Humid Lazy Crazy Days of Summer Surround Us

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

As predicted by the old timers, spring became summer seemingly overnight with some sultry heat bursts and spotty rain. Yet enumerable unexpected natural events occur daily. For instance, on June 22nd, while parking suave Swanee, the bird-spotter Ford, under a maple tree near the Henderson Ball Park off West 300th Street. An inch-long green larva dropped from the tree onto the windshield of the silver auto.

The green caterpillar reminded us of the Hans Christian Anderson song, “Inchworm, inchworm, measuring the marigolds, you and your arithmetic will probably go far.” So, what? Inchworms are common in June. We noted a wee pile of white wings near the home’s garage, as though butterflies or moths had met their fate by some unknown night visitor. On the garage of the home hangs a night light, and the owner explained that many insects are attracted to the light. Sure enough, gathered under the eaves of said building were eight live tiny white mouths, 11/16 – 1 1/8 inches in size. We had NO idea what the insects were other than, with horizonal white wings, they were moths. Next we stopped under the Henderson/#19 bridge. Gadzooks! MORE small white moths, very obvious and flighty, in the bushes next to the Minnesota River, oblivious to the hundred or so swallows buzzing about MN Highway Dept bridge deck inspecting crew. (Another story here?)

Off sped Swanee to our country garden, but stopped first at a neighbors’ spread and…yes, white moths; also in our nearby garden. Upon returning home to LeSueur, white moths were active near a maple tree. To top the pudding off with whipped cream, a moth emerged from my co-conspirator’s purse!

After Googling about, we learned more about the white invaders from the MNDNR insect identification site.. Our area, and Eastern Minnesota, was experiencing the hatch of the Lesser Maple Spanworm. (It took 86 years to know more about the inchworm.) This kind of moth usually hatches mid-June, having been in solitary confinement since autumn of 2022. Around the upper outer wings, are 3 or 4 golden spots. However, our camera does not give the beauty of the beasts’ true value. Most observers (including ourselves) would identify the moth as a cabbage butterfly, but bend over, take a peek at the white in the bushes, and you will make a new discovery.

Speaking of swallows, hundreds of cliff swallows (bridge swallows) built nests under the Henderson/#19 bridge in May. June 22nd the highway maintenance folk scanned the underside of the bridge where the countless nests are located. What they discovered is unknown, but we’re certain it had to do with public safety. Imagine coming wing-to-wing with all those swallows attempting to frighten the human interlopers away. (Per usual, human tracks in the mud under the bridge explained the many broken mud nests of the harmless beneficial birds.) Why, folks, why???

Good news on the Monarch Butterfly front, at least in the immediate area. Multiple people are leaving milkweed for which the larvae may feed, and the first hatch of monarchs has emerged. Allison Bender (Shayne) was among the first to submit a photo. Not to be out-done, my co-conspirator found six larvae on milkweed at 203 Swan Street in LeSueur, well on their way to adulthood. Just happened we were visiting two nursing home residences, and the majority of the folks our age had never seen this wondrous phenomena before. A female monarch had just emerged from its chrysalis, further aweing the residents.

The trail cameras came to the rescue once again, providing insight into a mystery that has plagued us. A bird feeder hangs in our woods with two small bowls inserted. Each day, one of the bowls is filled with jelly, the other, a half orange. Each day, the bowls are empty. Our guess was that 1) northern orioles were feasting on both offerings; 2) a pesky red squirrel was robbing the sweet goodies, having developed a taste for oranges and grape jelly. This week the criminal was revealed…a doe white-tailed deer! Lesson learned; don’t jump to conclusions, or, look before you leap!