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Spare the aphid, save the monarch

What happens when one rids butterfly weed of aphids? Carol Clark, a Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist, explained to me the problem. If you use a hose with a stream of water to wash away aphids “naturally”, you will wash away any Monarch eggs already on the plant. If you use a soap based spray, the soap will kill any Monarch caterpillars. It’s risky.

Carol advised, “The aphids will get eaten and controlled by other critters shortly if you leave them there. Syrphid flies, Lacewings and Ladybugs will come on their own.”

Carol worked the Monarch Watch booth at the recent Pollinator PowWow in Nacogdoches.

It’s time to set out the squirrel and bird feeders around town. (photos by Pauline Tom)

There, RonTom and I learned about Syrphid flies. Also known as “hover flies” and “drone flies” (they can fly backwards), this insect is an important pollinator and predator of pests such as aphids, scales, thrips, and caterpillars.

Distinguish a Syrphid fly from a bee or wasp by noting is has only two wings, and it has a fly-looking face.

Aphids are quite thick on my butterfly milkweed. Soon we’ll know whether or not Syrphid flies, Lacewings, and Ladybugs find them.

On Friday, a Monarch floated above those new-to-our-landscape milkweed plants out front. So far, with a green spring, the deer have not munched on them.

The warm spring brought Monarchs from their wintering grounds in Mexico early. This is not good . Those that travelled with eggs to Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa arrived before the milkweed emerged in an adequate quantity for egg laying. Instances of “egg dumping” occurred on small plants. A large portion of the new generation was lost when caterpillars hatched and had no food.

Keep up with what’s happening with the Monarchs on Monarch Watch’s Facebook page. It’s more current than the website.

Birds and squirrels are flocking to our feeders and the water and plants we provide. Often I enter bird species observations on the eBird app while I sit at the kitchen table, with the bird magnet wildscape out the window holding me firmly in place. One day last week, I counted 18 species in one sitting.

This is the season’s peak for seeing young birds from this season out on their own, sometimes accompanied by parents. You’ve seen such juveniles gaping and fluttering wings, begging parents for food? The week a young Eastern Bluebird out my window was begging an immature Northern Cardinal for food.

Who’s the ugliest juvenile? My vote goes to the Northern Cardinals, both male and female.

The Garraways saw a beautiful Painted Bunting this week, the hands down winner for “most beautiful”.

Do you have junk laying around your yard that’s not fit to give away? This weekend is Mountain City’s Annual “Dumpster Days”. Volunteers get first dibs on the cool stuff that’s brought in. June 10th, 8am – June 11th 5pm. It closes early if all the reserved dumpsters are filled.

If Montage fills with tidbits, leftovers are saved for later. Send tidbits to or 512 268 5678. Thanks! Love, Pauline

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