Wildlife Wednesday: Mimics & Wasps

Yesterday, I found two monarch eggs on the swamp milkweed in my yard. You can see those in the second photo below. We also had a monarch eclosure, meaning the monarch butterfly came out of its chrysalis.  This monarch was a female and I released her last evening, after dinner, near my Purple Prince Zinnia’s.  We’ve been having some Viceroy’s visit the yard as well, but they are selectively sipping nectar from my Little Lamb Hydrangea just beyond our kitchen window. It’s an easy spot for viewing as I sew or write my blog. I’ve been unable to capture a photo of the Viceroys yet. They mimic the coloration of the monarchs as an adaptive survival mechanism, yet are not poisonous. Therefore, predators stay away from them, as they look like the poisonous monarch. It’s the great tom-foolery of nature!  The viceroys are also somewhat smaller than the monarch species and that helps humans with identification. In garden club, I used to do a lesson on mimicry and used a Venn diagram to compare the two. You can find more about mimicry on the Journey North website.

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It’s important to be able to distinguish between a monarch and a viceroy butterfly for reporting purposes.   As citizen scientists, it is important to be as accurate as possible when you report to the databases that track monarchs.  Journey North has such a database.

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

I’ve already received my monarch tags from Monarch Watch for this season. But, since peak migration for my area is not until early September, I did not tag the monarch I released yesterday.  You can find the peak migration for your area by knowing your latitude (or using a site such as http://www.lat-long.com.  This will be my sixth season of tagging.

Male Monarch from earlier this season. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2020.

On another note, earlier in the week, I noticed some rather large wasp-like insects on my mountain mint plant in our front garden.  They scared me as they were flying around frantically and pausing only briefly on this plant that is known for attracting pollinators. As I did not know what it was, I jumped back and submitted the photo to a Wisconsin naturalist FaceBook page for possible identification. The suggested species was the Great Black Digger Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus).


As mortifying as this insect appears, and it is large at one to one and a half inches, it pollinates many plants including those in the milkweed, bean, and carrot families. It also controls other insects such as grasshoppers and katydids per the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Apparently, although it does sting, it will not attach humans unless provoked. I think I’ll just leave the Great Black Digger Wasps alone to feed on the mountain mint. Although I am fascinated and now reassured by the information I found, their size and a high degree of activity are still somewhat scary!

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What wildlife have you noticed lately??




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