I can’t resist spying on sleeping bumblebees.

bumblebee hanging under a monarda blossom, with its head tucked into the leaf

Their sleeping positions are sometimes peculiar.

bumblebee holding onto the right side of a gray-headed coneflower

bumblebee perched between two petals of a purple coneflower

A few rest on the top of flowers — like this bee that looks like it’s sleeping on a pink cloud.

bumblebee at the top of a large joe-pye weed blossom

But most of them hang upside-down from blossoms or under leaves.

bumblebee underneath the spike of a purple giant hyssop

Joe-pye weed was a particular favorite this year.

bumblebee under a light-pink flower with its head to the flower cluster

bumblebee in the same spot on a similar flower, but with its head to the outside

two bumblebees on a joe-pye weed cluster, one underneath on the left and one upright on the right

This has to be the funniest flower choice I’ve seen. The bees are bigger than the flowers!

two big bumblebees hanging onto small fleabane flowers that are pointing straight down under their weight

I try not to spend too much time looking at them, though, because they seem to get stressed out if I’m too close.

bumblebee hanging under the right side of a cluster of dozens of pearly everlasting flowers

It’s better to take a quick picture and then admire digitally.

bumblebee hanging upside-down in the six o'clock position of a cup plant blossom

bumblebee sleeping vertically on the right side of a blazingstar

big bumblebee underneath a goldenrod

More of my posts about bumblebees

With the late and wet start to the summer this year, there were lots of people wondering what happened to the bumblebees.

three blazingstar spikes, with a bumblebee at the bottom of the middle flower

I was one of them, but I knew that they don’t usually show up until the bee balm starts blooming, so I wasn’t too worried. Only a few showed up then, though.

bumblebee on the left side of a bee balm blossom

It wasn’t until the joe-pye weed, purple giant hyssop, and cup plant reached full bloom that the bumblebees arrived en masse.

closeup of a bumblebee face-down in joe-pye weed

two bumblebees on opposite sides of a purple giant hyssop spike

bumblebee in the center disk of a cup plant flower

And now, whenever it’s sunny, the front yard is in constant motion.

Bumblebees on cup plant, with a monarch flyby at the end:

Bumblebees on purple giant hyssop:

Not just bumblebees, but other bees too.

two bumblebees and another bee on a joe-pye weed cluster

five small, black bees on whorled milkweed

The only thing I haven’t seen much of this year is honeybees.

bee with yellow legs standing on top of a blue vervain spike

medium-sized bee upside-down on a culver's root spike

bumblebee covered in pollen on the right side of a gray-headed coneflower

Where are the bees? In my yard. Plant native flowers, and you’ll see bees, too.

looking up at a cluster of cup plant blossoms, with a bee on one flower and another flying past

bumblebee with pollen on its back, working on joe-pye weed

Milkweed is such an important plant. Its leaves are the only thing monarch caterpillars will eat, and its flowers attract all kinds of pollinators. So it’s exciting to see several kinds of milkweeds taking off in my yard this year.

The whorled milkweed is the big winner. For several years I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t grow, even though I bought six-packs of plugs in two different years. And then we put up a rabbit fence, which has made all the difference. There are so many individual plants now that I lose track when counting.

I could tell, right when it first started coming up, that there would be more this year — notice the old stems next to the new shoots.

Closeup of several small green plants next to three tall brown stems.

Now it seems like there are more and more whorled stems every day.

Dozens of plants with narrow leaves, in varying heights.

Poke milkweed is such a fun variety. This year it nearly quadrupled.

Three brown stems, each with multiple one-inch plants nearby.
Bright-green hairless plant with large leaves and many green bud clusters.

Swamp milkweed doubled…

Two old stems in the background, four short new shoots in front.

…and it’s looking really good.

Three tall green plants with wet leaves. The fourth plant is not visible.

The common milkweed always shows up by the dozens, so I can’t honestly say that there are more than ever. But there are a lot, and that is good enough.

The edge of a garden, with a half dozen one-foot milkweeds in front of other types of native plants.

The prairie milkweed has never done much, but the two plants are back, so I’m happy.

One milkweed plant with leaves standing nearly straight up.

So far, I’ve seen less butterfly weed than before. But it is always a late bloomer compared to the others, so maybe there’s still time for more to pop up.

Four short, light-green, hairy plants.

Added together, there are hundreds of milkweeds in the front and back garden, which makes for great habitat for monarchs.

Now it’s caterpillar season. My garden has been fortunate to host possibly two dozen (or more) from this first generation of 2019. Even the whorled milkweed, with its skinny leaves, has four residents.

Spring is right around the corner, so I’d better quickly document what happened in the garden last year.

The jack-in-the-pulpit is becoming established! Many are growing now:

3 jack-in-the-pulpits blooming.

Whorled milkweed wasn’t new to my garden this year, but it really took off after we put up chicken-wire fence to keep out the snacking rabbits. A few of the dozens of plants even bloomed!

Blurry image of small white flowers.

The teeny-tiny whorled milkweed flowers turned into teeny-tiny seedpods:

A hand holding 3 long, thin pods that are starting to open.

Similarly, poke milkweed isn’t new, but this was the first year it flowered. Such interesting, claw-like blooms! This flower didn’t produce any seeds.

Closeup of a cluster of white flowers that hang down.

Common milkweed covered in ants (this was the only time I saw this behavior, and it was only on this one flower cluster):

Cluster of pink flowers with dozens of tiny ants.

A candy-stripe spider with its prey, a Japanese beetle, in a shelter created from a milkweed leaf:

View through the end of a curved leaf, with an upside-down spider in front of an upside-down beetle.

Our two-toned butterfly weed changed this year, due to street maintenance that dug a big hole in the front yard. When the soil was returned, the plant came back, but rotated! Previously, the dark orange half was on the left, and the light orange half was on the right.

One plant with orange flowers, light on the top and dark on the bottom.

I didn’t know that native false indigo is a shrub until I added one to my yard in 2017. The plant is several feet across and has woody stems. One flower spike appeared in 2018:

Zoomed in on a dark-purple spike of flowers.

This tiger lily was a surprise. I didn’t even know the plant was there until it looked like this. I must have planted bulbs, but that would have been years ago.

One bright-orange flower in the middle of tall green plants.

New critters

Long-horned bees sleeping under a black-eyed susan:

4 black bees with thin white stripes, hanging upside-down on the underside of orange petals.

This little hitchhiker ended up on my capris after I strolled through the garden one evening. I decided to upload it to iNaturalist to see if anyone could help identify it — and I didn’t even have to wait for a live person because iNaturalist automagically suggested a name, genista broom moth. Sure enough, a host plant is baptisia, which I would have passed on my walk through the flowers.

A long, thin greenish-yellow caterpillar. It has hairs sticking out of black-and-white spots along both sides of the length of its body.

That was the only one I saw for awhile, but soon there were dozens, spinning webs and eating the leaves and, well, pooping a lot, as caterpillars do.

Caterpillar on a chewed leaf that is tied to two other leaves with dozens of thin silk strands.

Later I found these two cocoons — one on the plant (I accidentally snapped off this leaf but then carefully tucked it back in) and one in a towel that was drying after wiping condensation from car windows. Not sure if either is from these caterpillars.

It took awhile to find what was eating the joe-pye weed leaves, since the culprit blends in so well. It’s a plume moth caterpillar, and the joe-pye weed bloomed just fine despite the holey leaves.

Small, light-green caterpillar resting on a leaf, with a larger leaf nearby with many large holes.

“Yellow woolly bear” caterpillar, larva of the Virginia tiger moth:

A short caterpillar with segments that look like bubbles, and lots of hairs that look sharp.

We’ve had goldenrods for a few years, but this was the first time I noticed a gall where an insect, cleverly named a goldenrod gall fly, created shelter. There were about a dozen of these in our garden:

Closeup of a large, green globe shape growing out of a stem, with small leaves growing out the top.

A well-camouflaged leafhopper:

A semicircle shape on the stem of a hyssop plant. Its body appears to have veins like a leaf.

A beautiful wasp:

A black insect with a long, thin body hanging below a goldenrod.

A red-belted bumble bee (Bombus rufocinctus):

A been on a joe-pye weed bloom, facing away from the camera, with bright-orange bottom segments.

A tiny snail:

A black body poking out of a small, round brown shell.

A spider camped out on the poke milkweed:

A large brown spider with white bands on its legs, appearing to hover in front of a milkweed plant.

A hummingbird moth:

A large insect at the edge of a monarda blossom.

But wait — did you notice something else in that photo? The hummingbird moth had been caught by an ambush bug:

Same image as the previous one, but with most blurred to focus on a round, flat, green insect with a brown stripe, at the top of the hummingbird moth.

And this surprise, sitting at my eye level on a joe-pye weed leaf, not acknowledging my existence but letting me take its photo:

Side view of a green-and-gray frog.

Previous garden recaps

On July 13 in the mass of black-eyed susans, I spotted more than a dozen different kinds of insects. The coolest was this one, which I believe is a camouflaged looper inchworm. Its destiny was to turn into a wavy-lined emerald moth.

Black-eyed susan with a small caterpillar at the top of the center disk, with lots of dark brown spikes sticking off its body.

This caterpillar chews off parts of plants and then attaches them to itself as a disguise.

Flower from above, with a caterpillar looped on the left side and several brown clumps attached to its body.

It was concealed so well against the flower’s dark-brown center disk, I’m not sure how I even spotted it at first!

Angled view of a flower, with a small brown clump on the opposite side of the center disk.

Though after I saw it once, I could easily find it again later the same day, and even the next day. (The accumulating quantity of frass also helped locate it.)

Caterpillar with its front end raised above the center disk.

Making its way around the ring of tiny flowers in the center disk of the black-eyed susan:

Side view of the flower, with a caterpillar on the right side, the back half of the center disk's flowers missing.

Almost finished the next day:

Side view again, caterpillar on the left side, no center disk flowers visible, but the caterpillar still appears to be eating.

I saw it crawling around a bit but unfortunately didn’t get to see any of the actual “gluing.”

Watch video on YouTube

Two more videos:

I kept checking back for this inchworm every day for a week and saw it many more times.

Top view of the flower, with the inchworm 'inched' at the top.

Top view showing two thick layers of camouflage:

Only the very top of the caterpillar showing, with two distinct ridges of material on its body.

Sometimes it was resting on a petal, and in these cases it looked nothing like a caterpillar.

Black-eyed susan with a small brown clump on one of the petals on the right, lots of frass around the center disk.

Once I thought it was gone, but then found it again on a nearby flower. This time it looked different after it apparently re-covered itself with new material.

Flower in shade apparently underneath another flower, with the caterpillar 'inched' and some lighter brown or yellow material on its body in addition to the dark brown.

And this time I saw it eating the petals, too.

Caterpillar on a petal that's curving down, reaching out to the edge.

But after that, I didn’t see it anymore. Hopefully it made its way safely to its next stage as a cocoon.

More about camouflaged looper inchworms: