What to look for in...
FALL (SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER)
While the season is winding down, there’s still plenty to enjoy in the habitat. The landscape is transitioning to fall with swaths of goldenrod, sunflowers, and vibrant asters lighting up the habitat.
What to look for...
A Buzzing Bee Hotel
The bee hotel in the Native Bee Conservation Garden should be a flurry of activity as native bees make the most of the final days of summer. Leafcutter bees (Megachilidae) should be busily filling the bamboo and other nesting material, capping off each tube with a carefully cut piece of leaf. The eggs laid at this time will soon hatch, and the bees-to-be will spend the winter slowly growing inside the chamber.
With so many asters to choose from, no garden is complete without at least one variety. True asters (Symphyotrichum spp.) are important late-season pollen and nectar sources, providing sustenance for bees and butterflies preparing to migrate or hibernate. Asters are also host plants for pearl crescent butterflies. Some of our favorites are New England aster for their deep purple blooms and aromatic aster which produces prolific mounds of blooms late into fall.
Monarch butterflies fly north for the winter, producing several generations along the way as they travel. The fourth generation is physically different than its parents, slightly larger, sturdier, and eager to travel several thousand miles south. These monarchs will fly up to 300 miles per day, stopping along the way looking for nectar-rich flowers to fuel their flight. Look for them in the habitat starting around the second week of September. They are most attracted to open composite flowers at this time such as Mexican sunflower (Tithonia spp.) and annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus).
Birds On the Move
As winter approaches the habitat’s bird population changes yet again. Their urgent job of reproduction completed, the warblers, tanagers, orioles, and thrashers leisurely head south through the habitat, stopping to fuel up on nectar and seeds. Year-round residents prepare for winter in various ways. The American Goldfinch molts from its bright summer yellow to a much more subdued tone. Chickadees, Blue Jays, and others store up seeds for the winter. As summer residents depart, winter residents move in. Soon we may see Juncoes, American Tree Sparrows, and White-throated sparrows as they return from their northern breeding grounds. They will benefit from the seeds on the gardens’ dead stalks, not to mention tasty overwintering grubs and larvae.
Host Plant Highlight
Violets (Viola spp.)
Often regarded as "weeds" these blooming beauties are essential to a large group of butterflies. Though they bloom in the spring, fritillary butterflies are on the hunt for violets in the fall. Fritillaries have the unique ability to use their antenna to "smell" where violets will be emerging the following year. Adult fritillaries will lay their eggs on the ground where violets are to emerge the following spring.