Saturday, January 12, 2019

Bee Balm Bistro 3: Diners in the Drought

During the drought summer of 2018, many plant species didn't come up at all and others emerged but didn't bloom.  Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) was an exception.  It stayed short but went ahead and blossomed--much to the satisfaction of nectar-loving insects.   In this video, a Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) appears to find what he's looking for:

Bottomland Prairie Restoration, Creek Field, July 2018.

Silver-spotted Skippers do not go to yellow flowers.  They prefer pink flowers, such as Liatris spp., or lavender flowers, such as this gorgeous Bee Balm!  You can see that proboscis working rapidly, as he goes from blossom to blossom. 

Native bees also came to Bee Balm in the drought summer of 2018.    Here is a clip of two different Brown-belted Bumble Bees (Bombus grisecollis) going from one tubular blossom to another.  B. grisecolllis, according to, is identified by short dense yellow hairs on the thorax combined with a contrasting band of russet hairs on the second abdominal segment.   If you watch closely, you can see that "brown belt":

Bottomland Prairie Restoration, Creek Field, July 2018

Also, I was thrilled to find B. auricomus, Black-and-Gold Bumble Bee, coming to Bee Balm.   It looks so much like other bumble bees that without the help of, I would not have been able to identify it.   In the clip below, I can barely see the identifying tuft of hair on the top of the head.  More visible is the distinguishing thin band of yellow hair on the posterior edge of the thorax:
Bottomland Prairie Restoration, Creek Field, July 2018

I was especially glad to welcome this species, as B. auricomus favors prairies--and our Creek Field is just a restoration, a prairie wannabe.   

Also enjoying Bee Balm during the drought was a tattered butterfly, a dark-form female Tiger Swallowtail:  

Bottomland Prairiei Restoration, Creek Field, July 2018

Watching all these insects nectaring on Bee Balm makes my head spin!  They never sit still and drink deeply.  I wonder if the zig-zag movement is a way to avoid being snatched by a predator lurking on the flower, such as a crab spider or an ambush bug.  Still, half the nectar must go to fuel that hectic activity!

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