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Articles by Cathryn Williams Freeburger

The very thirsty Silvery Checkerspot

     After being tethered and tightly wrapped since last autumn, checkerspots in the garden are like tiki bar openers, brightly dressed and very thirsty.
    I see the silvery checkerspot,  Charidryas nycteis, feeding in groups at everything: bee balm, summer phlox, Shasta daisies — blooming or not, even experimenting with the artificial woodgrain of vinyl siding on our house.
    Larvae feed on turtlehead, both Chelone glabra (white) and lyonii (pink). Turtlehead requires constant moisture, so populations of checkerspots tend to wet meadows.
    Checkers feed summer and fall, then lay eggs in clusters. The eggs hatch and partially develop as pupae, then hang suspended, literally and figuratively, in brown-speckled white cases over the winter. This period of suspended growth is called diapause, a useful tactic to survive inhospitable seasons whether cold or long and dry. Warm weather triggers full development and liberation.
    Silvery’s larger cousin is the ­Baltimore Checkerspot, Maryland’s official state butterfly, a rarer sight.

Great Spangled Fritillary

     Fritillary butterflies may be the original social butterfly. Dozens appear in June when butterfly weed dazzles into bloom, affably sharing landing space and lunch with tiger swallowtails and clusters of bumblebees.
    Focused on the abundance of summer, the Great Spangled Fritillary — Speyeria cybele — is not unnerved by an amateur photographer. Its stained-glass wings glow bittersweet orange with ornate black tracings. Silvery-white oval spots on the underside inspire its name. The Great Spangled can be nearly four inches across and is seen in most of the United States and southern Canada. It manages two generations per season in the southern part of its range, the second overwintering as larvae. Caterpillars feed at night on violets and milkweed. Tufted wiry spines, set in rows of three, promise any hungry bird a serious case of indigestion.
    Fondness for pink coneflowers and any sort of mint will extend this beauty’s presence in your garden. Leave wild violets to spread and start a patch of milkweed to be your hatchlings’ bed and breakfast next spring.
    Pictured is Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed. Very popular with monarch butterflies is Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed, with pale pink flowers; it blooms a bit later.

Humane Society of Calvert pays, but you don’t have to live in Calvert

The Humane Society of Calvert County will pay for your cat to be spayed or neutered. Fix A Cat Today, FACT, is available in Anne Arundel County south of Annapolis; Bowie and points south in Prince Georges County; and Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties.
    FACT is supported by a limited anonymous grant and will continue until funds are exhausted. Any cat, feral or domestic, is eligible. So are multiple family cats.
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The dads take fatherhood seriously, too

Phoebes are inconspicuous in plumage, but you will hear them from wooded areas loud and clear: FEEE-bee-bee-bee! Eastern phoebes, part of the flycatcher family, swoop down from understory branches to catch moths, mosquitoes and other Undesirable Flitting Objects. The generic name for flycatchers, Empidomax, is from the Greek for king of the gnats.
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Helping cats and kittens on their way to adoption

Perfection: our younger son, a philosophy major, insists there is no such thing. I disagree, because nature provided kittens.
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Calvert high schoolers learn to lobby to save animals

I can’t resist a kitten. For six years I’ve mothered orphan kittens for Patuxent Animal Welfare Society.
    But it was the numbers I couldn’t help that made me an activist. Every year in Maryland, 45,000 dogs and cats are destroyed. Maryland ranks 39th on the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s state report card on animal-protection issues.
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