Monday, September 2, 2013

Pollinator Watch

Hydrangea tardiva 'Unique' "B'bar is open!"  Multiple pollinators feeding on the nectar included ants, flies, beetles, bees, and wasps.

Chart of bee and bee-like creatures.

I've taken on a new fascination-- bee watching.  Right now the best locations in my garden for bee watching are the hydrangea tardiva 'Unique', plants of the sedum genus, caryopteris 'Dark Knight', and New York iron weed.

As I study these different pollinators I find it more difficult to correctly identify them than you would think.  Everyone thinks they know what is a bee, wasp, fly, grasshopper, or beetle (the categories I typically break these insects into); but you may be wrong if you thought this was a bee...
or this was a honey bee...

And then there is the issue of some possible hybrids, like Africanized honey bees... I swear I saw one of these, but I could not get a photo of it.  Point and shoot got me just very blurry images showing a color pattern similar to an Africanized bee.  Waiting for it in one spot, failed as well, no matter how still and furtive I was.  All told, that bee was frenetic, angry, unsatisfied with the floral offering; a bee in need of Ritalin.

Identification of bees versus other wannabees (get it?) comes down to looking at the wing pattern and the shape and look of their eye, antennae, and leg joint-ed-ness.  (decidedly NOT a word).  What tribe, species, or subspecies and or version like Italian, Russian, German is a matter of color pattern.  (Here you would think I was talking dressings or potato salad!)   Looking at pictures side by side it is easy to say, oh yeah Italian! But as you can guess, I'm having a hard time convincing them to stand still.
Not a bee or a wasp, this black insect was nearly 2" long.

A honey bee top left,a wild honey bee center, and a wasp to the right.

This bee, I think (or not), is less than 1/2", with a dark body and a halo of ginger colored body hairs and a very short abdomen.

Caryopteris is always popular.

An unusual red dragonfly, perhaps a darter or wandering percher dragonfly, I usually see the blue, green, and black sort.

This is a honey bee, probably from the hives next door.

I also saw a couple hummingbirds which I didn't attempt to photograph.  The hummingbirds were working over the nasturtiums and the last of the orange trumpet vine.  I have also noticed quite a few hawk moths working over flowers around dusk.  These were not the same flowers which attracted the bees and wasps.

Wearing the team "uniform", but this is neither a bee nor a wasp.


Horsefly (!)

Another wasp-like creature

Most of the bees I have are carpenter bees or orchard mason bees.  Both are good pollinators.

This is the most frequent pollinator seen in my garden at a 1:1 ratio with all other bees combined including my neighbor's honey bees, which I assume number 60,000+.
The air in evening around my borders is alive with pollinators.

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