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.


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.


Silvery Checkerspot

Silver-spotted skipper.

Aphids, which draw in…


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!

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!

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!

We’re late, but here’s a small mystery that was blooming back in April.

Post your guess what this is in the comments and we’ll be back later to check answers!



We had a correct guess! These are Dutchman’s Breeches–they look like little human trousers hanging out to dry. As our reader Sarasinart says, this spring wildflower blooms before the trees set leaves and while the sunlight still reaches the forest floor. Then they are gone–flowers and soon leaves–for another year.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a little plant we see coming up in any corner humans leave alone–and it’s still blooming, which is good for the bees.

But what is it?

I’ll check in for your guesses later!


This is one of those plants you see everywhere, but don’t really bother to find out what it is.Unless you are like Miz Flora. In fact, it grows really well in some areas.

This is a smartweed, thought some humans might tell you it’s a knotweed. They are both members of the Polygonum family. 75 different species of smartweed grow in North America, and they all have those little pink flowers at the ends of the growing stems, like this Polygonum we leaped across.

If the flowers were  growing from the leaf axils–like every spot a leaf emerges from a stem–it would be a knotweed. So keep your eyes peeled the next time you see a smartweed and see if it’s knotweed!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We’ve still got flowers around, and with no hard freeze, the insects are still visiting them.

Do you recognize this flower and / or the insect?

Give us a guessing the comments and I’ll pop back in to check your answers.


We had a correct guess today–this is a hoverfly (to the best of a squirrel’s knowledge about insects!) They are also known as syrphid flies, named from their family name, Syrphidae. Hoverfly tends to be an easier name to remember because it describes what they do–hover.

And they look so similar to bees! See, the black and yellow body is screaming Danger, get back! But the big eyes were a dead giveaway for Nutmeg  and I to figure out that this had to be a fly.

Hoverflies, in the adult fly form, eat nectar and pollen, feeding on wildflowers like these late-blooming asters. Since we are nearing that gruesome holiday that you humans love–Halloween–lets talk a bit about the larvae, which have a much more interesting feeding habits. Fly larvae are…do you remember? Maggots! Different species of the Syrphidae prey on other insects, very much like ladybugs eat aphids, while others eat decaying plants and animals, very much like vultures. That’s quite a family!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Ol’ Wally beat me to posting a mystery this week…but I’m okay with that because I had already told The Squirrel Nutwork blogging team that I couldn’t be around later today. So here’s the thing: if you didn’t see Ol’ Wally’s column on Thursday, ponder what you think this plant is:

Then go over to the Thirsty Thursday column and check your answer!

I should be back next week with a new mystery!

Thirsty Thursday

Folks, It’s late summer and the rains have been good to us lately. Lots of thick vegetation around the pods in our area. Perhaps you recognize some of these water-loving plants?

Yes, you might say I’m horning in a bit on Hickory’s mystery column…but that’s okay because he won’t be posting this Sunday.

The tall pink plant is Joe Pye Weed.

The shorter but brilliant red one is Cardinal Flower.

Both are good choices if you have a bit of a wet area. Water-loving plants can pull up the extra water in a spot like that and prevent mosquitos from laying their eggs.