Photo of the Week – October 20, 2016

Rosinweed

Rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium) seeds hang tenuously to the flower head.  Lincoln Creek Prairie (Prairie Plains Resource Institute) in Aurora, Nebraska.

I stole an hour of photography time this week as a foggy morning worked its way toward a sunny afternoon.  The small restored prairie on the edge of town was a great place to explore. A few surprises awaited.  Though most flowers were well done with flowering, a few late ones were still in bloom – possibly plants that were injured earlier in the season and were trying to squeeze out a flower on hastily regrown stems.  Insects were surprisingly abundant – taking advantage of a day with temperatures in the high 60’s and rising.  Here is a selection of images from my prairie walk.

Late

Late goldenrod (Solidago gigantea)

More goldenrod

More goldenrod

Beetle

A tiny beetle takes advantage of a rare pollen dinner on a stiff goldenrod plant (Solidago rigida) that was flowering extraordinarily late.

Stink bug

This stink bug blends in wonderfully with the drying head of pitcher sage (Salvia azurea) it was exploring.

Giant milkweed bug

Giant milkweed bug on a common milkweed pod.

damselfly

There were quite a few damselflies feeding on tiny flying insects as I walked around.  They were difficult to get close to, though…

damselfly

After many failed attempts, I did finally manage to get close enough to a couple damselflies to get reasonable photos.  Here is one of them.

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.