The short, dry summers in Wyoming are hot but nights are typically chilly, temperatures can dip into the 40’s and 50’s. That being said, insects stay small or grow very fast.
Attracted to the summer porch light, the Imperial Moth would rest with its wings outstretched on our screen door. Its yellow wings with red splotches can average a span of six to seven inches, the size of a bird. The Imperial Moth’s quiet presence was a welcome summer guest as moths are nocturnal pollinators. Imperial Moth’s lifespan is short, they die shortly after they lay their eggs, just about a week. They don’t harm any vegetation or clothing during their time on earth, they sip the nectar of plants like currants and rhubarb that stay open at night. Grizzly bears, their greatest predator, have been known to flip rocks, seeking the moths that shelter underneath. Moths are a valuable source of calories for Grizzlies.
Imperial Moths, ladybugs, and Monarch butterflies were my favorite insects as a child and I loved the huge dragonflies that we saw during visits to Georgia.
In sixth grade my Science class did an insect unit, which included research on each bug. My Dad helped me with my insect collection assignment, luckily most of the insects we found were already dead as the weather had gotten cooler. We poured over the Encyclopedia Britannica for hours. I felt horrible pinning the butterflies, bees, ladybugs, boxelder bugs, and cricket, in the display. This was definitely the beginning of my awareness of the value of insects in my life.
My Mom would tell us horror stories about the gargantuan bugs she encountered as a child living in the Philippines, always checking shoes and pant legs for tarantulas, centipedes, and scorpions.
I eventually got used to the B-52 cockroaches that would fly directly in my face in Hawaii. It was sweet revenge when one of my beloved house geckos would catch and eat those B-52’s in one bite. I still have nightmares about the morning that the family cat had caught a ten inch centipede that was crawling up my toddler’s bed. That cat ate fresh tuna for weeks for her heroism.
I inherited a terraced vegetable garden upon moving to the Makalapa Crater on Oahu. It was a miserably hot month of no trade winds, I was eight months pregnant with my fourth child, and the bugs were eating everything except the bananas. I was adept at house plants and flowers, but I was way out of my league outside in rows of squash, melons, taro, onions, and ginger. My neighbor was eager to help me succeed as a gardener so he showed me how he would pick the bugs off of his veggies and feed them to his chickens, his backyard garden was thriving. I gave up, the bugs won, the bananas were delicious and our Guinea pigs loved grazing in the compost.
I was delighted while working in my Hawaiian garden to have daily visits from some beautiful Painted Lady and Monarch butterflies. My generous and patient neighbor explained that a group of butterflies is called a Kaleidoscope, that they are very spiritual, they always come with a message. Yellow butterflies symbolize good fortune, good luck, and transformation. Butterflies gravitate towards kind and compassionate individuals.
I have yet to see a Monarch in my garden this summer but a beautiful bluebird greeted me on the morning that my dear mother in law passed away last month. She watched over my garden and my chickens for several weeks and then disappeared. My mother in law was an avid gardener and hummingbird whisperer and was her happiest in her home surrounded by nature.
After participating in the Cornell University Bird Count every year, I researched butterfly counts. The North American Butterfly Association has run the Butterfly Count since 1993. According to the NABA map, there is one group near Snowhill that counts here on the Eastern Shore. The best butterfly counting times are between 10:30 AM and 2:30PM on sunny days. September is the peak time for butterflies, especially Monarchs.
This July heatwave has taken its toll on my water bill and my garden. Everything is wilting and sad so I’ve decided to put all my efforts into providing an autumn butterfly garden. In addition to the sage, lavender, oregano, and sunflowers that are currently growing, I’ve planted zinnias, coneflowers, and marigolds. I’ll be counting butterflies while enjoying my garden in milder weather.
“Just living isn’t enough,“ said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” – Hans Christian Andersen
Kate Emery General is a retired chef/restaurant owner that was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming. Kate loves her grandchildren, knitting and watercolor painting. Kate and her husband , Matt are longtime residents of Cambridge’s West End where they enjoy swimming and bicycling.