The Not So Common, Common Milkweed!

The Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) was a familiar sight in the Missouri Ozarks. Between mowing and spraying herbicide this beautiful plant has become more scarce.

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This particular milkweed can grow very large (up to 6 1/2 feet tall). The profuse flowers vary from pinkish to purplish in color. The coveted Monarch Butterfly caterpillars are the chief consumer of the leaves and stems. The caterpillars prefer the more tender newer smaller leaves.

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The Great Spangled Fritillary  adores this plant! Today I counted 20 butterflies on one plant!

Great Spangled Fritillary

It is an amazing spectacle to see how the Fritillaries covet this “common” plant!

Do yourself a favor and plant as many of these special plants to perpetuate the threatened Monarch Butterfly and enjoy a truly beautiful perennial plant!

Papa

 

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The Amazing Tomato Hornworm

My old nemesis the Tomato Hornworm is back! They certainly are an impressive creature!

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When the Five Spotted Hawk (Manduca quinquemaculata) moth finds a tomato plant, it will lay one or several eggs on the tomato plant. When the eggs hatch, the little caterpillar will eat its egg case and starts to eat like crazy! The caterpillar will molt several times until it becomes mature and ready to burrow in the ground and metamorphize into a chrysalis. By late spring the chrysalis will open and a new moth appears in late spring/early summer. Finally the cycle starts all over again.

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It is incredible how fast an almost mature caterpillar can strip a tomato plant. I recommend removing the worms by hand. Usually the creatures are found alone hiding amongst the damage. Beware, there color is a great camouflage! Check out the size of this critter!!

BTW, here is another indicator of their escapades. Giant worm poop!!!

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You have to admit, they are amazing!!!!!!

Papa

Crazy Weather!! Spray Those Fruit Trees!

Amazing, 60° (F) on January 15th in the Missouri Ozarks. The flower buds are swelling due to the warm weather. It is definitely time to start spraying your fruit trees.

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Neem Oil is the perfect choice to spray fruit trees. Neem oil is both a fungicide and an insecticide. 100% Neem Oil tends to solidify in its’ container. Place the container in a bucket with hot water to liquefy the oil to use in a sprayer. Two tablespoons per gallon is the usual rate to get the job done.

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Neem oil is made from the seeds of the Neem Tree (Azadirachta indica). The oil mixed with water and dish soap is sprayed at temperatures below 80° (F). Neem oil has fungicidal and bacteriological properties to either prevent or control certain types of bacteria and fungus.

Neem oil is effective to control fire blight which is a major issue on apple and pear trees.

Neem oil offers good control against powdery mildew, black spot, downy mildew, scab, anthracnose,  rust, leaf spot, botrytis, tip blight and alternaria. These are a sample of fungal diseases which plague fruit and ornamental trees.

As an insecticide, Neem Oil is detrimental to aphids, mealybugs, scale, different types of beetles, true bugs and caterpillars by disrupting their growth patterns. Most of the above insects will not reach adulthood and therefore no offspring. The oil itself smothers some of the insects by cutting off their air supply and eliminating insect eggs.

While standing upwind, spray the fruit trees from ground level to the branch tips.

Make sure the entire tree is thoroughly covered to insure control and effectiveness.

In a week to 10 days the trees will be sprayed again, using wettable sulfur.

Continue the process in another 7 to 10 days using elemental copper.

Spraying between intervals with seaweed emulsion and compost tea will strengthen the trees by building up the trees immune systems and handling stress.

The benefit is clear by enjoying healthy fruitful trees!

Papa

 

Pest Control – Nature’s Way – the Braconid Wasp

You may have seen this phenomenon at one time or another. Little white cocoons on the back of a tomato hornworm. Those cocoons are from the larvae of the Braconid wasp.

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New adult Braconid wasps will emerge from those little cocoons!

Braconid wasp emerge

These amazing ladies and gents are only 1/8th inch long and rely on the caterpillars of many butterflies and moths to perpetuate the species. A fertile female wasp will use her ovipositor (egg laying lance) to lay eggs in the caterpillar of tomato hornworms and other destructive caterpillars.

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The life cycle continues over and over again causing destruction of the caterpillars and rewarding us with juicy tomatoes and undamaged plants!!!!

Papa

For Milkweed Go Native!!

It is very important that you supply the correct varieties of milkweed for your specific location.

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For instance, I live in the Missouri Ozarks. The recommended varieties are: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Milkweeds-of-Central-US_plus-vendors_XercesSociety.pdf

  • Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
  • Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
  • Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
  • Green Antelopehorn (Asclepias viridis)
  • Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)

Sunset Flower AKA Scarlet Milkweed AKA Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is not recommended for a Monarch butterfly larval plant in North America. Tropical Milkweed is native to South America. It is now becoming an invasive species in the southern states of America. The Monarchs that consume this variety become prey to additional parasites. Subsequently, this variety weakens the larvae and butterfly. Lastly, the Monarchs are not migrating to Mexico because they have a constant supply of the wrong food.

Check out these links for native milkweed in your area:

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/xerces-nrcs-california-milkweed-guide.pdf

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/NativeMilkweedsGreatBasin.pdf

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/SE-Monarch-milkweed-butterfly-host-plant-brochure-final-2012.pdf

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Monarch-Butterflies-East-Region.pdf

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Monarchs-Milkweeds_Northern_Great_Plains.pdf

Don’t forget nectar producing plants for your Monarchs as well. Some of their favorites include:
Buckwheat (Eriogonum)
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
California Lilac (Ceanothus)
Citrus (Citrus)
Coneflower (Echinacea)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis)
Cosmos (Cosmos)
Daisy (Aster and Chrysanthemum)
Dianthus (Dianthus)
Heliotrope (Heliotropium)
Lantana (Lantana)
Marigold (Tagetes)
Milkweed (Asclepias)
Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
Rabbit Brush (Chryssothamnus)
Rock Cress (Arabis)
Salvia (Salvia)
Senecio (Senecio)
Star Clusters (Pentas)
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia)
Verbena (Verbena)
Wall Flower (Erysimum)
Zinnia (Zinnia)

Papa

Got Milkweed? You’ll get Monarchs!!

Kathy, a friend at work, dug up three native plants of Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) from her farm. They were given to me to transplant on my property. The Purple Milkweed will be used to attract the Monarch butterfly. The plant itself is the larval food for the Monarch. WP_20150601_19_31_48_Pro         WP_20150601_19_32_00_Pro

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These hardy perennials flower from late May through July. The flowers are adored by many different species of butterflies and moths. I have observed butterflies waiting their turn to enjoy the nectar from these unusual flowers. Monarch numbers are decreasing which makes the planting of milkweed essential. Monarch populations have decreased by 90%. All the more reason to plant milkweed on your property!! Indiscriminate use of herbicide and mowing of roadsides has eliminated much needed plantings of milkweed. A 3′ x 3′ planting of milkweed will go a long way to help the beautiful Monarch butterfly.

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Monarch on milkweed

It is wise to collect seeds from your milkweed plants instead of digging them up. Existing plants are established and should be allowed to produce more seed to be released. Nothing could be easier! After the flowers are pollinated, wait for the seed pods to mature and start to open. Cut off a few of the seed pods and place in a paper bag. The seed will fall to the bottom of the bag. Collect the seed and place in a dated, labeled envelope.

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Let’s do all we can to insure the protection of the milkweed plant for the survival of the Monarch butterfly!!

To purchase milkweed seed, please check out these links:

http://www.rareseeds.com/milkweed-butterfly-weed/

http://www.rareseeds.com/milkweed-mexican-whorled/

http://www.rareseeds.com/milkweed-red-or-swamp/

Papa