13 July 2010

Blessed...bee the pollinators at work

This is one of those days that is not only hot, it's what my longsuffering spouse calls 'stinkin' hot', meaning there is not even a whisper of a breeze to stir the air and cool the spirit. After trying to do a little deadheading, I decided he was right, that it was too hot to do anything except look and listen. So I picked up my camera and went for a stroll around the gardens.

The first thing to catch my attention was a lovely, if speedy, hummingbird moth in the delphinium. He was speedier than me, and by the time I could switch settings, he had switched plants to somewhere I wasn't.

I don't spray the gardens with anything but water, or occasionally water mixed with liquid seaweed fertilizer (which I find deters the aphids that love the honeysuckles so much.) I know there are pesky critters around the gardens, but unless they happen to be a slug right in front of me, I just ignore them. Because for every critter that might be a nuisance, there are thousands that are beneficial. Even when they look like they might be naughty.

Disclaimer: I am not an entomologist. Not even close. I know the names of a couple handfuls of species, can recognize a bee from a wasp from a fly USUALLY (there are sneaky bee-mimics that can confuse) and know a few butterflies by name. But I know there are thousands (probably millions) of beneficial pollinator insects, and that's good enough for me. Like this handsome bee climbing around on the inula.

And some of the creatures hanging out on Astrantia 'Lola'. We'll see more of them in a few minutes.

Question: does anyone recognize this creature on the knautia flower? I've had them around for a few weeks, and they seem benevolent, though odd. You can't see this without maybe a higher resolution photo, but the antennae resemble those of moths, with fringes on them.

Addition: Thanks to Marguerite from Canoe Corner, who identified this for me as the black wing moth Ctenucha virginica. I always say bloggers are a wealth of information...this just proves my point. Thanks, Marguerite!

No pollinator on this veronicastrum when I snapped its photo, but a hummingbird had been zipping to flowers on another stem just seconds before. They're also very active little monsters today.

This lovely flowering allium (what species, I do not know, but it came from the Netherlands Bulb Info Centre last year) is about three feet tall, and happily festooned with a variety of flies and other visitors.

Did you know that astrantia is an umbellifer? Which is now called the Apiaceae family rather than the Umbelliferae (which is a far pretty and more descriptive name). Umbellifers include parsley, dill, carrots, Queen Anne's lace, and oh yes, that 'wicked' giant hogweed that the media has its knickers in a twist over. Must be a slow news week. Anyway, yeah, astrantia, also called masterwort, is related to all of those plants, but is one of the most lovely plants in my garden. And I think one of the more underused of perennials at least around here, although it's gaining in popularity every year as more people see how dandy a perennial it is. And the polilnators think it's dandy, too.

I think this is a bee-mimic fly, but whatever it is, it's enjoying the flowers on the Ilex verticillata, also known as winterberry or Canada holly. I just hope my males and females get their acts together and flower together, so there will be berries this fall.

Let's return for one more look at the astrantia. Oh, there are more visitors there. Despite my sticking my face (and my camera) right in their faces, no one got alarmed. And I never get stung by the bees who frequent our gardens. Maybe they know that I've put this all here for their use and pleasure. And vicariously, for my pleasure too.


  1. Beautiful blooms and critters. Those little buggers just fly away when I try to take their photos. Great photography.

  2. It has been very busy in the garden with the insects buzzing all over the place. Have not been able to get the hummingbird to stop long enough to snap a picture. Glad to see your garden is busy with insects.

  3. I just put together a post (hasn't even gone up yet!) that includes your critter on the knautia. It's a black wing moth called Ctenucha virginica. To my knowledge it's local to the east coast, though generally more southerly, and likes wild fields with flowers. I guess it's range is moving northward as global warming creeps up on us. Marguerite

  4. Great bug shots. You have such patience, and such nicely behaved bugs. Not one of these closeups looked threatening or malicious. Your blooms are beautiful, and the karma must be just right in your gardens. Nice!

  5. It does almost seem like the bees know you've planted for them. I've gotten very brave walking right through plants covered in bees and none have seemed bothered at all. I don't know many species either, but you sure managed to capture quite a few.

  6. I always say a healthy garden is full of bees and other pollinators. Yours is certainly healthy! The astrantia is lovely, and the insects obviously love it. I am happy to share my plants with the insects, unless they want to kill the plant - that's another story! I can't remember when I was stung by a bee, and there are plenty out there. I know people who get hysterical when they see an insect. What a shame.

  7. There are only two types of insects that make me really cross: mosquitos and slugs. And the swallows and frogs help deal with the mosquitos, while the slugs...well, I occasionally pick a few, or cut them in half with my trowel, but mostly, I just ignore the slug holes. Otherwise, if they're not going to kill the plant, they are welcome in the garden.

    A few years ago we had viburnum leaf beetles in the Highbush cranberry (V. trilobum) and I bought some B.t. to deal with them...but then the waxwings moved in and cleaned them up. And the monarchs arrived a few days later. I was very glad I hadn't done even a surgical strike on that one shrub. Nature balanced it out, and the viburnum was fine. Even the big population burst we had later that year of tussock moth caterpillars, though annoying, didn't prove harmful to anything. But I'm not growing food, either, so it's not like the world will end if rose sawflies eat the leaves of the David Thompson rose or slugs chew holes in some of the hostas. I'm very zen about those things. I do wish I could train the slugs to eat the goutweed...

  8. I love your strawberry coloured astrantia. I picked up a white one this year at a plant sale. I'm head over heels for it's flower!

  9. beautiful. I was surpised to learn how many types of bees there are and now I love hunting down the different types - like bird watching.

  10. Great pics. The delphinium is my favorite.

  11. Jody, Love your pic of the 'bee mimic fly' on the winterberry. But I believe you know more about insects than I do. Happy to say, you and I have the same philosophy about spraying. P.

  12. I just really love that background photo, Jodi. Really, really do. It's like looking through bottle glass.

  13. Oh, I'm sure the bees know you are their benevolent provider and would never think of stinging you. :) This is how I feel about my bees and yellow jackets and things in the garden. The only things that ever get me are the mosquitoes -- and I suppose they just can't help themselves. I'm their food, not the flowers. ;)

    Lovely pictures, Jodi. Your garden must be a pleasure to relax in, even in this heat!

  14. Bees! Bees! Bees! I'm so glad the focus is on the positive pollinators vs. the scarey stingers. I'm trying to teach my children not to be frightened, but they are rightfully so as we are horribly allergic. I started appreciating these necessary, busy creatures late in life, but do sincerely appreciate their hard work now. Great post!!

  15. Hi Jodi~~ It might be Allium tuberosum or Garlic Chives, although mine don't get quite three feet tall.

    So many tiny pollinators. Great photos.

  16. Lend us a few, we have a bee shortage an Idiot Towers. I think after years of garden neglect, they've learned to steer well clear. I am informed (by someone who might be knowledgable, or might not) that my empty bean conundrum was caused by a lack of bees!

    Slugs? I slice them in two as well!

  17. Lovely photos, Jodi! I don't know the names of many insects either, though I've learned quite a few just through blogging. And I usually can't tell the bad guys from the good guys--other than Japanese beetles, which have no redeeming qualities that I know of:) So there are no pesticides here either to make sure these happy pollinators stick around.

  18. It definitely is hot! Glad the bees are doing the pollinating job! We have few bees in our yard.


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