Have you noticed the days have been getting shorter? In fact, today, Monday September 23, 2019 at 2:50 am CDT, we reached the autumnal equinox when the night was about as long as the day. This equality between night and day also happens during the spring equinox in late March. From now on (for 182 days) the days will continue to grow shorter until late December.
The autumnal equinox also signals the time for we landowners to begin preparing our yards for the coming winter. This year let’s try to keep as many leaves and twigs in our yards as we can. Many butterflies over-winter wrapped in leaves either as chrysalis or as caterpillars. Mulching the leaves, cuts them up. Removing them buries them in the local landfill.
Tiger Swallowtails, for example, overwinter. Their chrysalis looks like a dried leaf and are typically attached to a tree or the stem of a plant in the garden.
Besides butterflies, there are many other insects that winter over in the fallen leaves and in and on twigs and stems. As the lawn and garden debris breaks down over the course of the winter season, they also provide much needed nourishment for the soil. If allowing the leaves and twigs to remain where they fall, is just not acceptable, try dumping the leaves around nearby trees to provide a mulch cover for their thirsty roots. You’ll be amazed how good this will make you feel, knowing you’ve helped maintain the home of an overwintering insect or simply nourishing the soil.
Wednesday afternoon, September 20, 2019 we had a wonderful surprise in our backyard and in our prairie. The Monarch butterflies were grouping up. What an awesome sight!
Although you don’t see much of the Rubeckia fulgida ‘goldsturm’ in this video, the New England Asters (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) grow in the same area as these non-native Black-eyed Susans. With all the buzzing and flitting around, there still was NO insect activity on the goldsturm. In the video below you’ll see at least eight different Monarchs (Danaus phlexippus)as well as two Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) and a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos), along with a variety of bees and other insects.
After the excitement settled down, I walked out into the prairie and found more Monarchs helping themselves to the many New England Asters. Another one of the unexpected benefits which came from the flattening of our prairie during the July storms was the added sunshine, because of the fallen trees, which allowed the New England Aster to grow more prominently.
Although I try to keep the Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) under control, I do like the look of the golds and purples together. This year it seemed the goldenrod was blooming ahead of the asters, however.