Two weeks ago, I posted about Yellow Season in prairies. That annual phenomenon continues, and at our family prairie this week, stiff goldenrod was front and center. Pollinators and pollen-eating insects seemed to approve.
Eastern-tailed blue butterflies were abundant on stiff goldenrod flowers. They were tricky to photograph, however, because at the slightest hint of danger, they flew from the flower and onto a nearby grass leaf where they sat facing directly away from the sun. I’m not sure if that was always a risk aversion tactic (hard to see them in the shadows when their wings weren’t catching sunlight) or also a heat management tactic (turning their giant solar panel wings away from the sun to cool off).
Blister beetles were enjoying meals of goldenrod pollen, but it’s not clear whether they were actually pollinating flowers. Some beetles eat parts of the flowers themselves, not just the pollen. I couldn’t tell if blister beetles were doing that or not.
Cucumber beetles (here) and soldier beetles (not shown) were also all over the place. Not much pollen sticks to these smooth beetles, so they probably don’t carry much from flower to flower.
Moths of various species were numerous, but wary, quick, and thus difficult to photograph. This is the only one I caught. (You can also see a bit of a soldier beetle in the lower left corner of the image.)
Gray hairstreaks were even more abundant than eastern-tailed blues this week. They also held still better, which was nice. You can see the long tongue at work on this one.
Bee flies are part of a family of flies called Bombyliidae, and and many have a long rigid proboscis and feed on pollen and nectar. Unlike a butterfly tongue, the fly’s proboscis doesn’t retract, so it just sticks straight out as the bee fly zips around. The best nickname I’ve heard for these creatures is “beewhal” (get it? it’s like “narwhal” but for a bee) which is just tremendous.
Often, when I post lots of pollinator pictures from a prairie walk, I also include a photo of a crab spider laying in wait for an unwary insect. This week I couldn’t find a single one! However, this big Chinese mantid was lurking about amongst the goldenrod plants, so that will have to do.