The Fellows and I made a quick trip to the Niobrara Valley Preserve last week to collect data. A recent scarcity of rain has turned the Sandhills brown and blooming wildflowers were hard to find. When Ashley and I came across a patch of plains sunflowers (Helianthus petiolaris) it was pretty clear it was acting as a magnet to a tremendous number of insects looking for pollen, nectar, and anything besides wilting plant material. Grasshoppers, in particular, were swarming all over the flowers. Here are some photos from that little patch of sunflowers.
I’m no expert when it comes to distinguishing between similar-looking grasshopper species. Whether this is the red-legged grasshopper ( Melanoplus femurrubrum) or just a grasshopper with red legs is not something I’m prepared to rule on. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO400, 1/200 sec, f/16.
These long-horned bees ( Melissoides sp) apparently spent the night on this sunflower and were poised to start feeding again as soon as they warmed and dried up. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 250, 1/60 sec, f/16.
Here’s a closer view of one of those long-horned bees. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, 1/100 sec, f/16.
This caterpillar was eating a sunflower seed like it was a cookie, which I’ve never seen before. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, 1/200 sec, f/16.
Howdy. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, 1/200 sec, f/13.
And hello to you too! Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, 1/400 sec, f/13
Grasshoppers like to keep a stem between themselves and large blundering mammals like me. Sometimes I try to get them to slide around so I can get a better photo. Other times I just go with it. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, 1/250 sec, f/11.
There were few sunflowers that had escaped the petal-munching grasshoppers. How can you be mad at that face, though? Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, 1/320 sec, f/10.
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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.
The green eyes on those long-horned bees are quite fetching!
THey remind me of Star Wars creatures! Love the close ups!
From Star Tribune:
Are bison the key to bringing back Minnesota prairies?
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