Monarch Chrysalis and Hummingbird Hawk Moth

This was in Connecticut at my son’s home. Unfortunately, it disappeared before he could put it in a jar.

Photo was taken in mid-September 2017. It was on the deck railing.

The next [two] pictures were taken this summer while I was cleaning out the mugho pines.

Submitted by Fay Danielsen


Book Review – ‘What A Plant Knows’ by Daniel Chamovitz

Humans use their senses to get information about the world around them. We use this information, in part, to decide what actions to take. Our five main senses are sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Do plants have similar senses?

In What A Plant Knows, Israeli botanist Daniel Chamovitz compares human senses with equivalent senses in plants. In each chapter, he describes a human sense, then explains whether plants have a similar ability to perceive the world around them. Plants do have senses similar to humans with one exception (hearing), because plants also need to gather information from the world and then act on this information.

For example, plants can “see,” i.e. perceive light, as we can tell when plants grow towards a light source. It is vital that plants perceive light because, for plants, light equals food. For each sense, the author explains how the sense is exhibited in a plant and also the historical development of our understanding of the ability, including clear, brief descriptions of elegant experiments. For example, for the perception of light with concurrent growth towards the light source (phototropism), Darwin hypothesized that light was perceived at the tip of a seedling so he performed the following test: one shoot was allowed to grow normally, bending toward the light; the next had the tip cut off and did not bend; the third had a dark cap on the tip and did not bend; the fourth had a glass cap on the tip and did bend; and the fifth had a band around the stem and not the tip and did bend toward the light.

In addition to the five human senses, there are chapters on how plants know where they are in space (perception of gravity) and what and how a plant remembers.

This fascinating book is so readable it’s like reading a novel or a mystery—you get caught up in wanting to know the answers and find it hard to put down. When you’ve finished this little book, you’ll have a better understanding of how plants live, function and perceive their environment, and you will also probably treat plants with more respect and appreciation for their abilities. You will find that you have more in common with plants than you might previously have thought and you will appreciate the interconnectedness of all living things. Having a better understanding of plants and how they live may also result in better care of the plants in our gardens and landscapes, as we understand their needs better.

Submitted by Ann Guthals


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Thinking about planning your garden for the summer? Consider planting a little extra to sell at the Healthy By Design Gardeners’ Market.

The Healthy By Design Gardeners’ Market is a community market held Thursdays, the 2nd week in June through the first week of October, 4:30-6:30 pm at South Park (Intersection of S. 28th Street and 6th Avenue S.).

The goal of the Gardeners’ Market is to provide an outlet for consumers to purchase fresh, healthy, local and affordable produce and eggs, as well as provide a place for local gardeners and farmers to directly sell their produce. The market is also a social meeting place to celebrate health and nutrition in the community.

The environment is relaxed and social with lots of educational activities for children as well as adults. There isn’t a vendor fee, we just ask that vendors reflect the savings in the price charged for produce, and there is no commitment that you need to be at every market.

If you have questions or would like to consider this opportunity contact Maia Dickerson, or 406-651-6403 and she will put you on the contact list for vendor updates and May training!

By Maia Dickerson

Praying Mantis

The first frost had finally arrived and we were dragging a large potted tree to move it to ‘bed’ when we caught the movement of something falling. I bent down and saw the limp form of a large praying mantis. With mixed emotions (I was sad to find her dead, but thrilled at the opportunity to hold her) I gently picked her up. As I examined her, I saw a leg move. “Agh!” I screamed, “She’s alive!” I quickly started exhaling on her body to warm her and rushed her inside.

She has been quietly living on a potted tree in my dining room ever since. She rarely leaves her territory (although she disappeared for two days and reappeared on a table on Christmas morning). She has laid four egg cases. She eats a cricket a day and eagerly drinks water out of a spoon or a dropper. When I offer her water, she grabs the vessel and holds on to it until she’s finished. She hugs the dropper like a baby bottle. She is so tame, she actually seems to enjoy sitting on my hand, as is evidenced by her reluctance to part from it. I liken her to an alligator because, like alligators, she moves slowly, almost in slow motion, until her prey is close, then she strikes with lightning speed and deadly accuracy. After she finishes a meal, she very methodically cleans herself like a cat, wiping her face with her foreleg and running it through her mouth to ‘lick’ it. I’m utterly fascinated.

Like other insects, mantises have six legs and two sets of wings, though most adult females cannot fly. They are generalized carnivorous predators, which means they eat all insects and are even occasionally cannibalistic. They are ambush predators, so they usually wait for their prey to wander by, catching it with their dexterous spiked forelegs and devouring it alive. Some species employ extremely elaborate camouflage and have evolved to mimic the appearance of their surroundings using color and shape, but the mantids with which we are most familiar rely mostly on their green and tan color for their camouflage. Mantises undergo incomplete metamorphosis, born looking like mini adults and shedding their exoskeleton as they grow. Once they reach the adult stage, they will mate. If the male is lucky and his mate isn’t hungry, she may not eat him and he will escape to mate with other females. Once a female has mated, the sperm that she stores in her abdomen can fertilize multiple egg cases, which are known as ootheca. Each ootheca can contain between 30 and 100 eggs, and over the course of her 8-14 month lifespan a female can produce between 3 and 7 egg cases if she is healthy and well fed. My mantis has laid five egg cases since I found her, each one taking an hour or two to produce. The adults do not survive our harsh winter, but the foam around the eggs protects them till spring.

While there are approximately 2300 species of mantis occurring on every continent but Antarctica, the European and Chinese mantises, both introduced to the US, have become naturalized and are commonly seen in Montana. My mantis is a Chinese Mantis, Latin name Tenodera sinensis, and I am sure she is one of the hatchlings from the egg cases we bought at Heightened Harvest late last spring to help keep some of the less desirable insects under control as part of our Integrated Pest Management system. I think they helped make a difference.

The praying mantis is one of a small group of insects, which, like humans, have stereovision, enabling them to look with both eyes at the same spot, thus allowing excellent depth perception. A team of scientists recently discovered that they are the only insect we know of that can see in 3D- also like humans- by fitting them with tiny 3D glasses and showing them movies. Another unique trait mantises share with humans is their ability to turn their head, some up to 180 degrees. This is all evidence that they rely primarily on their sophisticated eyesight to find their prey.

Although they do have an ear (only one in the center of their thorax), their hearing is limited to a range of 30 to 150 kHz. Hu-man hearing only goes up to 20 kHz, so my pet mantis probably can’t hear me when I talk to her. It is thought that they use their hearing to detect and evade predators like bats.

Not only helpful in the garden, praying mantises are one of the most popular insects kept as pets, and it’s no wonder, since, as I have discovered, they are low maintenance and easy-going although, when we took a vacation this winter, we did have to enlist a kind and open-minded neighbor to come feed her. I keep a small container of crickets (which are considerably more difficult to keep alive than the mantis) and feed her one every day or so using a pair of tweezers. She doesn’t make any mess. I mist her with water when I think of it, but that’s as much for the plant where she resides as it is for her. She has provided many happy moments of quiet meditative observation, and a privileged glimpse into another world. There was some momentary excitement this winter when, heavy with eggs, she apparently fell and ruptured her abdomen. She was leaking egg foam and fluid and I thought she was a goner. In a moment of inspiration (and desperation) I applied some superglue gel to her wound with a toothpick, and in a small miracle she stopped leaking and has been fine ever since!


She is cleaning her foot. The blob on her abdomen is where I repaired the leak…

I know she won’t live forever, but I secretly hope she makes it to spring so I can set her free again. Either way, I will miss her when she’s gone.

Submitted by Ann McKean

National Audubon Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders
Why do Mantids Only Have One Ear?