Monday afternoon, I looked out my window and noticed the sky was covered by a combination of diffuse clouds and some hazy smoke, creating some beautiful soft lighting. The wind was light too, so I was obligated (OBLIGATED) to stop working on other projects and take my camera out for a walk. I mean, whaddya gonna do?
I headed across town to Lincoln Creek Prairie and spent a pleasant hour with flowers and inverts. During that time, I spent quite a while watching one particular butterfly milkweed plant. A small wasp was intent on feeding from the flowers and would repeatedly forage for a while, fly off a few feet, and then return. There was also a lynx spider hanging around on the same set of flowers and it looked to me like the two might run into each other eventually.
The other reason I stayed with the scene is that I was trying to figure out what, exactly, the wasp was doing. Normally, when I see insects feeding on milkweed flowers, they seem to be extracting nectar from the tops of the flowers. This wasp was focusing very intently near the bottoms of the flowers. It would approach a flower and cling to it for a few seconds before moving to the next. Even through my macro lens, I couldn’t quite tell what it was up to, but I assumed it was accessing nectar.
This made me realize that I don’t actually know exactly where the nectar is stored in a milkweed flower or what openings might exist from which hungry invertebrates can extract it. I tried to find diagrams online but didn’t have any luck. Any milkweed flower anatomy experts out there? I’m guessing this wasp was chewing through the flower to get to the nectar, but that’s just guesswork since I don’t even know where the nectar was!
Regardless, the meeting of spider and wasp did eventually occur, but nothing very exciting happened. The wasp seemed to ignore the spider and nudged it a little (accidentally?) as it moved between flowers. The spider seemed a little startled, but didn’t try to attack the wasp – it just scooted itself over a smidge and both went on with their lives. I guess the wasp, which was about the same size as the spider, didn’t fit the spider’s profile for a prospective meal. Fair enough.
A few minutes after I left that butterfly milkweed plant, I stopped at another and photographed the stilt bug shown below. I don’t have any other stories to tell about the stilt bug. It was just sitting in a way that was photogenic and it let me get close enough to photograph it. I liked the photo, so I threw it into this post. How about that for an anticlimactic end to this post?