Saturday, February 25, 2012

Robbers and cheaters and innocent bystanders

Bumble bee robbing nectar
Some flower visitors don't hesitate to rob nectar without paying their dues. They either don't bother or can't enter the flower the "legitimate" way, and thus, ensure picking up pollen along the way and delivering it to the next flower. Instead they take a shortcut, slashing the throat of the flower and going right to the source. Carpenter bees can be among the most notorious robbers because of their strong and sharp mouth parts that enable them to perforate the walls of a flower; but other large insects can be just as bad.

Abelia flowers with slashed throats
Tubular or trumpet shaped flowers are the most frequent victims of this larceny because their nectar is hard to reach. Here are some abelias that have been robbed. You can see the scar at the base of the flower.

Sometimes smaller bees or other insects take advantage of the shortcut and visit the wound, like this beetle, which also happens to parasitize the nests of bumble bees.

Sap-feeding beetle Epuraea aestiva
 In this case something more tragic happened. A small bug ventured deep inside the flower and became tangled, its legs sticking out of the hole, and unable to go in or out or turn around. I thought that I may be able to help it and by the way find out the identity of the victim; but my clumsy old fingers couldn't perform this delicate task. I never found out who this innocent bystander was. Any guesses?

An insect trapped inside the flower

List of articles
Beginners Guide to Pollinators and Other Flower Visitors

© Beatriz Moisset. 2012

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cisseps fulvicollis, a better known moth pollinator

It is nice to talk for a change about a moth pollinator that is a little better known. The yellow-collared scape moth or Cisseps fulvicollis, is an avid visitor of a large variety of flowers and it is large enough and colorful enough to be noticed by many.

The wings, head and appendages are slate-black. It has a bright collar, that it is usually orange, rather than yellow despite its common name. The body is metallic blue. It is considerably more common than its relative, the black and yellow lichen moth.

It has been reported nectaring at a wide array of flowers of different families, both during the day and after sunset. Milkweeds and asters are among the most commonly visited; also sunflowers, goldenrods, blazing stars and smartweeds. They take nectar from several of the eupatoriums, such as boneset and Joe-pye weed.
Their association with Eupatorium is interesting because these plants carry toxic alkaloids which seem to provide a defense against predators. It is usually the adult male that feeds on Eupatorium and it passes the toxins as a gift to the female when it mates. She, in turn, gives them to the eggs, protecting them from predators.

The caterpillars feed on grasses, rushes, corn, Eupatorium and Solidago (goldenrod)

See also: Yellow-collared scape moth
Cisseps fulvicollis. Bugguide

Moths as Pollinators
List of articles
Beginners Guide to Pollinators and Other Flower Visitors

© Beatriz Moisset. 2012