Tag Archives: Pollinators

Howard Bright “AKA”Earthyman Comments on the Wild Geranium Pollinators & Floral Visitors Article

We always wait until we can see the seeds turning black and before the triggers are set in the seed dispersal mechanism. If the seeds are showing on to of the triggers, it’s too risky to try and collect them as they will be shot off into space by these strong catapults. If you are able to collect them just before this happens, you can also collect the ones that are a bit greenish too. After collecting, spread them out in a dry place and cover with a sheet to keep them from ejecting into the room and spread all around. Take a look at this video on you tube 

Pic1Like many spring-flowering native plants, wild geranium flowers have the ability to self-pollinate when no pollinators are present. However, the flower matures to ensure cross-pollination when insects are present, with the row of outer anthers developing on the first or second day after the flowers open, followed by the inner row on the second or third day. The stigma becomes receptive after the anthers have dehisced on the third or forth day.

Bees, flies and beetles visit the flower for nectar and pollen. Nectar is secreted from five glands located between the stamens and sepals. In a study by Bertin et al, bees visiting for nectar were responsible for depositing more pollen than pollen collecting bees. Larger bees such as bumble bees and mason bees are considered effective pollinators because pollen brushed onto the underside of their abdomen contacts the stigma. Smaller bees are able to circle around the base of the stamens feeding on nectar without coming into contact with pollen from the anthers above.

Wild geranium flowers are over one inch in width and extremely showy. Dark lines on the flowers act as nectar guides, showing pollinators the location of the nectaries at the base of the stamens.

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Small Carpenter Bees, Ceratinaspp.
Smaller bee species circle the base of the flower seeking out nectar without coming in contact with the anthers and stigmas above.

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Cuckoo Bees, Nomada spp. 

Wild geranium is a nectar source for this cuckoo bee in early spring. Female Nomada bees lay their eggs in the nests of ground nesting native bees, especially mining bees (Andrena spp.). The cuckoo bee eggs hatch and the larvae kills the host bee larvae and consumes the provisions provided by the host. Nomada bees are reddish-brown to black with yellow or white markings.

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Mason Bees Osmia spp.
Mason bees visit wild geranium for both pollen and nectar. Females land on top of the anthers gathering them together with her legs. Pollen is brushed onto the pollen-collecting hairs on the underside of the abdomen. Wild geranium is an important source of pollen and nectar for mason bees, it flowers when females are provisioning their nests.

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Sweat Bees Halictus spp.
Sweat bees visit the flowers to feed on nectar.

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Fruitworm Beetles Byturus unicolor
Long, dense hairs cover the elytra of these beetles where pollen grains attach. Adults emerge from the soil in early spring, feed on host plants (raspberries, blackberries and avens), mate, then lay eggs. Larvae burrow into the flower buds and fruit of the host species and buds drop off or decay. Fruit becomes misshapen and ‘wormy’. Look for adult beetles feeding on the pollen of woodland natives in early spring such as Viriginia waterleaf and wild geranium.

References 
Bertin, R. I., & Sholes, O. D. (1993). Weather, pollination and the phenology of Geranium maculatum. American Midland Naturalist, 52-66. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2426435

Willson, M. F., Miller, L. J., & Rathcke, B. J. (1979). Floral display in Phlox and Geranium: adaptive aspects. Evolution, 52-63. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2407365

Article From Restoring The Landscape Website

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Prairie Ecologist Article Lessons From a Project to Improve Prairie Quality – Part 1: Patch-Burn Grazing, Plant Diversity, and Butterflies

We recently completed a large multi-year restoration and management project at our Platte River Prairies. Our specific objectives were to improve habitat quality for various at-risk prairie species and evaluate the impacts of our management on at-risk butterflies – particularly regal fritillaries. The project was supported by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, who funded our work with two State Wildlife Grants (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service money). Over five years, we conducted fire/grazing management in our prairies and enhanced plant diversity through overseeding and seedling plugs. We measured the results of that work by measuring changes in prairie plant communities and by looking at the use of our prairies by regal fritillaries and other butterflies.

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We’ve worked hard to get plant diversity in our restored prairies, including this one. We wanted to know whether or not our management was maintaining that diversity, and also how it was affecting butterflies. The prairie shown here was being grazed at the time of the photo – July 2009. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

The following is a brief summary of the major lessons we’ve gleaned from the fire/grazing component of the project, including implications for future management and restoration work. I will summarize the overseeding/seedling work in a separate upcoming post. If you want more details, you can see our entire final report to the funding agencies here. As a warning, the report is 14 pages long, with an additional 21 pages of Appendices, full of tables and graphs.

What We Did
Between 2008 and 2012, we treated over 1,500 acres of prairie with varying applications of patch-burn grazing management. During that time, we altered the timing of burning and the intensity of grazing from year to year, and included years of complete rest from grazing in some prairies. For the purposes of this project, we evaluated the results of our work in two main ways:

– We measured changes in plant diversity and mean floristic quality.

– We conducted three years of butterfly surveys to evaluate how regal fritillaries and other butterfly species responded to our restoration and management work.

What We Learned

Here are the seven major lessons we learned from this project. Some of this information has been covered in previous blog posts, so in addition to providing you the link to our full final report for this project, I am also providing links to blog posts in which I covered these topics more completely.

1. During our use of prescribed fire and grazing, plant diversity and mean floristic quality have been either stable or increasing in most of our prairies. This holds up when looking at both short-term (3-4 years) and longer term (up to 10 years) data sets. In addition to collecting data on the overall plant community, we also tracked individual plant species. Even conservative forbs (those most vulnerable to prairie degradation) are maintaining stable populations.

With a few exceptions, we haven’t been able to compare patch-burn grazing against other management techniques (fire only, other grazing systems, etc.) in our prairies, so we can’t say our patch-burn grazing is better at promoting plant diversity than those other alternatives. However, we have been able to increase or maintain plant diversity while creating a mosaic of habitat patches that we think benefits a wide range of plant and animal species.

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Patch-burn grazing helps us maintain diverse plant communities while also creating patchy habitat that benefits many insect and animal species.

2. Periodic complete exclusion of grazing appears to be important to prevent annual grazing of a few plant species. Within our patch-burn grazing systems, cattle mostly constrain their grazing within recently burned patches to the exclusion of unburned areas. However there are a few plant species that cattle appear to seek out and graze regardless of whether they are in burned or unburned patches. These include common and showy milkweed (Asclepias syriaca and A. speciosa), Canada milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis), and entire-leaved rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium).

All three plant species are still surviving in prairies that have been grazed annually for 10 years or more, but the vast majority of individuals within each species are being grazed each year before they can flower. If that continues, they will probably disappear over time, as existing plants die off without replacing themselves. To prevent this, we are building periodic exclusion of grazing into each of our pastures, either by pulling cattle out of the pasture for a whole year now and then, or by using electric fence exclosures that shift in location from year to year.

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Rosinweed is often targeted by cattle regardless of whether it’s in a burned or unburned patch. Completely excluding cattle from prairies now and then allows rosinweed and a few other cattle favorites to bloom and recover their vigor.

3. We can increase plant diversity in prairies dominated by invasive grasses, but it is less important to measure the extent of invasive grasses than it is to measure plant diversity. I dealt with this topic extensively in a recent post on Kentucky bluegrass, so I’ll skip over most of it here. Basically, we’ve found that we can increase plant diversity without necessarily decreasing the frequency or abundance of invasive grasses. Because of that, measuring the invasive grasses might indicate a failure in our management, even though we’re achieving our ultimate objective.

4. Butterflies are nectaring primarily on ”weedy” wildflower species in our prairies. Again, I’ve dealt with this in a previous post. Essentially, regal fritillaries and most other butterfly species in our prairies are primarily nectaring on hoary vervain (Verbena stricta), thistles (Carduus nutans and various Cirsium species), and milkweeds (Asclepias species) – which are considered to be weeds by many people. Those “weeds” appear to be awfully important to butterflies and other pollinators.

5. Regal fritillary populations appear to survive well under patch-burn grazing management despite some mortality from fire. This was one of our most important findings from this project, and it backs up similar results from Ray Moranz from Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa prairies. In fact, we worked with Ray to mimic his survey techniques to allow us to compare results more easily. In our prairies, we are certainly killing regal fritillary caterpillars with our spring burns. However, regals are doing very well in the unburned portions of our sites, which make up 2/3 to ¾ of the total area in most years. Could we have higher numbers of regals if we weren’t burning? Maybe, but we’d certainly see decreases in other species we also think are important, and it’d be much more challenging to keep invasive and aggressive plants at bay and create heterogeneous habitat structure.

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It was valuable to look at our prairies through the eyes of regal fritillary butterflies. We gained a greater appreciation for the importance of “weedy” plants such as the hoary vervain shown here. We also saw how well our restored prairies complement our remnants.

6. Our restored (formerly cropped) prairies appear to be complementing our degraded remnant (unplowed) prairies in terms of nectar resources. Most regal fritillary production – egg laying, larval feeding, and emergence as adults – seems to occur in thatchy portions of our remnant prairies, where we have high populations of violets (the sole food plant for larvae). However, once the adults emerge from their chrysalises and mate, they tend to spend much more time in our restored prairies, where the abundance of nectar plants is much higher. Since the main objective of our restoration work is to increase the effective size and function of our fragmented remnant prairies, this result is very encouraging.

7. While we looked only at butterflies for this project, we did some work with bees over the same period, and as we synthesize all of our pollinator work there are some apparent lessons that emerge. We know that to maintain plant diversity, it’s important to allow all desired plant species to bloom and complete their life cycles periodically. Because plant species respond differently to management treatments, that means varying those treatments from year to year. However, from a pollinator standpoint, it’s also important to stagger those management treatments across the landscape to maximize the availability and diversity of blooming plants for pollinators at any one time.

Because most bees, for example, have a very limited range of travel from their nest, haying or burning an entire 200 acre prairie at once would mean that the only plant species available for bees are those that do well under that management treatment. Since many bees are specialists on certain flower species, that can have important consequences for those bees, as well as for bees that need a variety of flower species in order to maintain steady food supplies. For bees and other pollinators (and likely many other species) it’s probably important to scatter a range of management treatments across space so that wherever a bee nests, there is a large variety of flowers available to it. However, I don’t know how to decide how many management units to use within a prairie, or how big each should be. I’ll explore this topic more in a future blog post.

Summary

As always, we still have a lot to learn about how to manage prairies for the diversity of species that live in them, as well as for overall ecological resilience. However, this project helped us better understand the impacts of our fire and grazing management on plant diversity and floristic quality. More importantly, it pushed us to look at the impacts of our management through the eyes of species other than plants – particularly butterflies. Overall, I think we’re doing well for both plants and butterflies, but we also learned some lessons that will help us tweak our management to benefit both.

Article From The Prairie Ecologist Website By Chris Helzer

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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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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/

The Prairie Ecologist Sunflower Article

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This is a Great Article from The Prairie Ecologist on Sunflowers Click Link Below

Prairie Ecologist Sunflower Party Time Article

 

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