By Tom Houser, Norfolk Botanical Garden Senior Horticulturist
June 20-June 27th 2016
In recognition of National Pollinator Week, I’d like to share some pictures of some of the pollinators that were visiting the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in my front yard last week. While I’ve always been a big fan of Butterfly Weed for its beautiful orange blooms and the fact that it’s a host plant for the Monarch butterfly, I realize now that I haven’t been giving it enough credit for its ability to attract native pollinators.
On the hot, sunny day as I took these photos, my plants were bustling with activity – primarily honeybees. They were easy to spot due to their almost leisurely movement as they collected nectar and pollen for their hives. But as I took a closer look, it was obvious that I had a tremendously diverse population on the plants in my yard. I watched bees, wasps, beetles, and flies hard at work. Some were looking for pollen, some were looking for nectar, some were even mating!
The biggest surprise I had that day was a visit from an American Snout butterfly. This was a real treat – I hadn’t seen one in my yard in over 5 years! I’ve always found them to be very skittish and hard to get pictures of, but this one was taking its time as it probed for nectar in the blossoms.
When I choose plants for my yard, I’m always looking for ones that are a functional part of our ecosystem – directly supporting our bees, birds and other wildlife. I planted the milkweed because it is the host plant for the Monarch butterfly, but now I know it’s not just a good pollinator plant, it’s an outstanding one. The fact that it’s gorgeous is just icing on the cake….
I hope you take the time to take a closer look at some of the plants in your yard this week to see what pollinators they’re supporting – I think you’ll be amazed at some of the activity! And if you come to NBG this week, please stop by and check out the Native Plant Demonstration Bed adjacent to the Butterfly House – the activity level is great, and it will only get better as the weather gets hotter!
Caption #1 Long Horned Bee (Genus Melissodes)
Caption #2 Leafcutter Bee (Megachile brevis)
Caption #3 4 Toothed Mason Wasp (Monobia quadridens)
Caption #4 Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens)
Caption #5 Syrphid Fly (Toxomerus marginatus)
Caption #6 Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papio polyxenes asterius)
Caption #7 American Snout Butterfly (Libytheana carinenta)
Caption # 8 Goldenrod Soldier Beetles (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus)
Caption #9 Carpenter Mimic Leafcutter Bee (Megachile xylocopoides)
Caption #10 Sweat Bee (Genus Halictus)
Caption #11 Common Blow Fly (Genus Calliphoridae)