I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start. I’m getting a little overwhelmed. Spraining the ankle on New Year’s Day didn’t help me get off to the roaring start I’d planned.

I took a cup of tea out to the garden at noon to evaluate and meditate. It’s amazing what happens when you just stop. And observe. I wasn’t sitting for more than a couple of minutes when neighbor C.L. grabbed his cane and rambled over. As he chatted a bit, I spotted a wandering Monarch caterpillar four feet away on the driveway. When they wander away from the milkweed plant, if they are full-size (fifth instar), that means they are looking for a good spot for their chrysalis. I like to keep track of them, so I will know when the butterflies emerge. I moved this one back to the lone milkweed plant 12 feet away, and it got interested in eating again.

I’ve lost a few cats, and the cold and wind has been brutal for them. I’ve had no luck relocating them inside, or outside, to what I consider a good spot for a chrysalis. They have a mind of their own. This one died while shedding its skin to form its chrysalis. I had just watered the carrot barrels right beside it, and it is wet. I hope I did not kill it.

Dead Monarch Caterpilla

Dead Monarch Caterpillar Shedding Skin for Becoming Chrysalis

Today it is 63 degrees. Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 73, and 75 degrees on the weekend. It has been in the 50’s during the day and dipping in the low 40’s at night. With wind. This makes a tough go for Monarch caterpillars. I have chrysalises that are not mature after almost two months!

I sat back down and mused about how fast some veggies grow, while others take much longer. Most of my winter garden was planted early to mid-November. Radishes and lettuce and one barrel of baby finger carrots are mature, while it will be another month or two for kale, cauliflower and cabbage, a couple of weeks more for Swiss Chard.

Little Finger Carrots

Baby Little Finger Organic Carrots

Green Kale

Winter Bor Green Kale

Green Cabbage Seedling

Copenhagen Market Green Organic Cabbage

I could harvest beet tops right now while they are tender, but I’m more interested in the beet root, which will be awhile. It’s so hard to say with the wild fluctuations in weather.

Beet Greens

Beet Tops

I could make a big salad right now of spinach, arugula and red deer tongue lettuce. But, that would clean me out. I have about two big salads worth of greens out there.

Spinach Grown in a Pot

Spinach Leaves

Deer Tongue Lettuce Leaves

Red Deer Tongue Lettuce

So, Monday, I planted more lettuce, this time, organic Romaine. That’s a small row of snap peas behind it.

Freshly Planted Garden Row

Row of Freshly Planted Romaine Lettuce

Nasturtiums have self-seeded through my beds, so I pull them out when they start getting in the way. I opened the driveway gate to drop a few in the green bin, and spotted this tiny, metallic blue beetle on the gate key pad. It looks like a drop of metallic blue paint, no more than 1/8 of an inch across. But, this one had a problem, and was opening the wings over and over to get them all folded back under the blue helmet. A little piece was sticking out. It scurried across a leaf and my hand. Since I’m a beginning gardener, everything is new to me (I had seen one last year), so I assumed it was common. After I shot video and took a few shots, I relocated it to a rose leaf.

Tiny blue beetle with broken wing.

Ladybird Beetle, Halmus chalybeus, family Coccinellidae

I sat back down and drank from my cup. Postponing the inevitable return to my office to work. I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start. So, I sipped a bit longer. Then, I came inside, and sent the beetle photo to Dr. James Hogue, Professor & Manager of Biological Collections at Cal State Northridge, in charge of their 60,000 insect specimen collection. He immediately responded:

“It looks like this is a ladybird beetle called Halmus chalybeus, family Coccinellidae. It was introduced from Australia over 100 years ago for bio-control of scale insects. I had not seen this beetle before, nor do we have any in our collection. If you run across one again, it would be a good catch that I would like for our schools collection.

The hard blue things are its first pair of wings that, in beetles, are modified as covers for the more delicate hind wings that are used for flying. These covers are called elytra.”

WHAT??? IT WAS IN MY HAND!! And I let it go. I ran back outside and searched, but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. It was in my hand!! I’m kicking myself. I really missed my calling. I should have been an entomologist, instead of an actress!

Thanks for stopping by! What bugs are you finding in your garden? – Kaye