Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Lifecycle of a Ladybug

Ladybugs lives are full of adventures. These two twirling ladybugs used my milkweed as a tightrope. After watching this video you will see why my ladybugs should join the circus.

ladybug eggs close up

Have you ever wondered how a ladybug starts its life? Ladybugs have similar life cycles to butterflies because they start out as tiny eggs, hatch as larva, make a pupa, and emerge as an adult with wings. The orange ladybug eggs are oval shaped and laid in clusters. It takes 2 to 5 days after eggs are laid for the ladybug larvae to hatch.

ladybug larvae hatched for book

The eggs above hatched into tiny ladybug larvae. Ladybug larvae look different then their parents. During the larvae stage they have no wings and crawl over plants in search for aphids.

ladybug larvae for blog 

The ladybug above is sucking juices out of a aphid.

One ladybug larva can eat 400 aphids before reaching the pupa stage. Each time the ladybug larva outgrows its skin it will molt. Ladybug larvae molt four times and with each molt they become bigger. After the last molt, the ladybug will enter the pupa stage.

Ladybug preparing to make pupa for blog

This ladybug is nearing a big transformation. The arrow is pointing to where the ladybug larva has attached itself. It secreted a fast drying adhesive that will keep it secured.

ladybug pupa for blog

Like a zipper the ladybugs larval skin has been shed away. Inside the pupa the ladybug larva is transforming into a ladybug adult with wings. They usually stay inside the pupa for 7 days.


After coming out of the pupa, the ladybug will wait for its new wings to harden. Ladybug species who have spots must wait at least a day for them to appear. Isn’t it amazing how a little creature could go through such an amazing journey. I am thankful God created tiny creatures like ladybugs for us to learn about and enjoy.

ladybug smiling Facebook

Ladybugs are friends to gardeners because they eat plant sucking aphids. Ladybugs live in shrubs, trees, and flowers wherever aphids can be found. There are around 5,000 different kinds of ladybugs worldwide. The use of pesticides on plants kills innocent ladybugs trying to get a meal. Using organic methods rather than pesticides will help the ladybugs in your own yard. The ladybug above sends a smile to all who take time to protect its ladybug children.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How do Butterflies Drink?


While out in “Elizabeth's Secret Garden” Detective Joshua noticed that butterflies don't have a mouth like people. Instead the butterflies were using a long straw to drink nectar. Detective Joshua learned that a butterfly's drinking straw is called a proboscis. When not in use the proboscis is kept curled up.


As the butterfly flies to each flower it inserts its proboscis into the flower (or fruit). Bees pollinate flowers by caring pollen on their bodies, but butterflies pollinate by collecting pollen on their proboscis and moving it as they fly to each new flower.


Butterflies drink from other sources besides flowers. Detective Joshua was surprised to learn that butterflies drink from rotting fruit, dead animals, and animal waste. A few butterfly species prefer rotting fruit to flower nectar. Red Admirals , Red-spotted Purples, Commas, and Mourning Cloaks are the butterflies who often feast on fruit. Fermenting fruit actually contains a natural alcohol. If to much fermenting fruit is digested it can cause the butterfly to become dizzy. People have noticed this strange behavior in Red Admirals who often dine on fermenting fruit.

drinking from stones (resized)

Butterflies obtain minerals and salts by drinking from moist stones, mud, and sand. This is known as,”puddling”.  Males are more likely to be found “puddling” because they need these minerals for mating. You can easily create your own “puddling” site by burying a bucket to the rim, then filling it with sand, dirt, or even small stones. Next add water so the soil is moist. Make sure you check the soil regularly.

Friday, October 23, 2009

“Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” First Newspaper Photo Shoot


This week I was interviewed By Amy Tobik from The Seminole Chronicle. I was very excited to show her my “Secret Garden”. Today Ed Rjping took professional photographs of my garden  and a Gulf Fritillary butterfly resting on my arm.  I will let you know when the article is published.


After catching a giant wasp in my hand made butterfly net, the photo shoot was able to continue. That wasp had been killing my innocent caterpillars and it was time to put a stop to it!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Breeding White Peacocks Inside My Butterfly Pavilion

White Peacock on my finger

When my five White Peacocks emerged from their chrysalises, I placed them inside my butterfly pavilion that my parents built me. To see the measurements for my butterfly pavilion and how it was built visit .

I created this video about my pavilion so you can see the butterflies I am breeding inside.


My butterfly breeding was successful! I discovered a cluster of eggs inside my pavilion laid by my White Peacocks. Now I will wait and see if they hatch.

My Butterfly Poem “Heavenly Wings” 

Heavenly Wings
Up to heaven a butterfly flies
Carrying with it silent cries
Flapping wings to dry the tears
And bring hope to those so dear
On its wings it carries love
As a gift to those up above
Now that its journey is done
Healing hearts has just begun

Author: Elizabeth Mann

See my poem on Shady Oaks web site.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Butterflies and Caterpillars in Disguise

 Giant Swallowtail 

Giant Swallowtail with arrowIMG_2180 

Detective Joshua wonders how butterflies and caterpillars protect themselves from predators. What keeps them so well hidden? Grab your detective gear and we will take a closer look. The first creature Detective Joshua has discovered is a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar hiding on a Rue plant. It has the appearance of a large bird dropping. This disguise has protected it from becoming lunch for a bird or other creature. When creatures blend in with their surroundings we call it camouflage.

Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillarSpicebush Swallowtail origanal

While searching for more hiding caterpillars and butterflies Detective Joshua found a strange snake. After a closer look he realized it was the caterpillar of the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly. When small the Spicebush caterpillar looks like a small bird dropping, but when it gets bigger it molts (sheds skin) to reveal a new snake like skin. The large snake eyes are fake and are used only as camouflage.

 Buckeye butterfly

Buckeye croped for book

Next, Detective Joshua found a butterfly that is designed to fool. The Buckeye butterfly has large circles on its wings that look like eyes. Buckeyes can perch on a leaf with their wings open and try to trick predators. This disguise didn't fool Detective Joshua though.

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

female black swallowtail (resized)

The last butterfly he discovered was a Black Swallowtail. As young caterpillars they mimic bird droppings like many other caterpillars do. As butterflies how do they protect themselves? If you look at closely at the bottom of the Black Swallowtails wings you will notice two orange spots with a black dot in the middle. These spots are fake “eyes”. If a bird is chasing a Black Swallowtail butterfly instead of biting the body they might snap at the fake “eyes” instead. If this happens the butterfly can still fly and live on to complete its life. If you keep an eye out around your house you might notice some butterflies and caterpillars in disguise.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

BrookGreen Gardens and Zoo in South Carolina


Lowcountry trail and zoo In my last posting I showed you pictures of my tour of BrookGreen gardens . Now I will show  you my journey through the Lowcountry trail and then the Lowcountry Zoo in BrookGreen gardens.



The land that BrookGreen Gardens resides today housed 2,000 slaves on four plantations. The trees were cleared by hand in the swamp areas to grow rice. African slaves were forced to work on the plantations. Imagine what they suffered as the sun beat down on them and the mosquitoes. The canal in the distance was hand dug for irrigation and to transport the rice by boat.

The Lowcountry Zoo in BrookGreen Gardens

The following are some of the animals I saw during my visit.

Canada Goose



River Otter


River otter

Bald Eagle


bald eagle

Barred Owl



At the end of the trail I came across this gentleman reading The Costa Rica News. He was reading my article about the Blue Morpho butterfly. 


Monday, October 5, 2009

My Visit To BrookGreen Gardens in South Carolina


BrookGreen Gardens are located near Myrtle Beach, SC.  They are open to the public throughout the year. BrookGreen  is one of the top 10 gardens in America. It is the home of beautiful sculptures, fountains, and gardens of flowers. Please join me as I search for different species of butterflies and look for me posing among the sculptures. 

IMG_1905 IMG_1927


BrookGreen Garden has a large collection of sculptures placed though out the gardens. Can you find me in the picture?



This small Long-tailed Skipper was drawn out of the sky when it spotted these yellow zinnias.


While searching for the next garden we came to this “Secret Courtyard” entrance. Beyond these archways is a fountain flowing with water.


After walking through the mysterious archways we entered a sanctuary for butterflies. These gardens are a butterfly paradise of nectar rich plants used for nourishment. This Palamedes Swallowtail is enjoying the clustered flowers of Pentas. Pentas are a wonderful plant to include in your butterfly garden. They attract a variety of Swallowtails, Brush-footed butterflies, Monarchs, and even Skipper butterflies.


This Giant Swallowtail is basking on light pink Pentas. Basking is a term used for butterflies who open their wings to absorb the sun’s heat. The Penta flowers surrounding the Giant Swallowtail butterfly are like colorful candy to a butterfly because they are rich in nectar.


What plant do you think I found this Gulf Fritillary on? Pentas!


This skipper chose to rest while the other butterflies fluttered about.


When I turned around and spotted this Giant spider, about 9 cm, I almost passed out! In Florida we don’t have such huge specimens. This spider is hoping that a butterfly will make a mistake and land in its web. What a tasty meal for a hungry spider!


I found an orange Gulf Fritillary enjoying these flowers.

The Thinking Monkey IMG_1928

The Thinking Monkey and pig sculpture made me laugh.


I loved walking through Live Oak Alee’. These Live Oak trees are 250 years old. They are covered in moss and are enjoyed by people and squirrels.

The BrookGreen Gardens also houses the Lowcountry Zoo. These animals are native animals and are being cared for because of injury that keeps them from being able to survive in the wild. In my next posting I will show pictures of the creatures I saw during my visit. I will also show you the rice plantations and what the Cypress Swamps looked like before they were cleared away.