Tag 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

If You Are Interested In Purchasing Our Pollinator Seed Mix Please Visit Us At Our Website Native Wildflowers & Seeds From Ion Exchange, Inc.

 

 

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.

Ion Exchange, Inc.

To Purchase Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Our Website At Ion Exchange, Inc.

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 views Swamp Betony (Pedicularis lanceolata) in bloom at Ion Exchange, Native Seed and Plant Nursery in NE Iowa

Earthyman views Swamp Betony (Pedicularis lanceolata) in bloom at Ion Exchange, Native Seed and Plant Nursery in NE Iowa. Swamp Betony is a wetland wildflower. It is also known as Swamp Lousewort and attracts many Pollinating Insects

Swamp lousewort can be confused with a related plant, wood betony. Swamp lousewort, however, is a taller, more upright plant, and its leaves have no stalk or only a very short stalk.
To Purchase Visit Us At http://ionxchange.com/products/PEDICULARIS-LANCEOLATA-%7C-Swamp-Lousewort.html

Wildlife Gardening

by: http://www.wildflower.org
You can make your garden more attractive to birds, insects and small mammals in a variety of ways. Minor changes such as mowing less frequently can increase the number of non-human visitors to your yard, no matter its size.

A wildlife garden should provide for basic animal needs such as food, shelter and water. Diversity is the key to creating an optimum habitat. A diverse habitat attracts a wider variety of species, offers more choices for forage and shelter and ensures a constant food supply. Ideally, a garden should offer a mixture of meadow, woods and wet areas, but you can create hiding places and feeding areas without drastically changing your yard’s character.

FOOD SOURCES
Your yard will attract different types of animals as the seasons change. Migratory species have different foraging needs than residential, non-migratory species. Larval stages of insects (such as caterpillars) often feed on completely different plants, or parts of plants, from what the adults prefer.
Watch birds and butterflies in the wild or on untended land to discover their food preferences. Select plants that maximize flowering and fruiting. Nectar-rich wildflowers are more nutritious for wildlife than showy cultivars, which often are sterile. Color attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Hummingbirds prefer bright red and orange flowers, while butterflies seem to select yellow, purple, blue, pink, and occasionally red flowers. Members of the composite family, such as goldenrods, sunflowers and thistles are good nectar sources for butterflies, and later form seedheads that attract goldfinches and other songbirds.
Be sure to include trees and shrubs with berries to provide winter forage for birds and small mammals. Vines and grasses provide food and nesting materials. Other provisions you can offer residential or transient wildlife include pollen, fungi and sap from native plants or compost.

SHELTER SOURCES
Try to create a layered effect when planning shelter for wildlife. Wooded areas should include overlapping canopies of trees, shrubs and forbs. The edges of woods are usually rich with wildlife because the cover protects them from predators and the elements.
When designing shelter areas, shrubs may be more important than trees because they grow faster and provide nesting sites for many different species. To provide maximum cover, curb your pruning impulses! Though dense shrubbery, tangled vines and dead-standing trees may contradict your image of an orderly yard, they create ideal nesting and forage sites.
Even in a small yard, a single tree or a few vines can provide shelter for nesting wrens or blackbirds, as well as cover for snails and butterflies. Don’t overlook what’s underfoot – brush piles, hollow logs, and compost piles offer a host of micro-habitats for many organisms.

WATER SOURCES
A significant portion of wildlife activity centers around water. A water source such as a small pond provides a home for amphibians and aquatic insects, a bathtub for birds and drinking water for all kinds of creatures. Many insects have aquatic larval stages, so they need to be near water. Migrating wildlife need convenient water sources along their seasonal routes. On the smallest scale, even a birdbath is a valuable addition to your garden or yard.

Once you allow wildlife into your garden, you must allow nature a bit of freedom in ruling it. As Chris Baines, an innovative British landscaper, notes, the secret of a successful wildlife garden depends on understanding the way in which your various gardening activities will distort the balance. Try to minimize disturbance. Refrain from using herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides, which adversely affect the delicately balanced interactions between organisms and their environment. Allowing your garden more autonomy will leave you plenty of time to observe, enjoy and learn from your creation.

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Munching on Garlic Mustard

A New Weevil in the Works

Garlic and mustard are common ingredients that can be found in American households. But garlic mustard? Well, that’s a different story.

Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, is considered one of the most problematic invaders of temperate forests in North America. According to legend, it was brought here from Europe in the 1860s as a culinary herb, but unfortunately, it doesn’t taste very good. Since then, garlic mustard has spread to 34 U.S. states and 4 Canadian provinces.

“Garlic mustard is an invasive plant that gets a lot of attention,” says ecologist Adam Davis, who has been studying the weed for years. “It’s very noticeable and hard to eradicate because of its seed bank.”

The term “seed bank” refers to seeds in the soil that are dormant but capable of germinating. Garlic mustard seeds can remain viable for more than 10 years. A single plant can produce hundreds of seeds, which scatter as far as several meters from the parent.

“You can spend a lot of time and money pulling garlic mustard up or spraying it with pesticides, but it’ll just come back the next year,” says Davis. “That’s why it’s such a problem. It’s very resilient.”

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Flowers of garlic mustard produce up to several thousand seeds per plant, making it difficult to control.
(D1496-1)

A member of the mustard family Brassicaceae, garlic mustard got its name because its leaves, when crushed, smell like garlic. Garlic mustard is a biennial plant, meaning it takes 2 years to complete its life cycle. During its first year, the plant is in the form of a rosette with kidney-shaped leaves that remain green throughout the winter. In its second year, the plant matures and produces small, white flowers, each with four petals in the shape of a cross. The mature plants either self-pollinate or are pollinated by insects, producing seeds that fall to the ground and enter the soil.

Garlic mustard is cold hardy and shade tolerant, enabling it to grow early in spring when most plants are not able to grow. It also secretes allelochemicals into the soil. Allelochemicals are chemical compounds a plant introduces into the growing environment to suppress growth of another plant. “It’s kind of like chemical warfare against the native plants,” says Davis.

The insects and fungi that feed on garlic mustard in its native habitat are not present in North America, increasing the weed’s seed productivity and allowing it to outcompete native plants.

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In Urbana, Illinois, ecologist Adam Davis records the position of garlic mustard rosettes (clusters of green leaves low to the ground) on a sheet of transparent mylar. The locations are recorded in June and October of the first year and in June the following year to estimate rosette survival rates.  Once garlic mustard rosette locations are recorded, they are then converted into digital coordinates in a GIS (geographical information system) program, permitting spatial analysis of rosette survival.
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A Model Solution

To better understand garlic mustard and find a suitable biocontrol, Davis—in collaboration with colleagues at Michigan State University, Cornell University, the University of Illinois, and the Centre for Agricultural Biosciences International (CABI) in Switzerland—created a computer model that simulates the weed’s life cycle.

“In part, we wanted to answer ecologists’ criticisms that biocontrol can potentially cause as many problems as it solves because of unintended consequences,” says Davis. “We were looking for a way to choose agents that are most likely to succeed while reducing their potential for harm to native plants and environments. Ideally, we want to try to release only one organism, if possible.”

Through this model, Davis was able to predict the type and severity of damage that would be needed to reduce garlic mustard’s population growth rates. Davis performed an analysis using computer code that enabled him to change one variable at a time while keeping all the others constant, allowing him to probe the life cycle for the plant’s weak point. He found that in order to make an impact, a biocontrol agent has to reduce garlic mustard’s survival in the rosette stage and its ability to reproduce in the adult stage.

Well before Davis created the life-cycle model, CABI scientists began looking for and testing potential biocontrol agents to tackle garlic mustard. They collected data on the amount of damage each insect could inflict on the garlic mustard population. From a list of more than 70 natural enemies found to be feeding on garlic mustard in Europe, four Ceutorhynchus weevils were selected as the most promising control agents.

Combining the feeding information collected by CABI scientists and the demographic information of garlic mustard in North America, Davis used the computerized life-cycle model to assess each weevil’s ability to inflict damage on the weed and inhibit its growth. One weevil, C. scrobicollis, came out on top.

High Hopes for Little Insect

The tiny C. scrobicollis has a life cycle of 1 year and produces one batch of offspring per lifetime. Itlays its eggs on garlic mustard’s leaf stems in the fall. When the eggs hatch in the spring, the larvae feed on the weed’s root crown, the area from which the rosette’s leaves grow and where nutrients are stored.

By feeding on the root crown, C. scrobicollis stops the flow of nutrients and water from the roots to the rest of the plant. It also damages the meristem, the area of the plant where new growth takes place. As a result, garlic mustard produces fewer seeds or, in areas with high weevil populations, dies prematurely in early spring without producing any seeds.

C. scrobicollis also appears to be monophagous, meaning it eats just one thing: garlic mustard. That means scientists won’t have to worry about any unintended consequences when using this insect as a biocontrol agent.

During preliminary testing, CABI scientists believed C. scrobicollis was the best candidate to control garlic mustard. Putting the weevil’s feeding data through Davis’s life-cycle model confirmed their beliefs and created a stronger case for the permit process.

“The model gave teeth to the permit application to release this weevil in the United States,” says Davis. “It provided a peek into the future as to the impact the weevil could have on the garlic mustard population here.”

C. scrobicollis is currently in quarantine at the University of Minnesota. If all goes well, this beneficial weevil may soon be roaming North America to find a nice garlic mustard meal.—By Stephanie Yao, <http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/contacts.htm#Stephanie> Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

This research is part of Crop Protection and Quarantine, an ARS national program (#304) described on the World Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.gov <http://www.nps.ars.usda.gov/> .

Adam Davis <mailto:adam.davis@ars.usda.gov>  is in the USDA-ARS Invasive Weed Management Research Unit <http://www.ars.usda.gov/Main/site_main.htm?modecode=36-11-25-00> , 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801-4730; phone (217) 333-9654, fax (217) 333-5251