Bluest of the Blues!

Wow, this Common Grackle beats out the bluebirds and blue jays for brilliance when the sun hits his feathers!

On a Milkweed

Insects–including insect pollinators!–flock to milkweed!

Tiger Swallowtail

Monarch laying her eggs.

The caterpillars will feed on the leaves and the butterflies on the nectar.

Large Milkweed bugs, which look like this as juveniles and…

growing up…

and this as adults.

Skippers.

Silvery Checkerspot

Silver-spotted skipper.

Aphids, which draw in…

Ladybugs.

Not to be confused with the Milkweed Leaf Beetle, which eats the leaves, not their pests.

Of course with all this bug activity, you will see spiders.

And even ants!

Of course, the insect most humans are interested in these days: Honeybees.

But don’t forget the native bumblebees!

There is room enough for both on these hundreds of little flowers!

Plant milkweed as an anchor for insects your garden!

Happy Pollinator Week!

Yes, pollinators have the support of a week dedicated to them, just like squirrels do! (That shows you how important they are. Squirrel Week IX was back in April when we were doing out Blogging From A to Z Challenge, so we, um, missed it.)

Pollinator Partnership sponsors this activity to coordinate events and raise awareness about the need for pollinator health.

We’ve tried to do that here, without any coordination, and we trust that our human readers are interested in keeping our natural world healthy, not just squirrels activities. We put out a bee and wasp quiz after featuring bees in 2016. This is a fun look at our most common bees and was a lot of work for Hickory to collect for a Mystery post, so we will just post that here for you to return to: One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve — Bee Quiz.

Pollinators aren’t just bees…so maybe we will get together another post–quiz?– by the end of pollinator week. But for today, we have some bee identification resources for you.

In that bee quiz, we suggested using the Native Bees of North America on Bug Guide to identify your bees. We’ve found another site specific to Bumble Bees that is more detailed in breaking down each part of the bee that you need to look at to make an accurate identification: Bumble Bee Watch. You can even submit your bumblebee photos and go through the guided key to identify your local species.

We gave it a go, because Hickory and I have pretty good photos, right? Hmm. Take this group of the same bee foraging on a Purple Turtlehead.

We know the location, the date, the plant the bee is on. We have a great view of his side and tip of his abdomen. But the bee face is missing! And so is the very top of the bee’s thorax. And we can’t see how the yellow bands merge with the black ones, which can take many, many shapes. You need to have these bee parts to identify the bee!

Bumble Bee Watch has a very clear tips on how to photograph bees for identification. We get close enough–bumble bees are focused on getting their nectar and pollen supplies when they visit a flower, so don’t worry about being stung. But in the future, we will take more photos from different angles–especially if the bee is on the flower for as long as this one was!

Bumble Bee Watch has a nice gallery of dozens of bumblebees showing their identification features, flowers, and range. So even if you don’t submit a photo, you can learn a lot!

Have you tried to identify a bee? What resources did you use? We’re sure we haven’t found them all yet!

Firefly season!

The lightning bugs are out and lighting up our evenings, but we bet most humans recognize these beetles even in the daytime.

Did you know that fireflies are sensitive to light pollution? The flashes they give are signals to the opposite sex that they’d like to get together. But if they can’t see each other… No more fireflies. And like other insects, they also have to deal with pesticides and development of the fields and woods they live and lay eggs in.

Lots to think about these days. I keeps us happy to know that our readers are thinking of wildlife and working out ways to live alongside us and other creatures.

Bluebirds Return

We squirrels may forget where we buried our acorns, but it seems like our local bluebirds haven’t forgotten where the good eats are!

The Eastern Bluebirds were chased out of nesting in the backyard nest box they used last year by a pesky House Sparrow–here’s the guilty party.

The humans decided not to let the sparrows–or the catbird!–get a foot in the door and blocked the box.

Wherever the bluebirds reared their young must be close by. The parents have brought the young by to find food!

Maybe a pair will get a chance next year!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this guy?

If so, give us your guess in the comments! I’ll be back to check answers!

~~~

This ‘ladybug-look-alike’ is a Milkweed Leaf Beetle! But unlike ladybugs that eat aphids, these beetles feed on the milkweed leaves.

The Milkweed Leaf beetle can be found on a number of milkweeds, the Common Milkweed shown here, as well as Swamp Milkweed…

and we’ve seen them on Butterfly Weed.

If you inspect any one of these milkweed plants, you’re sure to find many different kinds of orange and black insects. The Bug of the Week website has more about the Milkweed Leaf beetle and these other milkweed community insects.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

This brilliant flower has been blooming the last few weeks. Any guesses what it is?

Post in the comments and I’ll check back later!

~~~

We have a guess in the comments that really let us see how deceiving this photo is–sorry friends! Here’s a closer look (the petals in this wildflower are all the same size and shape)

This is Clasping Venus’s Looking Glass, Triodanis perfoliata, a native to all of North America. It sends up a thin stem 1 to 3 feet that has small, ‘clasping’ round leaves up it. From every leaf axil, a purplish flower forms. We squirrels couldn’t manage to capture that tall look, but there are many photos on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website that show what the plant looks like.

It’s the kind of plant that seems to grow among grass and other plants in woodland clearings, and  is an annual plant. It grows from seed each year in a new place. We don’t take notice of too often– then a bit of purple jumps out at Ms. Flora and we have to post it!