For my 40th(!) birthday, Gene finally relented on his “edible plants only” stance and he and Bess Bess installed a huge butterfly garden in the front yard! It’s beautiful, complete with watering, feeding, sheltering and basking stations – everything a butterfly needs at every stage of development. The yellow and black swallowtail has relocated from the back deck to the front yard, and was quickly joined by three happy bumble bees who spend the vast majority of their day buzzing from bloom to bloom.
Naturally I’ve already taken hundreds of pictures, even though it’s a little unnerving to stand close by when the bees zip right by your face in their haste to do some pollinating. Bess Bess did a ton of research on how to set it up, and decided on planting everything in huge swatches of color. It’s going to be gorgeous once everything grows up.
In other news, I dragged Bess Bess to Petco with me to find some live plants my fish tank, and we brought home an African Butterfly fish (in keeping with my birthday theme). He’s really cool – he hangs at the top of the tank all day, and eats live insects.
The feeding schedule has proven slightly problematic, since according to the internet he either eats several times a day, or requires “heavy feeding” twice a week. Either way, that’s a lot of bugs. Since I’ve never backed down from a challenge, I’ve taken to prowling around the gardens with a huge fish net, trying to swipe bugs out of the air. When I stalk any wayward flies that blunder into our house, I’ll even add a whispered audio commentary, just like the other famous hunters do on all those shows Gene watches.
While there’s no lack of bugs around here, finding suitable sacrificial insects is tough. I refuse to feed him any beneficial insects, like dragonflies, bees, or butterflies. Likewise, anything cute and adorable is spared, like ladybugs and those bright blue walking sticks. So that pretty much leaves wasps and flies, and since the last thing I want is for an angry wasp to escape my net on its way to the tank, that pretty much leaves flies. I’ve since learned the hard way that flies can survive being dunked underwater, but at least chasing them around the house is good exercise.
I’m not the only fearsome predator out hunting dinner – in other amazing news, my preying mantis egg sac hatched! They’re already huge, I saw one yesterday that was about three inches long. I was watering the strawberries right by the greenhouse and happened to spot her hanging from a leaf. They have incredible camouflage, and I love the way they sway back and forth while they wait for something juicy to wander within striking distance.