Photo of the Week – August 4, 2016

This Wednesday, I arrived at Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center southwest of Lincoln, Nebraska just as a heavy morning fog was beginning to dissipate.  I had about 10 minutes before a meeting, so I grabbed my camera, threw on some rain pants and waded into the wet grass.  Lanceleaf blazing star (Liatris lancifolia) was blooming in large patches in the restored prairie near the parking lot, so I wandered over to take a look.  A wet bumblebee was sitting on one of the flowering stems, waiting for the sun to dry it off.  Using a wide angle lens, I took several photographs of the bee and surrounding flowers, trying out some different angles and compositions.

Here’s the problem: I can’t decide which composition I like best.  So, as I’ve done many times before, I’m presenting them to you.  To be honest, this crowd sourcing method hasn’t been particularly helpful to me in the past, since there is rarely a strong majority among voters.  Being an eternal optimist, however, I’m going to keep trying. Plus, many of you seem to enjoy voting.

SO – tell me which of these you like best.  Please?  Thank you.

Bumblebee on blazing star. Photo #1.

Bumblebee on blazing star. Photo #1.

Bee and blazing star #2.

Bee and blazing star #2.

Bee on blazing star #3

Bee on blazing star #3

Bee on blazing star #4. (Vertical - just to complicate things)

Bee on blazing star #4. (Vertical – just to complicate things)

Photo of the Week – July 16, 2015

Scaly blazingstar (Liatris squarrosa) is just starting to bloom in the Platte River Prairies.  It has beautiful and intricate flowers with very long anthers protruding from its tiny blossoms.  At least it usually does…

Blazing star (Liatris squarrosa)  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Scaly blazingstar (Liatris squarrosa). The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

I was photographing some blazingstar flowers earlier this week when I saw one with a grasshopper sitting on it.  It sat still long enough for me to get a few photos of it.

Grasshopper on blazing star (Liatris squarrosa)  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

A grasshopper standing innocently(?) on top of scaly blazingstar.

Only when I looked the above photo on my computer screen did I notice the absence of most of the long white anthers I’d seen on other flowers.  Surely, I thought, it’s not a coincidence that the grasshopper is present but the anthers are not…?

Grasshopper on blazing star (Liatris squarrosa)  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

The grasshopper eating one of the long anthers.

Sure enough, looking back through my other images, I found one of the grasshopper eating an anther.  Caught red-handed!  (So to speak.)

Just because they are called “grass”hoppers doesn’t mean that’s all they eat.  In fact, many grasshoppers eat pollen and other parts of wildflowers.  Some are fairly specialized, while others are generalists in terms of the plant species they feed on.  Even among the grass-feeding grasshoppers, there is great variety in which grass species and which parts of those grasses each species eats.

For the sake of the scaly blazing star (and our seed harvest efforts this year), I hope at least some of the anthers survive uneaten so the plants can make seed.  As more flowers open, maybe their abundance will be more than the grasshoppers can keep up with.  At least in past years, we’ve usually gotten pretty good seed harvests from blazingstar, so I’m not too worried.

Just interested…