Sunday, March 15, 2015

Diurnal Floral Visitors

This past week has been overcast, and this weekend finally climaxed into heavy rain. Bees were somewhat active in the beginning of the week, and I made a few recordings of them here and here.  The first is a honeybee on a white hyacinth, the second video shows honeybees gathering water from the dew formed on the hairy leaves of a type of Trifolium (clover). Pollinator activity was relatively low, many bees just did not want to reveal themselves and preferred to stay in their nests. The weather did not stop a variety of other insects from foraging, particularly earlier in the week before the weather really turned grey. Here are my observations for the past week:

Prunus sp.
Still almost nothing. Even in the early half of the week when the weather was nicer, all I observed was a few honeybees. This is one of the trees in front of my work, in a semi-industrial zone with a neighborhood surrounding it. This tree should be teeming with insect foragers. This lack of an observation is significant.

Prunus sp.
The flowers are very nice, and the tree emits a strong musky fragrance, a likely indicator of heavy nectar production. A single housefly and only a smattering of bees were all I have seen in a week of flowering. This is very wrong, an indication that we are doing it wrong. Planting for bees, or other pollinators just may not be enough to make a difference. Water sources, diversity in fauna and flora, and habitat are what pollinators need, and what a healthy ecosystem needs. A single specimen, or even ten mature flowering trees like this one is insufficient. A full year of a diversity of flowers is what we need to aim for, not "interest", a word used very much in the nursery and landscaping trades. If we are going to keep displacing wild land (exponentially growing population and whatnot), we should at least feed the locals (pollinators, birds, etc.) to support a healthy diverse ecosystem in the process. This is an issue I contemplate often.

Prunus sp.
Meanwhile, alongside the train tracks and a small creek on my way home, I came across a group of shrubby plum trees, perhaps planted long ago and forgotten. The flowers are white and far apart, possibly the suckers of a now long dead grafted pink flowered clone like the tree in the first two pictures. Also, the sun was already over the hill. Nonetheless, bumblebees, flies, beetles, and ants were all making use of the flowers. This is good, the conditions here are righteous!

Arctostaphylos viscida
Back at home, the manzanitas are in full bloom, and everyone is happy. A multitude of bees, small and large, fast and faster, are rejoicing in the bounty of floral resources after so long with nothing! Unfortunately, the bees were just too quick for clumsy me and my camera, but I assure you, they were there! This strange fly (?) was unbothered by my presence, and continued to feast.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Similar to the above, this ground covering manzanita is of interest to many bumblebees and flies. This unfamiliar-to-me insect was taking refuge in the relative safety of the subshrub. I couldn't say whether this insect was there for the floral rewards, so I will not call it a "floral visitor", just a visitor.

Anemone blanda with hoverfly
In the garden, the windflowers are in full bloom, and have been useful to both honeybees and hoverflies. I am not sure if the flowers produce nectar, as a few old literary sources state they do not. Hoverflies are pollen eaters, and may only imbibe nectar on rare occasions in the warmer months on shallower flowers like those in the Apiaceae, or carrot family.

Anemone blanda with hoverfly
I'm pretty lucky when I can get this close to a syrphid fly. They are very skittish and will jet at the slightest interpretation of a hint of a threat. Probably a good adaptation, life is dangerous when you're small, especially when you are stuffed with protein-rich pollen.

Narcissus with Diabrotica undecimpunctata
Spotted cucumber beetles are relatively harmless in my garden, and are common in many flowers, particularly yellow ones. Large daffodils are good refuges to many beetles and earwigs, as well as offering some floral rewards. Many beetles eat pollen (some drink nectar), while others meet en masse on some types of flowers to mate, and accidentally pollinating the flowers in the process. Such is the case in some species of Tulipa, though beetle pollination is not documented as being common, if at all, in the genus Narcissus.

Narcissus (jonquil hybrid) with flower beetles
Small spotted flower beetles have been highly attracted to this fragrant jonquil. I saw nearly ten beetles inside this single flower, perhaps they were there to mate. Their small size relative to the flower and the reproductive parts makes them unlikely to be effective as pollinators to these Narcissus types, even for the smallest ones I grow, N. 'Tête-à-Tête'. I observed them last year on another highly fragrant jonquil type. Interesting...

No comments:

Post a Comment

If leaving a comment as "Anonymous," please leave your name or contact information.