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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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Enhanced Bird Feeding Station Video Using Dormant Native Plant Material
Earthyman explains about how to build an enhanced bird feeding station using dormant native plant material. Here he’s used White Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucantha) from Native Wildflowers and Seeds. http://www.nativewildflowersandseeds.com
“Sweet Joe Pye Weed, Boneset, Gravel-root, Hempweed, Jopi Root, Jopi Weed, Kidney Root, King-of-the-Meadow, Queen-of-the-Meadow, Marsh Milkweed, Motherwort, Quillwort, Skunk Weed, Stink Trumpet Weed, Quillwort and others”
Greek, from the name of the King of Pontus, Eupator and the Latin purpureum for “purple”.
Found throughout the Tallgrass Region at the edge of wet places where woodlands open into thickets and marshes. Blooms from July through September on erect stems to ten feet tall. Occasionally, the green stem is mottled with purple that shades to a deep purple at the leaf joints. When crushed or dried, the stem and leaves give off a vanilla-like odor. Flowers are tiny and grow in dome-like clusters up 8 inches across. Flowers are creamy white to pale pink or pale purple. Short petals and long stamens give them a frilly appearance
This plant is one of the great stories in Native American medicine. It is named after the east coast Native American, Joe Pye, a member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who used the plant to cure fevers. It is still used in parts of Appalachia to treat urinary disorders. Some mothers bathed their fretful children in a tea made from Joe Pye Weed to calm them down and bring on a restful sleep. Meskwaki men would nibble the leaves of this plant to ensure success while wooing chosen tribal maidens. We cannot report on the success of this particular usage.
Edible Uses: The roots have been burnt and their ashes used as salt to flavour foods.
Medicinal Uses: Gravel root was used by the native N. American Indians as a diaphoretic to induce perspiration and break a fever. The plant was quickly adopted by the white settlers and still finds a use in modern herbalism. The whole plant, but especially the root, is astringent, diuretic, nervine and tonic. It works particularly on the genito-urinary system and the uterus. Especially valuable as a diuretic and stimulant, as well as an astringent tonic, a tea made from the roots and leaves has been used to eliminate stones from the urinary tract, to treat urinary incontinence in children, cystitis, urethritis, impotence etc. It is also said to be helpful in treating rheumatism and gout by increasing the removal of waste from the kidneys. The leaves and flowering stems are harvested in the summer before the buds open and are dried for later use. The roots are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.
Other Uses: The stems have been used as straws.
The fruits yield a pink or red textile dye.
Herbal Uses: Unknown
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Many bird-feeding stations are barren of cover for birds at your feeders. You can solve this problem by providing instant cover with fully mature fall or winter-harvested stems of the White Wild Indigo. When the plants mature and fall comes, the plants will go dormant leaving their study and durable stems erect with dried leaves and stems still in tack. This makes for the perfect little bush that will give birds a secure place to land.
Just break the stems off at ground level. Get a two or three gallon container. Fill with any soil. Insert the stems into the soil for a secure upright position of the stems. You may want to put a heavy rock in the bottom of the container to keep the wind from blowing it over. Place the pots near your feeders. When the birds land in the branches of the White Wild Indigo, they can rest there and feel protected against predators.
Within minutes you will have more birds right next to your feeders feeling secure and safe. This will enable you to stand much closer to your feeders and observe birds up close.
You can plant White Wild Indigo from seed and they will mature in two to three years or you could plant them as live plants and they will mature faster. Seeds should be scarified with sand paper to thin the hard seed coating if planted in the spring and place in a plastic bag with moist sand or vermiculite. After 10 days you may plant the seed. If planted in the fall they will not need scarification. They grow to about four to five feet in height and have beautiful white flowers up and down the sturdy stems in early to mid-summer. As they mature, they will develop black seedpods, which are very attractive. They are native from Canada to Southern Texas and Florida and throughout the central region of the U.S. They will thrive in most soils.
Howard Bright, aka Earthyman
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When psychiatrist Elizabeth Reeve needs to unwind and recharge her mental batteries, she heads to the prairie.
Not the wild prairie, but the one she and her husband have painstakingly restored at their weekend home in southeastern Minnesota.
“It’s therapeutic — an opportunity to get outside and think in a different way,” she said.
She loves walking its five gently rolling acres and seeing what’s blooming and growing.
The prairie helps Reeve maintain the balance she needs to juggle a very full life. In addition to her practice, which focuses on autism and other developmental disabilities, she recently was named Minnesota’s Psychiatrist of the Year by her peers and published a book, a survival guide for kids with autism spectrum disorders and their parents.
It’s a subject Reeve knows not just clinically but personally, from raising an autistic son herself. Born during her residency, he’s now 24 and lives at home.
“Having a disabled adult child changes your perspective — it changes the whole plan,” Reeve said.
In a way, that changed plan helped lead Reeve’s family to the prairie. “We were looking for land to build on when we retired,” she said. “My son doesn’t drive. He has to live in an urban environment because he takes the bus. The long-term plan is he’ll have the house (in Minneapolis) and we’ll retire down here.”
Reeve and her husband, Mark Conway, alpine-ski-racing coach for the Minneapolis school district, were driving in the rural area when they saw a “for sale” sign. They liked the 1995-built house with its post-and-beam construction, and the 20 wooded acres surrounding it. The previous owner, who built the house, had already started a prairie restoration on what used to be a cornfield.
Reeve, an avid gardener, and Conway decided to buy the land and continue the restoration. Their work includes “burns,” torching the landscape to eliminate non-native plants. “The natives have deep roots; they’ll come back, but the noxious weeds are superficial,” Reeve said.
“You need a crew, so it doesn’t get out of control,” Reeve said. “The first year I was absolutely terrified. Afterwards it looked like a lava field.”
It was hard to imagine that the scorched earth would ever support life again. But before long, native plants began to reappear, denser and more vigorous than ever.
Last year, the couple did a second burn and Reeve took part, donning a firefighter’s suit, laying a “water line” around the perimeter, then using a flamethrower to ignite the landscape.
The two prairie burns have transformed their landscape dramatically, Reeve said. They now have 50 to 60 native species, including wildflowers, native grasses and medicinal plants.
“We’ve worked really hard to expand the diversity,” Reeve said.
She also harvests seeds, drying them and scattering them to produce more native prairie plants.
Reeve is fascinated by the variety of native species now thriving on their land. She points out a compass plant, so-named because it orients its leaves to point north-south, and a purple hyssop. “If you smell the leaves, they smell like licorice,” she said. When she finds a new one, she marks it with a little flag. “So in theory, I can find them again,” she said.
When Reeve isn’t tending the prairie, she’s tending their large garden.
“We don’t buy any vegetables,” she said. “There’s nothing better than out-of-the-garden fried red potatoes for breakfast.”
Does she ever, like, relax on weekends?
“This is relaxing,” she said with a smile.
Being outdoors in the natural world restores balance and well-being for their whole family, she said. Her adult son loves splitting wood. Her younger son, Luke, likes playing “Star Wars” on the prairie and helping reseed the native plants, sometimes both at the same time.
Kids, and in particular, kids with ADHD, benefit from being outside, doing physical things, Reeve said, rather than being inside playing with electronic devices all day. “Research shows that lack of (outdoor activity) decreases people’s creativity,” she said. “It’s not rocket science. People who get out and take a walk feel better than people sitting inside all day.”
Spending time in her prairie helped her write her book, she said, and she hopes to write a second. “I want to do a book for high-school students and young adults with autism — helping them live with it,” she said.
Even the drive back to workday reality, on rural roads vs. a crowded rush-hour freeway, is a relaxing transition, she said. “I’m absolutely fresher Monday after being here. It starts the whole week off completely differently.”
Article By Kim Palmer
Minneapolis Star Tribune
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