Upright yellow coneflower (Ratibida columnifera), aka Mexican hat, is blooming all over the Platte River Prairies right now. As with most showy flowers, the coneflowers are crawling with insects of many kinds. I spent a fun half hour (31 minutes, to be exact) last week, trying to photograph as many of those insects as I could before I had to pop into our field headquarters for a meeting.
I wrote about long-horned beetles last summer after photographing them on the same flower species. I think this one is Typocerus confluens, but I’m just guessing based on photos from last year. You might remember from last year that adult long-horned beetles feed on flowers, but larvae are wood borers or subterranean root feeders.
As is always the case in prairies (and nature in general), the closer you look, the more you see. The number of insect species feeding on this one flower (and, in some cases, pollinating it) is a great example of the complexity of life found in prairies. Complexity leads to resilience because there are multiple species that can play fill similar roles. If one species has a bad year, others will fill in for it. That redundancy helps keep all systems functioning all the time.
Hurray for complexity!