Painted Ladies Crash Graham Retirement Party
by Jeff Steinborn on 09/13/17 04:22 PM

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Our story began innocently enough Thursday, September 7th. Doris Winter, one of LeSueur’s top phenomenonologists, phoned to say, “Help! I’m surrounded by beautiful butterflies!” Rushing to the scene, it was discovered that yes, her Autumn sedum plants were being ‘nectered’ by beautiful black and orange butterflies, whose wings were interspersed with white spots and four blue eyespots. The delicate Painted Lady butterflies also found purple asters growing nearby to be of their liking.

Soon after Doris’es adventure, the phone became hot. Inquiries from Eden Prairie and even Annandale, “What is this all about?” The beauties were also busy Saturday when we visited Roger/Loraine Just west of Henderson; the Nesgoda farm to the east on Pumpkin Hill Road; other homes in Henderson, finally stopping by for Denny (Sharon) Graham’s retirement party as a rural postal deliveryman. Lo and Behold! The painted ladys were present outside Henderson Roadhaus on the many well cared for flowers. Evidently they heard of Denny’s well deserved celebration? From thence wherever we traveled, the butterflies flitted and zoomed (30 miles per hour) across highways and byways. We could understand why whizzing vehicles are the worst enemies of butterflies and bees, outside of chemicals and pollution.

Once upon a time while cutting Canada thistles, we came upon enumerable caterpillars of these butterflies. Seems that thistles are the favorite food of painted lady larvae, along with almost a hundred other host plants. After that, we decided to rent them out, like the hired goats currently used to liquidate buckthorn We also discovered that this species migrates south through Minnesota in autumn by the thousands, thusly, along with monarchs, head to Mexico. They are considered the most widely distributed butterfly in the world. This explains why, on Saturday afternoon before Hurricane Irma struck Florida, we received a communication from a friend in Jacksonville. Ann had battened down the hatches, but before doing so, noticed painted lady butterflies nectaring near her home! Wowser!

The Justs had recently dug potatoes before we arrived at their Garden of Eden. We wondered whether they considered using dynamite to unearth the monster spuds, as they were huger than huge. (See photo.) As one traveled country roads to the Justs, one could observe many white flowers dispersed alongside wooded lots and pastures in both LeSueur and Sibley counties. They were not fall asters, nor Queen Anne’s Lace, rather, White Snakeroot. Readers know the story. When Abe Lincoln was about nine, newly arrived in Illinois, his mother died of ‘milk poisoning.’ Due to the weakened condition of those early settlers, milk was a major source of nourishment, along with cheese and other milk products. Death was often attributed to other causes, but in the end, the source of the sickness was milk from cattle, goats and sheep. The browsers had ingested snakeroot, which contains the chemical tremetal, a poisonous alcohol, which when ingested accidentally, may lead to tremors and then death. In autumn, this rascally plant is obvious to the experienced farmer or herdsman, who destroy beastly weed before bovines and ovines consume it.

Another real highlight of the September 9th’s weekend was the discovery by Paul Fixen (Molly/Joe) of a wood frog. In the past, we’ve encountered the gorgeous jumping gems in spring, but their autumn color is stunning! Black masks give their identity away. Seeking a log under which to hibernate, they will remain partially frozen in the leaf litter, ready to emerge and sing their ‘mallard duck songs’ as soon as frost is out of the ground. Takes a keen eye, Paul, to spot these shy leapers!

Few have taken us up on our offer to join us in observing the descent of migrating chimney swifts into area school and church chimneys. Just a half hour of observation time will leave ‘newby’ birdwatchers gasping. Numbers this week included; 590; 694; 517; 508, and 515. We’ve left some of the best news until last. Sylvia, Sylvan and their three cygnets survived one more week on the Coachlight Pond. (Applause!) It appears they try their wings for short periods, and then return to home base. (The bases are becoming crowded as the cygnets balloon.) Hurrah for small miracles!