Category Archives: Insects

Beguilding Beetls in the Wildflife Garden Article by Heather Holm from Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens

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Beetles are a very diverse insect order and many beetles are frequent flower visitors; they are pollinators, beneficial insects predating on problem insect populations such as aphids, as well as parasitoids of other flower visitors. See similar posts about Fantastic Flies and Wonderful Wasps
The two most common flower visitors are soldier beetles (Cantharidae family) and long-horned beetles (Cerambycidae family). Beetles visit flowers to feed on pollen and nectar. Some have hairs on their tongue tip that act like pollen brushes, but typically they use their mandibles for chewing pollen grains.

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Beetle Life Cycles and the Greater Food Web – It’s All Connected
Many beetle larvae are wood-boring, feeding on wood fibers or the fungus that inhabits decaying wood. By leaving dead standing trees (snags), or downed tree logs on the ground (nurse logs) in your landscape, you are providing valuable habitat for beetle larvae and the birds who feed on the larvae such as woodpeckers. Many native bee species use the abandoned wood burrows made by beetle larvae as nesting sites. Some examples include leafcutter bees, Megachile spp., mason bees, Osmia spp. and carpenter bees, Xylocopa spp.
Banded Longhorn Beetles, Typocerus velutinus

Banded Longhorn Beetles, Typocerus velutinus
Common on coneflowers, this beetle feeds on pollen and nectar, their larvae are wood-boring.

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Beetles can sometimes be destructive; some are not delicate flower visitors by any means, their mandibles chew on flower parts and foliage causing damage in some cases. For example, these blister beetles, Lytta sayi, are destructive feeders on legume flowers such as wild white indigo, Baptisia alba.

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Many flower visiting beetles have hairy bodies where pollen grains attach aiding in the pollination of flowers. They often show a preference for white, cream or green colored flowers, with a strong, fruity or fermenting odor. The hard wings (elytra) provide some protection to beetles while they visit flowers. They are not easily scared off by other flower-visiting insects and will spend several minutes on a flower feeding on floral resources.

Locust Borer Beetle, Megacyllene robiniae
Locust borer beetles feed on pollen and are found on many goldenrod species in late summer. A possible survival strategy is to mimic wasps with black and yellow coloring, a good bird deterrent. The larvae of this beetle excavate tunnels in the wood of black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia).

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Blister Beetles, Nemognatha spp.
These blister beetles are common on black-eyed susans, often feeding on nectar. They have strange looking mouthparts consisting of long maxillae that they use to suck nectar, they can also feed on pollen with their mandibles. Females lay their eggs on flowers, when the larvae hatch, they attach themselves to visiting bees and are carried back to the bee nests. The beetle larvae kill the bee larvae and consume the bee provisions of pollen and nectar.

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Fire-Colored Beetles, Pedilus spp.
Fire-colored beetles are common flower-visitors in the spring. Larvae feed on fungi in decaying wood. Look for these beetles on flowers near woods often where blister beetles occur. Male fire-colored beetles will climb onto blister beetles, prompting them to release cantharidin, a defensive chemical. The male fire-colored beetles then lick the cantharidin off the blister beetle and use the chemical to attract females. When the male beetles mate with females, the cantharidin is transferred to the female. Her eggs are coated with cantharidin which helps protect them from predation.

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PREDATION (BENEFICIAL INSECTS)

Soldier Beetles, Family Cantharidae
Soldier beetles visit flowers for pollen and nectar, they are very common in mid- to late-summer.Their narrow head, thorax, and maxillary tongue allow them to access flower nectar in fairly deep flower corollas.Considered a beneficial insect, soldier beetle larvae feed on aphids, fly larvae, small caterpillars, beetle larvae and grasshopper eggs. Some adults in this family also feed on aphids. One defense mechanism of soldier beetles is to secrete a chemical compound so they are unpalatable to predators.

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Ladybird Beetles, Cycloneda spp.
Both adults and larvae feed on soft-bodied insects (mainly aphids) and are utilized in the biological control of aphids. Females can consume hundreds of aphids before laying eggs. These beetles overwinter in groupings as adults and emerge in spring. Look for ladybird beetle eggs laid near aphid clusters, often under the flowerheads.

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Wedge Shaped Beetle, Macrosiagon limbatum
A distinctive, triangular-shaped small beetle. Both male and female wedge-shaped beetles are found on native plants visited by wasps (and bees), where the female lays her eggs on the foliage. When an egg hatches the tiny first stage larva attaches itself to a visiting wasp or bee. The host carries it back to its nest where the beetle larva burrow into the host larva and live as an internal parasite.The developing wedge-shaped beetle larva continues to consume its host from the inside and eventually emerges from the host body. It then proceeds to feed on the host from the outside until the host dies.

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Tiphiid Wasp, Myzinum spp.
These wasps visit late summer natives for nectar. Males have a menacing looking ‘pseudostinger’ on the end of their abdomen. Females burrow into the ground and lay their eggs on scarab beetle grubs which their larvae consume as they develop.

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Milkweed Leaf Beetle, Labidomera clivicollis
Milkweed leaf beetles are one of several beetles who specialize feeding on the foliage of milkweed (Asclepias) plants. Overwintering adults emerge in early spring. Females typically lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves; look for bright red to orange egg clusters. Larvae hatch and develop in several instar stages during the summer months and feed on milkweed flowers and foliage. Adults are again active in the fall preparing to overwinter.

2013 Heather Holm Native Plants & Wildlife Garden Website

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Restoring the Landscape with Native Plants Article Grass-carrying Wasps ~ Isodontia spp.

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Grass-carrying wasps are a flower-visiting solitary wasp, common in late summer and early fall. Because they are solitary-nesting, and not colonial like yellowjackets or hornets, they do not sting humans to defend their nests. It’s an important distinction to make with wasps in our landscapes, so many are solitary and not aggressive.

 

 

 

Bee2They perform important ecosystem services, pollinating the plants in our landscape, and preying on foliage eating insects, crickets and katydids in particular.

Females look for prey, stinging them several times to paralyze and immobilize them. They carry their prey back to their nests, which are preexisting cavities such as hollow stems or holes bored in wood.

 

Bee3 The prey are stocked for their developing larvae to feed upon. Using nearby grasses, nests are divided into sections with pieces of grass, they also close the end of nest with grass.

Bee4If you erect a mason bee nest board (board with nesting holes drilled in it), grass-carrying wasps will sometimes build nests in the cavities. Look for pieces of grass sticking out the ends of the board holes or plant stems.

I have several different variations of stem nests hung in the yard for solitary bees (and wasps), this one in particular has been utilized almost exclusively by grass-carrying wasps. Cup plant and pale Indian plantain stems work extremely well, both are hollow.

Bee5Here’s a cross-section of one of those stems with the wasp larvae and stocked prey. In my yard, the grass-carrying wasps like to use little blue stem to seal off the cavities.

Bee6Look for grass-carrying wasps in late summer. In my yard, they like to visit stiff goldenrod, common boneset and pale Indian plantain flowers for nectar.

 

 

 

 

 

Article Posted From Restoring The Landscape Website

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Why Are Some Wild flowers Highly Scented with Brightly Colored Petals?

Thought You Might Enjoy this Q&A From Ask.com regarding Wildflowers

Question: Why Are Some Wild flowers Highly Scented with Brightly Coloured Petals?

Top Answer: Some wild flowers are highly scented with brightly colored petals so as to attract pollinators like insects and birds. The pollinators feed on the nectar and help in distribution from pollen grains from anthers to stigma of the same plant or another plant. This enables continuation of reproduction.

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Restoring The Landscape With Native Plants Tall Beard Tongue Insect Visitors

Article Written by noreply@blogger.com (Heather Holm) on Dec 07, 2012 03:16 pm

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Tall Beard Tongue ~ Penstemon digitalis
Beard tongue flowers have a large, hairy staminode on the lower half of the tubular flower which restricts access to bees to the flower and helps in pollen deposition. Small to medium sized bees are the most frequent visitors.

Tall Beard Tongue flowers can be white to light pink, sometimes with darker pink to purple stripes which act as nectar guides for bees.

Small Carpenter Bees (Ceratina spp) visit Tall Beard Tongue flowers primarily to feed on pollen. Their small size allows them to easily climb over the staminode into the tubular flowers to access the pollen on the anthers.

As they feed on pollen, they often inadvertently contact the stigma. The hairs on the staminode keep their bodies held closer to the stigma, resulting in more contact and pollen transfer.

Digger Bees (Anthophora spp.) are frequent visitors to Tall Beard Tongue flowers as well. They are fast moving and visit flowers for a very short time frame compared to Small Carpenter Bees.

Their medium sized bodies and long tongues allow them access into the tubular flower which results in abundant pollen removal as their bodies scrape on the anthers above.

Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.) are not primary pollinators of Tall Beard Tongue. Visiting the flowers for nectar, they are able to reach the nectar reward with their long tongues without having to insert their body into the corolla and come away with pollen on their bodies.

Look for small holes chewed at the base of the flower. Mason Wasps will chew holes to reach the nectar reward without having to enter the flower. Smaller bees will take advantage of these nectar thievery holes.

The Interaction between Pollinator Size and the Bristle Staminode of Penstemon digitalis (Scrophulariaceae) Gregg Dieringer and Leticia Cabrera R. American Journal of Botany , Vol. 89, No. 6 (Jun., 2002), pp. 991-997
© Heather Holm, 2012.

Article From Restoringthelandscape Website

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[IOWA-INSECTS] Monarch butterfly research story

Here in SE MN I noticed the same lack of Monarchs in mid-summer. We also had robust milkweeds with very few larvae. I heard from (entomologically oriented) folks in NE MN that in June they saw far more Monarchs than usual, but with their relatively low population of milkweeds the Monarch seemed to overload the larval food plant. Then in August the flight of Monarchs here in SE MN was the lowest I have every seen.

Joel Dunnette

 

On Tue, Nov 6, 2012 at 8:21 PM, Bruce And Georgeann <crazcoot@evertek.net> wrote:
I have been following this topic and want to ask about another angle of the past summer’s Monarch slump -at least it was in Nw Iowa.

The Monarch Butterflies, were a real concern here this year. We had quite good numbers showing up in early spring – in fact the dates were record early arrivals for us. And I witnessed egg laying in the pasture…even photographed eggs as they were so obvious. But the thing that really puzzled and concerned me was we had no egg hatches and no caterpillars all summer! I have never, in my life, “Not” seen a Caterpillar all spring, summer or fall!!!???!!! Why after finding eggs, I could later not find larva?

Then the summer was “scant” as far as Monarchs were concerned. Nearly none, just a handful all summer. This should not have been the case here, we had the largest crop of Asclepias (milkweeds) that I’ve ever seen here…we had A. tuberosa(Butterfly Milkweed) in record numbers…they were stunning all over the county…even the area farmers were asking me what that “orange plant” is showing up everywhere! We had way more A. syriaca (Common Milkweed) than I care to see here – the neighborhood is coated with seed parachutes from our pasture…not a real “good neighbor” relations maker with the local farmers. We also had a good share (but down slightly from past years) of A. verticillata (Whorled Milkweed) and a small compliment of A. incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) in the ditches out front.

I witnessed a lone Monarch laying eggs on some Common Milkweed outside the studio windows in late August and tried keeping an eye on them – they were gone after just 3 days!? I don’t know of “egg” eaters in the insect world but maybe something is going on? I know of parasitic wasps in caterpillars – but saw NO CATERPILLARS all summer (as I said before). I haven’t the foggiest idea what is going on?

This fall we had virtually no Monarch roosts here – we usually have 150-500 individuals roost here each fall. 13 was our high number in a roost this fall…”6″ was the other high day…”high” used very sarcastically…

Some folks following this have raised issue with the drought hurting the mid section of the continent’s Monarch survival…I’m sure that has some bearing. They also have raised issue with GMO crops. But it does nothing to explain a local phenomenon like we’ve been experiencing here…eggs laid but no hatching, no larva…with an abundance of food source for larva and adult stages. We do not spray insecticides here on the acreage, but I have no knowledge of GMO crops or spraying issues in the surrounding area, so I can’t speak to that.

Am I imagining things or is there anyone else raising these kinds of observations or concerns? …Bruce Morrison, SE O’Brien County

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Iowan’s Plant Natives at Half the Cost Article

Iowan’s are planting native wildflowers and grasses at one half the cost of the seed.  Through a special program and a cooperative effort amongst private growers, Iowa DNR and Pheasants Forever, it is possible to get a voucher to add much diversity to your landscape using species that are native to Iowa.  This is a one of a kind program that benefits everyone involved.  It provides wildlife cover for pheasants, deer, rabbits and a host of beneficial insects including butterflies, moths and many other pollinators.  The natives include such species as Indian Grass and Big Bluestem which root down to enormous depths into the soil which control erosion much better than European imports such as Broom Grass.

Iowa witnessed one of the largest and fastest ecosystem loss in the world as the Tallgrass Prairie was very quickly turned into corn production.  Millions of acres of black rich soil that had been created by the deep-rooted prairie has now vanished.

Thanks to this special Habitat Program created by the  cooperation of Iowa Landowners, Iowa Native Seed Growers, The Iowa DNR and Pheasants Forever, the once lost Tallgrass Prairie is returning to once again replenish precious topsoil and control erosion.

By Howard Bright  http://ionxchange.com/

Earthyman Article: Answers Given to Me by Butterflies

While standing on our balcony over looking a remnant prairie adjacent to the ocean on South Padre Island, my mind went still.  Suddenly, an orange butterfly below me appeared in the little prairie.  I noticed that it did not seem to go to some blooming yellow flowers where I expected him to be attracted.  Instead he went to a shrub with no flowers, which seemed nondescript.  He landed there and seemed to be doing something as he went from shrub to shrub of the same species.  He then came within 6 inches of a yellow flower while still remaining on a nondescript shrub.  Then he flew over to a yellow flower and hovered a few seconds and flew off.

In the meantime a small yellow butterfly came flipping up and down between the shrubs.  Then a light came on for me.  I said to myself “if you, the little yellow butterfly, passes straight in front of me and continues north that will be a sign that I am on the right path in making a very difficult decision” that I have been pondering for years.  It did do just that.  The butterfly passed from East and kept going north with no hesitation.  My answer had been given me, “do it”.  Then at that same moment when the little yellow butterfly was just landing on the beautiful bloom of a wild primrose, the orange butterfly showed up again at the very flower that he had passed up previously.  He landed there and stayed for over 2 minutes getting the most out of this flower that he had avoided before.

The meaning of all this then hit me.  I had been given the green flag to pursue the unknown and forget about the old habits of grazing on the nondescript things in life and go for it but stay with it and milk it for all it is worth.  A warm feeling came over me and I will never forget this moment.

Earthyman

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