Unidentified flying objects inhabit prairie

By Carol / July 5, 2016 /

The prairie is a strange and wonderful place. Each time I visit, I discover wildlife from both the plant and insect kingdoms I’ve never seen before.

I’m not nearly as good at identifying the insects that inhabit the prairie as I am the plants, but as I explored the prairie this weekend, my eyes were drawn to the insects as much as to the plants because the air was a virtual O’Hare Airport of flying creatures.

It’s gratifying to see so many varieties of milkweed in the prairie and to see butterflies enjoy the blossoms. My prairie is only a patch, but I’m happy to do my part to encourage these insect beauties.

Here are a few insects I captured with my iPhone. Obviously, I need a camera with greater magnification (and either a steadier hand or insects that will sit still) to get better images.

Orange butterfly on Whorled Milkweed

Orange butterfly on whorled milkweed.


The first time I’ve spotted this little black & white beauty. Less than an inch long.


Monarch on butterfly milkweed. Finally one I can identify.


A lovely black and yellow dragonfly. Look closely to see how big the wings really are.


We never lack for bees or black-eyed Susans in the prairie.


Two Japanese beetles do what they enjoy most on a purple coneflower.

Japanese beetles


The second thing Japanese beetles do – make lace out of plant leaves.

Japanese beetles


Two insects in this picture. Very tiny. Very fast. This is the closest I could get.

I'm sharing this Rattlesnake Master because I love the make, how weird the plant looks, and it's the first time I've seen it this year. No insects visible. here.

I share this Rattlesnake Master because I love the name and how alien the plant looks, plus it’s the first time I’ve seen it this year. No insects visible.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this little visit to my prairie. If you can identify any of these unidentified flying objects, please leave the details in a comment. If you can’t identify them, leave a note anyway.

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  1. Marian Beaman on July 5, 2016 at 8:49 am

    My grandma had me pick Japanese beetles off plants (corn?) and put them into a kerosene jar. I wouldn’t do that now. I never heard of the Rattlesnake Master before. Thank you for the buzz of a different sort, especially the beetles cuddling.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on July 5, 2016 at 9:18 am

      I wonder if you were picking Japanese beetles, Marian? I understood this type of beetle as a recent immigrant to the U.S. I know that they didn’t show up in our gardens until about three years ago. Hmmm. More research to do.

      Isn’t the Rattlesnake Master fun? So different in look and name.

      • Marian Beaman on July 6, 2016 at 9:45 am

        They were beetles with glossy coats, I’m sure. Not sure about the “Japanese” part. No time for research now: We are in the moving process.

        Great post!

        • Carol Bodensteiner on July 6, 2016 at 5:04 pm

          Other than potato bugs, which my dad paid us to pick off the plants, I wasn’t paying particular attention to identifying bugs when I was a kid, either. Good luck with your move.

  2. Nan Johnson on July 5, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Our prairie is all a-buzz as well. I’m not good at bug identification by sight, but I do like listening to the change in seasons through the sounds of tree frogs, crickets, grasshoppers and cicadas. Each seems to take center stage for their solos at different times!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on July 5, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      The prairie appeals to all the senses, doesn’t it? I focus most on the flowers, but you make me want to spend time listening more. Thanks for prompting me to think of the prairie songs, Nan.

  3. Paulette Mahurin on July 6, 2016 at 8:46 am

    Beautiful photos. There’s a butterfly sanctuary near where we live, a forest-like place where hundreds of butteries fly about. It’s magical. Your post reminded me of that. 🙂

    • Carol Bodensteiner on July 6, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      How lucky you are to have a butterfly sanctuary close to you, Paulette. We have such a space at Reiman Gardens in Ames. I don’t get there often enough. It is magical.

  4. Shirley Hershey Showalter on July 6, 2016 at 10:44 am

    I love the image of insects creating a virtual O’Hare in your prairie.

    And I’d say your iPhone does a great job with those lovely pictures.

    Had to think of Emily Dickinson, of course.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on July 6, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      Thanks for sharing Emily Dickinson’s poem, Shirley. As always, she gets it just right. The prairie encourages reverie and if we take time for reverie, that is enough.

  5. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on July 10, 2016 at 12:52 am

    What beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing them. We had a week at the cottage and my granddaughter and I looked for new discoveries in nature every day. Once we became aware, it was much easier to spot interesting things!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on July 10, 2016 at 10:12 am

      Nature encourages us to slow down and look closely. The prairie teaches me this every year. I’m glad you and your granddaughter took the time – a gift to both of you.

  6. Merril Smith on July 10, 2016 at 10:24 am

    I love the variety of flowers and creatures in your prairie. I know this is just a small sample.
    Rattlesnake Master is a wonderful name!

    Thank you, Shirley for sharing Emily Dickinson’s delightful poem, although sadly apt (or prescient) for many places where there are no longer bees.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on July 10, 2016 at 10:33 am

      There is tremendous diversity in the prairie. I started with a seed mix that included dozens of types of plants, and have kept track as I see each one. The task is ongoing since it has taken years for some to emerge; some show up one year and not the next, and some are there and I don’t recognize them. The Rattlesnake Master, for instance, did not emerge until the prairie had been growing for three years. After showing up annually for three years it took a break, and now is back. Fascinating and a mystery to me, why this happens.

      The prairie is my little effort to encourage bees and butterflies and other insects. So far it’s working.

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