Thursday, August 13, 2015

Check Your Calendar

If you take a look at your phone you will see that your calendar is already well into 2016,  impossible as it seems.  You’ve probably scheduled LRN river cleanups, dentist appointments, birthdays, recitals, concerts, LRN Oyster Roasts, weddings - yes, her. again. - and on and on.  But for many in the class of pollinators we have been looking at, the calendar is genetic and 2016 is another generational brood.

Years ago, as part of a science project for our daughter, we harbored a praying mantis in our home.  “Manty” enjoyed pretty much the run of the house, but tended to stay near the plant where the crickets were delivered by the giants.  Eventually, Manty created her egg case (known scientifically by the delightful name ootheca) on one of our indoor plants and then, almost immediately, stopped eating.  No cricket would tempt her.  And that was that.  There was much inconsolable wailing at Manty’s operatic funeral, and she went to her rest in a cotton-lined box.

Such is the precision of this biological clock that whole sets of specialized predator species, such as this Great golden wasp, having done their work, vanish from the garden seemingly all at once.  This species this week, that one the next.  The end process for them all is very similar to that of Manty.  It is fairly quick.

Some of the smaller bees, especially where they exist in large numbers, do an enormous amount of pollinating because of the relatively large quantities of grains they accumulate on their legs and abdomens and transport throughout a flower population.
The two shown are a tiny sweat bee and longhorned bee.  Bee identification can be tricky and confusing, but there are fantastic online resources available.  Google Images and are a good place to start.  

Larger animals, including this cicada killer wasp, contribute relatively little to pollination in the scheme of things and more to helping control the cicada population.  These wasps can be found in abundance in places where annual cicadas emerge in large numbers.  When they stop by your garden they add a dramatic touch to the scene.

From a distance, many people would mistake this flower fly for some kind of bee, and that’s the idea.  Flower flies are noted for their specialized mimicry of bees and wasps which makes them less attractive to predators.  Some members of this class of flies remain functional year round in Lynnhaven watershed, becoming active whenever the temperature exceeds 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

You are likely to notice ants scurrying along on just about any flowering plant in your garden, but it is not thought that they actually contribute much to general pollination.
Bumblebees, on the other hand, distribute pollen from just about every part of their body, and a beautiful work environment.

Of course, everyone wants butterflies around.  If you have the space and the sunshine you can attract just about any species you want. Sulphurs are abundant and hardy and several swallowtail species - this is a Red-spotted Purple - like open shade, a situation very common in the neighborhoods along the river.

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