Fall is upon us…

With the dry weather and slightly cooler temperatures in our suburban neighborhood of Washington, D.C. we squirrels feel that fall has descended. After all, it’s only a few more days until the autumnal equinox!

The fall plants like this Wingstem are certainly showing off and putting their last efforts at getting their seeds developed. Good for them, and the bees, too!

Advertisements

Coneflowers and Bumblebees

Last year we told you about the humans in our neighborhood planting more native plants in a common space, including coneflowers. Those are coming along and the additional flowers seem to be attracting more bumble bees.

Or maybe it’s that we are on the lookout for them more since hearing they are in trouble.

Anyway, here’s one that Hickory and I watched and then made a second stab at looking up on Bumble Bee Watch.

As we said before, you have to see the head, the thorax and all the segments of the abdomen to make an identification. And those bees move fast! Unless they are taking a nap…this one wasn’t. But he was very intent on getting his nectar so we were able to sneak around the flower.

We discovered that this one’s ‘black’ abdomen wasn’t.

See those two segments that are brownish-red? We think this is a Brown-belted Bumblebee, not only from our Bumble Bee Watch identification, but also from this poster put together by Pollinator Partnership.

It’s nice to see all of the bees in our area at once. On paper, we mean, not in real life!

Here’s the link to the Pollinator Partnership posters. They are out of this one, but it’s still there to look at and read more details about each bee to help with your identifications.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize these leaves?

Hint: The plant is blooming nw, but we bet you’d recognize it!

Give us a guess in the comments.

~~~

Another hint: This is the plant in bloom.

It’s a shrub native to the southeast of North America, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia. A lot of humans seem to be planting them for their nice flowers and pretty fall leaf color. In the wild, the shrub grows in the understory, but does best in light shade to full sun.

Make sure it has forest-like rich soil and steady moisture. We squirrels haven’t seen insects or birds attracted to the Oakleaf Hydrangea, nor can we find any references to it being attractive to wildlife. Any real life stories out there?

Have you seen a swallowtail?

No kidding, years ago, we’d see dozens of these big guys. This year, this tiger swallowtail is the first we’ve seen in this bushy garden. True, the these Joe Pye Weed flowers just began blooming, but the dogbane has been in flower for a month and attracting all kinds of bees… Just no butterflies.

What’s your swallowtail count?

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!

May is for Mayapples

It’s nearly the end of May and we haven’t posted a single Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum.

Ms. Flora isn’t pleased, but the rains have gotten us off schedule. So here you go!

For those not familiar, this very different, umbrella-like leaf is the Mayapple plant.

Those broad leaves hide a flower that blooms only if the Mayapple is old enough to have two leaves. Look very carefully here and you’ll see the flower growing from the axil of the leaves.

A single and sometimes double flower–if pollinated–then produces the ‘Mayapple’ – a little fruit that is poisonous, except when it is ripe.

How can you tell it’s ripe? By smell, of course. Humans aren’t good at this, so don’t try. Just put this on your poisonous list.

But if you see box turtles or other critters taking a bite, don’t be alarmed. It’s a spring treat!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

What is this shrub?

Put your guesses in the comments and I’ll check back later!

~~~

This new shrub joins others in out neighborhood, but this time the humans put it in full sun! Ms. Flora says that’s okay–Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginica, can tolerate both. It even tolerates out heavy Virginia clay soil–but as the name should tell you, that’s because it’s native to Virginia!

The shrubs in the sun definitely has more flowers. The ‘spires’ bloom from the inside out, so it seems to bloom for a very longtime.

Pretty little star flowers. They seem to be attracting insects, but we haven’t had a whole lot of butterflies around this year, which makes us sad. Everyone, we hope you keep planting flowers to feed those bees and butterflies! Virginia sweetspire is supposed to be a easy one to keep and be interesting for humans all year long. We squirrels just want berries, but this doesn’t seem to provide any. Nevertheless, have a look at what else the Piedmont Master Gardeners have to say about it!

Tulip trees are in bloom!

We squirrels ran across a tulip tree growing along a street, and guess what? It had branches all up that side that get sun.

Why is this important? Because it was blooming!

You humans have to realize how rare that is to see these flowers that are usually at the uppermost reaches of the canopy! We do! So here is a real treat to see the tulip-like tree flowers we talked about back on our April 23rd T is for Tulip Tree post.

And there are many more buds to provide the bees with these large pools of honey over the next week or so!