Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Restoring Bottomland Prairie: The Importance of Late, Late Bloomers

Late-blooming Tall Thistle [Cirsium altissimum] is incredibly important to pollinators toward the end of the growing season--from mid-July to mid-September.  (See earlier posts: & )
Sweat Bee
Family Halictidae, Tribe Halictini
on Hairy Aster
Creek Field, Oct. 2016

But with the extended and oddly warm fall, pollinators kept going even after the Tall Thistle had gone to seed.  

Then, late, late bloomers became important!  
Sweat Bees (Halictidae, Tribe Halictini) on Hairy Aster
October 2016
Creek Field

Especially beneficial was Hairy Aster (Symphiotricum pilosum), a total volunteer in the Creek Field.  This perennial bloomed in late September and continued blooming throughout October.  

Sweat Bees (pictured above & in the video below) loved the  Hairy Asters!

Among insects, bees are the most important pollinators. 

However, Black Blister Beetles (Epicauta pennsylvanicus) were also all over the Hairy Asters.  Here they are in the October Creek Field, munching on the petals of Hairy Aster, grooming themselves, and tapping each other in puzzling but suggestive ways.  

The role of beetles in pollination is not as well known as the role of bees.   But we can see that these beetles certainly move from flower to flower.  And is that pollen we see glistening on their bodies?

Moths and flies are also important pollinators. 

Here are two moths I found on the Hairy Asters in October:  The Two-Spotted Herpetogramma, also known as the Southern Beet Webworm, is on the left, and the Beet Webworm Moth is on the right.  
Herpetogramma bipunctalis on Hairy Aster
Southern Beet Webworm Moth or
Two-Spotted Herpetogramma
Creek Field, October 2016

Spoladea recurvalis
Beet Webworm Moth on Hairy Aster
Creek Field, October 2017

The two are in the same family (Crambid Snout Moths, Crambidae), but are in different genera.  However, their similar common names suggest they are both obnoxious to beet-growers! 

Fly on Hairy Asters
Creek Field
October 2016
Flies also go for the carbohydrates in nectar and the protein in pollen, pollinating along the way.

This gorgeously iridescent fly is either a member of the Calliphoridae family (blow flies) or the Muscidae family, genus Neomyia (Neomyia larvae live in dung).  

A gorgeously iridescent fly (family
Calliphoridae [blow-flies] or
family Muscidae, genus Neomyia [larvae live in dung)
feeding on Hairy Aster
Creek Field, October 2016 
Note the pollen caught on this fly's hairs!

In the video below a Tachinid fly visits Hairy Asters while Halictini Sweat Bees try to get some of the goodies, too.    

Tachinid flies lay eggs on caterpillars.  The fly larvae are parasitoids--meaning they develop inside the living body of a host, ultimately killing it.

Also valuable as a late, late bloomer is Gaillardia pulchella, Indian Blanket or simply Gaillardia.   Gaillardia is a native annual that blooms early in the season and then sets seeds. But if the season goes on long enough, those seeds germinate, and Gaillardia blooms again.  

Some Gaillardia bloomed in October!  Here on the left is a delightful little Grass Skipper (Lerodea eufala) nectaring on a late-blooming Gaillardia.   

A grass skipper
Lerodea eufala
nectars on
Gaillardia pulchella.
Creek Field, October 2016
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
crossed with Clouded Sulphur
(Colias philodice) creates this hybrid.   The
Sweat Bee to the left of the Sulphur is in the
genus Agapostemon--Metallic Green Bees

On  the right is a hybrid butterly --a cross between an Orange Sulphur and a Clouded Sulphur--nectaring on a late-blooming Gaillardia.  That's a Sweat Bee--what else--to the left of the Sulphur!

Thank you so much, Hairy Asters and Gaillardia! 

You were late, late bloomers, just like some pollinators.

You gave the pollinators somewhere to go.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Coyote Spirits

Coyotes were originally creatures of the grasslands.  They responded to over a century of eradication campaigns by adapting to many new environments. 

But it's a special thrill to see them as they are here, in their original habitat.  

This video is from a trail cam at a prairie opening at the end of our Oak Road.