Beginners Guide to Pollinators

January 13, 2014

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Beginners Guide to Pollinators and Other Flower Visitors. Beatriz Moisset

An illustrated beginner’s field guide to insect flower visitors, including pollinators. The guide provides concise descriptions, photos and life history information of the most common insects found visiting flowers. It includes time of year, geographic area and favorite flowers. Also mentioned are those that act as pollinators and whether they may sting.

Available at Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Lulu.com

The night shift

October 5, 2013
globe.w

© Beatriz Moisset

When the sun goes down and flowers fold their petals for the day pollinators pack their bags and go to sleep. A new set of flowers steps in after sunset and a new array of customers takes to the air in search of nectar and pollen: the night shift.

The flowers that attract nocturnal pollinators don’t need flashy colors. They are white or pale colored instead, easier to be seen in the dark. They produce strong aromas that appeal to their visitors’ keen sense of smell. Nocturnal creatures such as moths and bats and a few exceptional bees are among the night flower visitors.

Sphinx moth

Hawk moth

Very few flowers bloom in the dead of night. More often they open at dawn or dusk, when twilight makes the job of their pollinators a little easier. Think of morning glories, moon flowers, 5 o’clock blossoms or evening primroses. If you have some of these in your garden you may be fortunate enough to see their guests.

A very striking visitor of many evening blooms is a large moth, the pink-spotted hawk moth. It bears an elegant muted pattern of cream and dark brown, highlighted by pink spots along its sides and on its wings. It arrives silently at its goal after sunset, unfolds its long tongue and sips nectar while suspended in air like a hummingbird. The next evening it will appear once again at the appointed time and collect its reward from the open blossoms. You can observe it almost daily as long as the flowers keep blooming.

Some people fear and hate moths even more than they hate other insects. There are even those who consider them messengers of death. This is unfortunate. I wish that they could overcome their unfounded fears enough to appreciate these moths’ graceful beauty and their role in the garden as the partners of evening bloomers.

© Beatriz Moisset, 2013

Partners and Robbers

September 27, 2013

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A jewelweed blossom is worth examining carefully; it is a little marvel of engineering, with a shape perfectly adapted to its pollinator, a plump bumblebee with a very long tongue and a thirst for nectar.

The shape of the little sac fits the body of the bumblebee like a glove; the side petals open like a pair of curtains to allow its entrance; the length of its spur, full of nectar is just right for the tongue of the bumblebee. And, finally and most important to the plant, the anthers (that carry the pollen) and the stigma (which receives the pollen) are placed so that the hairy back of the bumblebee rubs against them when entering the flower. The pollen is deposited on the bee and later on it is transported to other flowers.

For pollination to take place the bee has to enter the front of the flower otherwise it would fail to touch the parts of the flower that matter.

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Despite this marvelous system, some very nice pollinators can turn into robbers and cheat the flowers that they usually serve diligently. This happens when the pollinator chooses to take a shortcut and bypass the well planned scheme of the flower. Such is the case of this bumblebee. When it takes nectar by slashing the spur from the outside it doesn’t come near the pollen carrying organs and doesn’t perform pollination.

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Beginners Guide to Pollinators and Other Flower Visitors

An Easy Guide to the Most Frequent Flower Visitors

April 3, 2013

Cover_edited-2.web

Beginners Guide to Pollinators and Other Flower Visitors. Beatriz Moisset

An illustrated beginner’s field guide to insect flower visitors, including pollinators. The guide provides concise descriptions, photos and life history information of the most common insects found visiting flowers. It includes time of year, geographic area and favorite flowers. Also mentioned are those that act as pollinators and whether they may sting.

Available at Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Lulu.com

Paper Wasps

August 18, 2012

Northern Paper Wasp on goldenrod

Northern Paper Wasp on Garlic Mustard

Paper wasps or paper nest wasps are large and noticeable, long legged, brown, reddish or nearly black with yellow markings not as pronounced as those of hornets and yellowjackets. Like them, they fold their wings lengthwise when not flying. They build their nests, attached by a stalk to a surface, with paper made by scraping plant fibers, softening them with saliva and chewing them up. These nests are considerably smaller than those of hornets and yellow jackets.

European Paper Wasp on Butterfly Weed

The Northern Paper Wasp is brown or nearly black, with distinctive large round spots on the sides of the abdomen in addition to the other markings. It is found in eastern and central North America but not in the west.

An introduced species, the European Paper Wasp, has become common and widespread throughout the continent. It presents a stronger pattern than that of the Northern Paper Wasp, mostly black with contrasting white or pale yellow markings.

Both species visit flowers frequently to drink nectar and may do some pollination. They hunt insects which they feed to their young.

Habitat: Fields, meadows, forested areas.

Season: March to November, year round in southern states. Most frequent between July and September.

Flowers: milkweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, many members of the aster family like snakeroot, tansy and goldenrod.

Paper wasps
Northern Paper Wasp
European Paper Wasp

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Flower Longhorn Beetles

August 11, 2012

Strangalepta abbreviata on Wild Hydrangea

Yellow-horn Strangalia on Button Bush

Longhorn beetles get their name because of their thin and long antennae, usually as long as their bodies or even longer. Among them there is a group often found on flowers, the flower longhorns. One interesting characteristic of flower longhorns is that they are all very slender, almost tubular shaped. Adults feed primarily on pollen and nectar; that is why they frequent flowers. They are mid sized beetles between 1/2 and 3/4″ in length, not including the antennae.

The Yellow-horn Strangalia is among the thinnest ones. Its long antennae are yellow, and they have a pattern of dots or marks on the wings. Found in the eastern states.

Cortodera

Strangalepta abbreviata is stouter, black with orange lengthwise stripes. There is great variation of markings: some are all black or almost all orange. Eastern and central states only.

Cortodera is similar to Strangalepta abbreviata but it is found only in the West.

Banded Longhorn beetle on Wild Hydrangea

The Banded Longhorn has a pattern similar to that of the Yellow-horn but it is easy to tell apart because of its stouter shape. It is still leaner than most beetles one is familiar with. Rich brown color with yellow-orange cross bands Sometimes the bands are reduced to spots. Eastern and central states only.

Habitat: Fields, openings, with flowers, adjacent to woodlands.

Season: From May to August, most abundant in June and July.

Flowers: Flowers of the carrot family, rose family, aster family. The Banded Longhorn has a special preference for Echinacea.

Flower longhorns
Yellow-horn Strangalia
Strangalepta abbreviata
Cortodera
Banded Longhorn

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Great Golden Digger Wasp

August 9, 2012

Sphex ichneumoneus or Golden Digger Wasp On butterfly Weed

Another thread-waisted wasp is the very impressive Great Golden Digger Wasp. With its large size of up to an inch and its striking colors, it catches the observer’s eye. Its black head and thorax are covered by golden hairs. The first half of the abdomen and the legs are bright orange and the end of the abdomen is black.

On Mountain Mint


It feeds on nectar and sometimes it is hard to observe because it is very active and moves quickly from flower to flower. There is little to fear from this wasp, despite its impressive size, because it is not prone to stinging. It builds its nest underground and stocks it with insects, such as crickets, grasshoppers and katydids, to feed its brood. It is a valuable pest control.

Habitat: Fields, meadows, with sandy areas nearby. It is found throughout North America and reaches Central America and part of South America.

Season: From June to October in most of North America. Most common in July and August. Can be seen as early as April in Florida.

Flowers: It likes flowers grouped in clusters, like milkweeds, mints, goldenrods. It also visits many others, like asters and sedum.

Read more:
Bugguide.net
Texas Master Gardeners

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August 6, 2012

Originally posted on Polinizador's Blog:

Insect flower visitors of many sorts

Flowers are visited by a great variety of insects, and some spiders too. Some of these insect visitors are very beneficial to the flower. They carry pollen from flower to flower performing pollination. This is what the plant needs to make seeds and thus make new plants and new flowers.
The list of flower visitors is extremely long and some of the insects are impossible to tell apart by sight only, so this guide doesn’t attempt to cover them all. I will just merely highlight some of the most common flower visitors, in particular those that pollinate flowers. You will be able to recognize some of them or, at least, you will know what group they belong to.

What do pollinators look like?

Insects have three body sections, called head, thorax and abdomen. The head carries the eyes, the mouth parts and antennae. The thorax is made of three segments…

View original 908 more words

Lady Bugs or Lady Beetles

August 3, 2012

Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata)

Polished Lady Beetle (Cycloneda munda)

Lady bugs have gained the affection of grownups and children alike. These colorful beetles go by other names such as lady beetles, or even ladybird beetles. Probably the most accurate one is lady beetle since it is a beetle, not a bug.

There are different kinds of lady beetles; most are brightly colored with a pattern of red with black spots, such as the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle; in a few this pattern is reversed. Others have some orange or yellow instead of red. There are even a few that lack spots altogether, like the Polished Lady Beetle, or that are mostly black.

Spotted Lady Beetle (Coleomegilla maculata)

They are fairly roundish, although a few have an oval shape, like the Spotted Lady Beetle. The smallest ones are about 0.04 in but the most familiar ones are larger, around 0.3 to 0.4 in.

Spotted Lady Beetle larva (Coleomegilla maculata)

Their babies or larvae don’t look like the adults at all. They look more like little alligators. They are rarely found on flowers because most of the time they stay on foliage or stems eating their favorite food, aphids.

Although they don’t distinguish themselves for being good pollinators, they are prized by gardeners because of their role as pest controls. They are voracious eaters of aphids and other soft bodied garden pests.

Habitat: Gardens, fields, anywhere that aphids abound.

Season: Year round in southern states, from March to October and even November in the rest of the country.

Flowers: They are more likely to be found on foliage than on flowers, but they do visit many different kinds of them.

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Japanese Beetle

July 26, 2012

Japanese Beetle on button bush


We can’t talk about flower visitors without mentioning a famously unwelcome one, the Japanese Beetle. As its name indicates, it is originally from Japan. It was accidentally introduced with live plants in New Jersey almost a century ago and it has been spreading steadily since. If you live in the Eastern United States you can be sure to have seen it, most likely devouring your flowers. Its westward march is aided by the plant trade. It has shown up now and then in most western states.

Several Japanese Beetles on common milkweed


We must admit that it is a pretty beetle, with its metallic colors; the wing covers are red or copper red and the pronotum is green. It has tufts of white hairs bordering the abdomen. It is robust, oval-shaped, approximately 3/8″ in length, not a good flyer. It tends to stay in groups feeding on leaves or petals. When molested sometimes stretches a leg or two in self defense and continues eating.

It is not known to be a pollinator, rather it is more likely to cause harm to flowers. When you find one it may not be a pretty picture.

Habitat: Gardens, farm fields.

Season: Mostly June and July. Also in later months.

Flowers: They seem to have a preference for ornamentals such as roses; but almost any kind of flower will do. They also feed on native flowers, like milkweeds and many members of the daisy family.

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