am out I observe the pollinators and other insects I meet, photographing as many as possible. I am always excited by the increased numbers of insects in these late summer weeks.
Monarchs are especially pushing out their numbers this year, I cannot begin to tell you how many eggs and caterpillars I have seen. What we really have to watch out for when weeding our landscapes is a little known Monarch host plant, Honeyvine Milkweed (Cynanchum laeve). This perennial vine is a common problem in landscapes, hedges, and gardens. However, in late summer, Monarch butterflies lay eggs in droves on this vine, as well as on other milkweeds. Check the leaves for eggs and caterpillars before pulling this plant.
With the advent of our late blooming natives such as asters and goldenrods, we will see a large number of moths as well as late butterflies and bees about. One of the most prolific species seen on goldenrods is the Pennsylvania leatherwing soldier beetle. These and other soldier beetle larvae feed on the larvae of grasshoppers, beetles, moths, and other insects. The adult soldier beetles eat aphids, scales, and other soft-bodied insects along with pollen.
Grass skippers are becoming more and more prevalent in the landscape as well. The larvae of these butterflies feed on the native grasses around us, including bluestems, switchgrass, cordgrass, and Indiangrass. There are many different skippers and they can be difficult to identify without the aid of a good guide. I think skippers are very interesting and I use Butterflies in the Kansas City Region by Betsy Betros as my guide to them.
When planning your home or new landscape, be sure to leave some native areas or plant some new ones, the pollinators will reward you with their presence. It is also important to plant as many native trees as possible in your landscape. Native trees host a large variety of butterflies and moths, which help support bird populations. The best native trees for pollinators in the Central Great Plains are Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), Oaks (Quercus species), Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), Hickory (Carya species), and Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia).
Look for pollinator friendly plants in our garden centers or online at www.grimmsgardens.com/shop