Photo of the Week – September 1, 2016

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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 have a rigid

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. This week I couldn't find a single one! However, there was this big Chinese mantid, which will have to do.

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.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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7 Responses to Photo of the Week – September 1, 2016

  1. Pat Halderman says:

    Chris, you did it again with your awesome photos of my favorite creatures! Great job. I especially love the photo of Chinese mantid. I see him/her saying, “What? Trying to eat here.”

  2. pathill682056510 says:

    Fantastic photos!

  3. Jamie Jacob says:

    It is 4:00 am and I am finally getting a moment to read your latest post. Just wonderful photos and narrative. A good time to contemplate all the things many of us miss as we move along our days.

  4. Sandra Douglas says:

    Wonderful!!! It is soooo yellow out there! :) I always learn from these, thank you.

    What are you and Bill doing this weekend?

    xox

    >

  5. Beth Hayden says:

    The little things in life can make it all so special; like these often overlooked little gems. Thanks for sharing, Chris!

  6. lcgreeny says:

    Chris I love your blog and especially the close up photos. One this week really struck me – the Chinese Mantid. I was born in Nebraska but have lived east of the Mississippi for most of my life. However, my cousins Jan and Bill Whitney (PPRI) keep us connected to the land and we get out there for a visit every once in a while. I’m writing because I would like to use the mantid picture for a quilt. It would be a small art quilt that would recreate your photo in fabric. Let me know if that would be OK. On my label I would give you credit for the image and inspiration. Thank you for your consideration. Kathie Greenwold lcgreeny@aol.com

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