Recently in pollinators Category

Flower Power -- Welcome, Pollinators!


It's National Pollinator Week! Pollinators work so hard -- they deserve a week of honor! So let's celebrate our hard-working garden buddies that visit our flowers and help them reproduce. Below you'll find some tips for supporting pollinators, and over at Beautiful Wildlife Garden you'll see some pollinator fun facts I collected. Hurray for bees, bats, birds, moths, flies, butterflies, and beetles!


Megachilid (Leaf-Cutter Bee) on sunflower

About 90 percent of our flowering plants, in addition to so many of our food crops, need animal pollinators to help them produce fruits and seeds. Because of habitat loss and chemicals being used in the environment, many of our pollinators are in serious trouble.

Here's how you can help:

  • Plant a diversity of plants native to your region.
  • Avoid pesticides and herbicides.
  • Limit lawn areas and instead provided a connected habitat of trees, shrubs, and perennials.
  • Have a water source that allows small pollinators to drink safely.
  •  If you plant non-natives, make sure they are not invasive in your area. Remember that cultivars are not always used by pollinators. For example, flowers that have many more petals than normal might not be accessible by the pollinators that would have visited the original native species. Likewise, nectar and pollen in cultivars might be altered enough to be no longer attractive to pollinators.
  •  Plan for blooms throughout the seasons. Redbuds are early bloomers, while Goldenrod, Gayfeather, Gaura, Sages, Frostweed, and others bloom right up into November. Of course many wildflowers and perennials bloom right through spring and summer!
  • Plant caterpillar host plants, leave some bare patches of earth for digger bees, and set out bee boxes -- help keep the cycle of pollinators going!
  • If you can, provide moist dirt areas to invite butterfly puddling.
  •  Keep a little untidiness -- this provides shelter for pollinators!


Snowberry Clearwing Visiting Peach Blossoms

giantswallowf05-30-11.jpgGiant Swallowtail on Purple Coneflower

Pollinators are all different -- some have long tongues and visit tubular flowers, while others have short tongues and visit flat or small flowers. But that's not all....

Bees love white, yellow, or blue flowers. That's why sunflowers and many crop flowers are so popular with bees.

Hummingbirds are frequent visitors of red, orange, and white flowers. Did you know that white-winged doves are also pollinators? They pollinate saguaro plants in the Sonoran Desert.

Butterflies are attracted to bright flowers, often red or purple, and they will visit flat flowers and flowers with narrow tubes.

Moths love white, pink, and pale flowers with sweet scents, particularly those that emit scent at night. Some moths, like Snowberry Clearwings, are diurnal.

Beetles visit white or green bowl-shaped flowers. They aren't the most efficient pollinators, but they still count!

Bats like white, green, and purple flowers that have strong odors at night. Our bats in Central Texas eat insects, but in other areas, different bat species are key pollinators for agave, cactus, and other plants.

Flies are generalist pollinators -- they visit lots of different plants. Consider them friends!


Hummingbird visiting Flame Acanthus

A diversity of native plants is absolutely the key to helping pollinators. There are fantastic planting guides available to help you choose great plants to attract specific types of pollinators, and you can also see suggestions for ongoing blooms throughout the seasons.


Honeybee visiting a sunflower


Join us in celebrating our pollinating friends, and do what you can in your own garden to help protect and support them!

TX Mountain Laurel Brings Out the Pollinators


GSmtnlaurela03-17-11.jpgBeautiful mountain laurels in full bloom caught my eye during a recent visit to the Canyon Lake area, and I had to venture over to get a whiff of the grape-scented fragrance emitted by the flowers. Intoxicated by the scent, I paused to look around and realized that I wasn't the only one enjoying the blooms.

GSbeeonmtnlaurela03-17-11.jpgAt first the honeybees caught my eye, especially as my ears sensed them, as well. They really had to push their way in to get at the nectar. If I were a bee, I would have worked hard to get in there, too -- it smelled divine.

GSbeeonmtnlaurelb03-17-11.jpgA hoverfly rested briefly on a seedpod.

GShoverfly03-17-11.jpgIt was difficult to catch a picture of a hoverfly in the air -- they didn't hover much that day. Too busy trying to get energy refuels, I guess. But I'm fond of this motion shot, blurry that it is:


But the showstoppers of the day were the native bees, in this case metallic blue leaf-cutting bees. Dr. Jack Neff, a native bee specialist, tells me that they are likely female Osmia ribifloris, the bluest of our early season Osmia.

GSbluebeea03-17-11.jpg In the photo above, the bee has darker hairs on its upper thorax, while the bee below sports white pollen on her upper thorax and head hairs, with bonus yellow pollen "socks" (or at least "legwarmers")."


But as you can see in the next photo, the real pollen-gathering spot for this bee and other members of the Megachilidae family is on the ventral side of her abdomen, where little hairs hold the pollen she collects. This specialized area for pollen transport is called the scopa.

GSbluebeec03-17-11.jpgAccording to Dr. Neff, these lovely blue leafcutters apparently like to utilize old organ pipe mud dauber nests for their own nests, and they'll chew leaves to make a green paste that they'll then use to plug the nest holes. Clever little natives. 

GSbluebeed03-17-11.jpg Beauties, these little bees. I feel lucky that I got to observe them for a time.

GSbluebeee03-17-11.jpgGetting back to the Mountain Laurel, inside those seed pods are the Mescal beans, as the seeds are often called, and they're bright red and highly toxic. Some people like to take the seeds, rub them on a sidewalk to build up heat from friction, then burn the person next to them. Ouch.

GSmtnlaurelseed03-17-11.jpgThe Texas Mountain Laurel is a slow-growing, small, evergreen Texas native tree. It thrives in our Texas weather and soil and on "not being messed with" -- as in plant it and then leave it alone. Since this method of gardening works for me, I have three now and counting.

Peachy Keen


If I'd realized how unbelievably stunning peach blossoms were, I'd have planted one a long time ago. I might have to do that come winter. Just imagine -- gorgeous blooms AND delicious fruit... I'll ponder on that as I'm working in the garden this spring. I took these images while at Natural Gardener just over a week ago.



GSpeachc03-17-11.jpgA Snowberry Clearwing Moth was enthralled with the blossoms, too, but for tasty nectar.


Peachy keen!

Content Again


My initial shock and dismay over the vast destruction laid to my Cinnamon Sun sunflowers and Zexmenia by millions and gazillions of caterpillars all at one time were fortunately temporary emotions, and I've adjusted to this new level of habitat. I'm back to feeling happy, content, and utterly pleased. The butterflies fluttering about the garden today are more numerous than I'd ever dreamed of (I'm still astounded by this, I admit), and they swept me up in waves of joy and peace. Soon, all those hundreds of ravenous Bordered Patch caterpillars that caused me momentary freak-out will create an even more amazing butterfly scene -- who can argue with that?

So I won't dwell on the skeleton leaves and plant carcasses they are leaving behind and I will instead rejoice in the fact that most of the plants so far are surviving and putting on a beautiful bloom display -- 30 blooms almost entirely on one Cinnamon Sun plant alone. I get to report on new butterflies in the garden, as well, and also bees and spiders, and this habitat mama is happy as a clam.

If ever there was a question about sunflowers being so aptly named, I present this photo as a clear argument for the appropriateness. It shows the fiery side of the sun in flower form. In fact, I almost named this post Sunrise or Sunset after this shot, because that's what it makes me think of, but I actually took this in the middle of the day, so it would be cheating.


As I hovered around my sunflowers, alternating between pictures of blooms and caterpillar damage, I was joined by hummingbirds just a few feet away at the Standing Cypress, flying closer to me than ever and completely ignoring me. I missed the snapshot, though, because the two hummingbirds suddenly had one of their feisty spats and flew off. I'm not sure they even realized how close to me they were.

And then I saw the bees at the sunflowers, and my attention turned back to the fiery blazes before me. These weren't honeybees -- they were "Yellow Butt Bees" as I called them when I first saw them (Please don't think that's their real name! I was just distinguishing them from the similarly-sized honeybees we all know. Besides, perhaps "Yellow Belly" would be more appropriate; I can hear Yosemite Sam now calling them Yellow-bellied Varmints... except they are no varmints!). The best I could do was try to get some pictures in the poor light so that I could ID them later. I believe they are the species Megachile perihirta. Western Leafcutter Bees. Texas natives, woot.

cinnsunbeeb07-05-10.jpg Why are they called Leafcutter Bees? Well, they cut small little circles out of leaves and use the pieces to fashion little nest cells, adding to them some nectar and pollen for the eggs they'll lay. These solitary bees are some of the bees that benefit from Bee Boxes.

cinnsunbeec07-05-10.jpgAt one point, one of the bees looked straight at me. The little bee looks so cute that it seems unreal -- my son actually thought I stuck the bee image onto the photo. I like to think that it was posing for the camera and not considering me a momentary threat. In any case, it was cute enough to become a header shot for the blog page (scroll up and click refresh if you'd like to see it).


At the same time as their larger cousins, tinier native bees were also busy at work. They are harder to see, crawling in and out of the little flower parts.

cinnsunbeed07-05-10.jpg cinnsunbeee07-05-10.jpgThese native bees are the best pollinators a garden could ask for. Hugs to them all.

Back at the Gregg's Mistflower in the Spider's Favorite Locale, a spider reigns queen predator. I believe she is a Banded Garden Spider, Argiope trifasciata. And I think she might be the very same spider I found in the same spot a couple of weeks ago, perhaps then a juvenile and now mature (I've edited that post). She's a beauty, and highly successful in her predator talents. She had four wrapped-up carcasses that she was very focused on, and within hours she had consumed them, removed them, and repaired the web, ready for more.

She's as beautiful on her upper exterior...

  bandedgardenspidera07-04-10.jpgas she is underneath. In fact, I shot the picture below first before I even realized she was facing away from me.

bandedgardenspiderb07-04-10.jpgI spy what might be pollen seeping through the silk encasing -- might that be another bee? Gah. The nature of nature, once again.

To follow up on the Bordered Patch butterflies, I'm happy to report that they do eat Straggler Daisy, or Horseherb. In fact, there are already other groups of them out there munching away. The ones in the picture below are a little too small for me to identify for sure as Bordered Patch, but they are surely related, at the very least.

caterpillarsonhorseherb07-04-10.jpgI took a few of the more severely devasted sunflower leaves still covered with tons of caterpillars and relocated the little crawlies to the Horseherb for a dietary change, and so far so good. There are still many dozens on the sunflowers, but I feel better about all the plants' chances at this point. And as I mentioned last time, I've got plenty of Horseherb to go around. I also discovered even more groups of young caterpillars on the Zexmenia, but those plants are fairly well established and are thus on their own. I read that one Bordered Patch female can lay 500 eggs -- now I understand why I have such an invasion of munching munchers.

The older caterpillars are looking quite interesting, now that they are getting large.

borderedpatchcat07-05-10.jpgHmmm. Another caterpillar discovery. I have Genista moth caterpillars munching on one of my Texas Mountain Laurels, and eggs on another. But from what I read, the laurels should be okay. There are so many mountain laurels here in Austin, Texas, and they all do okay, right? The damage is ugly, though, but not devastating. I think. Hmmm, I feel the inkling of worry again...

genistacaterpillars07-04-10.jpg   genistacaterpillarb07-04-10.jpgI'm not sure whether these are Genista eggs, but I suspect they could be.

eggsonmountainlaurel07-04-10.jpgWhile I was walking around outside, something large moving by caught my eye. At first I thought it was a bird, but then I realized it was a butterfly. From a distance I couldn't tell whether it was a Giant Swallowtail or an Eastern Tiger, but it was definitely huge. And then it came down right by me for a nectar feast on the butterfly bush. An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Yay!


It's the first time one has stayed still long enough for me to get a non-blurry picture. The sun was too harsh, but I'll take what I can get. I continue to have a wary eye on the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii, a non-native with a questionable reputation), but it earned big points when that Eastern Tiger landed upon it.

easterntigerb07-05-10.jpgI'm still waiting on my Giants to emerge from their chrysalises. I'm getting nervous, as I always do. 

Buckeyes are here now! New visitors to the garden. So beautiful.

buckeye07-04-10.jpgAnd I still can't resist the charm of the Cinnamon Sun sunflowers. More pictures must be posted.

cinnsunc07-5-10.jpg cinnsunb07-5-10.jpg

cinnsund07-5-10.jpgSee what I mean?

Humming a Tune in the Garden


I'm so pleased -- the hummingbird feeders have been getting a lot of birdie traffic!

hummera06-29-10.jpg Do you see the pollen on the little hummingbird's beak above? Someone has been visiting flowers! Hurray for our flying, humming pollinators.

I've tried again and again to get a good picture of a hummingbird visiting one of our blooms -- usually they come out blurry because the birds dart off so fast. And then this morning...

hummerc06-29-10.jpg The little lady usually doesn't let me get too close when she's at a bloom -- she is much more tolerant when she's at the feeder. Perhaps she's getting used to me and will let me get more flower shots, given the progress above. She used to visit the Salvias, but when the Standing Cypress started blooming, it became her favorite.

The Cinnamon Sun has produced a lovely bouquet. All the flowers are still above the roofline, though. I'm waiting for the lower buds to open up so I can really study the blooms easily.

cinnsuns06-29-10.jpg We've had a bit of rain with the tropical systems happening in the Gulf of Mexico -- it made for a pleasant relaxed time in the garden. This male Queen butterfly took a long rest on a lantana.

queenmale06-29-10.jpg How do you ID a Queen, and a male from female? Many people often mistake Queens for Monarchs, easy to do because they really are lookalike cousins. Soldiers make it even more confusing, and then there are the mimic Viceroys, too! Take a look at the photo again, this time with labels.

queenmaleID06-29-10.jpg If you'd like more info on IDing the lookalike cousins, click here.

Also resting on the Lantana was this handsome damselfly. I'm needing a nap, just watching these guys. Perhaps the overcast day has something to do with that, too.

damsel06-29-10.jpg We've had another butterfly release from the Caterpillar Hotel! A black swallowtail emerged and took its time resting and drying its wings. I hope it came from the brown chrysalis from awhile back -- I was worried about it taking too long. Now I've got so many chrysalises that I can't tell which came first.

swallowtailb06-29-10.jpg Soon the swallowtail headed over to the butterfly bush for a longer rest. Within a few minutes later, it flew away for its grown-up adventures.

swallowtail06-29-10.jpg I'm eagerly watching for the Giant Swallowtails to emerge. How can they fit in such a tiny shape?

giantchrysalis06-29-10.jpg Good news on the tomato front. Over several days we devoured tons of homegrown Romas in homemade spaghetti sauce, and now the Brandywines are starting to produce.

brandytomato06-29-10.jpg Is that crown an indication of how big the tomato will become? I won't eat these myself -- but I hope they'll turn out so I can give them to friends and neighbors. I'm a cooked-tomato kind of girl.

I'm also a pomegranate kind of girl! Lookee, lookee!


Fun morning in the garden. Had me humming like the hummingbirds. Hoping for more rain, though!

Happy National Pollinator Week, June 21-27! All this week (and everyday the rest of the year), let's celebrate our peppy pollinators and all that they do. Without them, many flowers, trees, fruits, veggies, and other plants would be in serious trouble! Did you know that 80 percent of the world's crops require pollination to set seed? And many, many pollinators are in decline due to the use of pesticides and to habitat loss. We must take care of these little guys, who in turn are OUR caretakers.

For more information on pollinators and this special dedication week, be sure to visit Pollinator Partnership.

I for one love to use this week's dedication to go out and buy a new plant for our pollinators. What will it be? A new caterpillar larval host plant for the butterflies? A bee's favorite bush? A new hummingbird plant? I'll let you know!

Let's give a cheer for... butterflies!


beeonmistb10-07-09.jpg Hummingbirds!



  hoverflyc10-07-09.jpgBats, geckos, opossums, beetles, wasps, flies, and more!

Some of my favorite plants for pollinators include Purple Coneflower, Milkweed, Greg's Mistflower, Cardinal Flower, any number of Salvias, Mealy Blue Sage, Firebush, Goldenball Leadtree, Kidneywood, Texas Lantana, Sunflower, Pumpkins and Squashes, and oh so many more. Think native when you can, and stay organic! Pesticides kill the GOOD guys, too -- not just the bad ones.

Speaking of sunflowers, the Cinnamon Sun is taller than ever -- now past the roof's edge of our house. It is threatening to burst out with blooms any day now.


Don't forget about putting out a bee box for our solitary native bees to show we love them!


One Morning



    cactus04-14-10.jpggreenrestb04-14-10.jpg ladybugonaphidb04-14-10.jpg featherseeds04-14-10.jpg ladybugredbud04-14-10.jpg ladybuglarva04-14-10.jpg passionflower04-14-10.jpg   couple04-14-10.jpg   uncurled04-14-10.jpgswallowtailcat04-14-10.jpg     ladybugdill04-14-10.jpgbluebonnetspider04-14-10.jpgdarkspider04-14-10.jpgOne morning, and a fine one at that.

Bee My Valentine


Inspired by this day of love, it was a perfect time to complete a long desired project -- bee boxes to provide nesting places for our native Texas solitary bees.

beeboxa02-14-10.jpg beeboxb02-14-10.jpg We drilled several holes into an Ashe Juniper log obtained from a friend, and since we had an extra, we decided to replace the decaying hackberry branch holding up the habitat sign with yet another bee box.

beeboxc02-14-10.jpg beeboxd02-14-10.jpg We ended up making a third bee box, this time from pine and bamboo, the latter of which we cut down from the yard of our neighbor across the street. She was quite willing to share, as she loathes the bamboo that is encroaching into her lawn from the house next to her.

beeboxe02-14-10.jpg But won't it make such a nice resting spot and nesting spot for little bees in need?


I heart bees. Thank you, hubby, for making these boxes for our little pollinating buddies. Happy Valentines Day, everyone!

War, Peace, and Bananas


It seems strange to post pictures of a bright sunny day while I listen to the lovely sounds of raindrops falling outside. But at least I'm dry.

Over the past couple of days, the garden was a green version of Grand Central Station. Butterflies, wasps, moths, flies, and other creatures all came to feast, rest, and feast some more. It was high noon when I took these, unfortunately, but beggars can't be choosers when there are masses of creatures about all at the same time! You just get the shots when you can.

varietybutterflies11-18-09.jpgAt last, Painted Lady butterflies have come to visit.

paintedlady11-18-0.jpg paintedladyc11-18-0.jpgpaintedladyb11-18-0.jpg paintedladyd11-18-0.jpg I love the hidden peacock feathers you see in their hindwings.

paintedladye11-18-0.jpg   Variegated Fritillaries have arrived, too.


variegatedfritillary11-18-09.jpg variegatedfritillaryb11-18-09.jpg     A Snout Butterfly rested on Big Muhly.


And Queens went back and forth between the Gregg's Mistflower...

queens11-18-09.jpg queensb11-18-09.jpg and the Milkweed.

queenmale11-18-09.jpg I have so many kinds of skippers I can't name them all.

skipper11-18-09.jpg skipperandfrit11-18-09.jpg I think this is a Fiery Skipper...

skipperb11-18-09.jpg and this a White-Checkered Skipper.


The Gulf Fritillary was a challenge to photograph -- it cared not for sitting still.

gulffritillarya11-18-09.jpg gulffritillaryb11-18-09.jpg And Sulphurs -- some big, some small. Is this a Southern Dogface Sulphur or a Cloudless Sulphur?

sulphur11-18-09.jpg sulphurb11-18-09.jpg Tiny yellow butterflies fluttered about -- they didn't sit still for long. Hmmm... Little Yellow or Mimosa?

yellowbutterfly11-18-09.jpg yellowbutterflyb11-18-09.jpg

The big butterfly attractors have been the milkweed, zinnias, and Gregg's Mistflower, but a few days ago I set out a banana for the butterflies. They do love a rotting banana, but the last time I did that, the banana just rotted all by its little lonesome. This time, I walked out to discover a Goatweed Leaf Butterfly enjoying a snack with a Snout Butterfly (and a fly).

goatweedleafandsnout11-18-09.jpgSo I decided to set out a fresher banana, as well, and -- whoa -- incoming. Suddenly my new banana became an experiment and a wildlife study. The first visitors were wasps and flies. I'm not even going to attempt to identify any of these, but there's quite the variety!


waspsc11-18-09.jpg The wasps didn't always get along. The big red hornet-like one was the bully you'd expect him to be -- not that the other wasps were friendly and gentle-like, mind you...

wasps11-18-09.jpg While the wasps were distracted with their quarreling, the flies zoomed in for some banana. I like how they naturally spread themselves out.

banana11-19-09.jpgDo you see the beautiful metallic turquoise insect in the lower left corner? That's a Cuckoo Wasp -- the only one I can identify other than "fly" or "wasp."

fliesandcuckoo11-18-09.jpg   Here's another pic.


I didn't mind all the visiting wasps. It kept them distracted from my Queen caterpillars on the milkweed.


queencatb11-18-09.jpgAnd the flies and wasps weren't the only visitors to the bananas. Snouts began to venture over to the fresher banana, and today I found my first Red Admiral. What a beauty!

red admiral.jpg See this "pretty" yellow, green, and black bug? Bad bug. Spotted cucumber beetle. You can mourn it if you like -- it and four of its friends. At least I found them on the banana and not in my veggie garden. That water in the pic is from today's rain.

spottedcucumberbeetle11-18-09.jpgThe only butterfly picture I didn't capture that first picture day was the lone Monarch I saw flying around. Have they started to move on? I'm keeping my eye out for caterpillars -- I did see a female Monarch laying eggs on the milkweed several days ago.

Elsewhere in the garden today, I discovered what I think is an assassin bug nymph. My last one was red, though, so I don't know.

assassin11-20-09.jpgAnd off in the former pumpkin patch, where a few pumpkins and vines await me doing something about them, I found an icky green guy having a feast.

greenworm11-20-09.jpgEnjoy it while you can, buddy.  

Pollination Fascination


While taking a stroll near the butterfly garden, the sound of busy bees caught my attention, and I realized that my little pollinating friends had moved from the pumpkin flowers over to a nice big batch of native plants, and my gardener's heart did a little pitter-patter.

But in observing them, I realized something I'd never noticed before. Gregg's Mistflower produces white pollen.


My mind was boggled. In all my years watching wildlife, I never knew that pollen could be anything but yellow?


beeonmistc10-07-09.jpgIn the same patch of flowers, the honeybees on the Zexmenia had bright orange pollen baskets on their little legs.

beeonzex10-07-09.jpg beeonzexc10-07-09.jpg This little bee has been to both Mistflower and Zexmenia. His pollen is pale orange.


I was fascinated. Today was a day where nature just had me reeling.

When I could tear my eyes away from the bees, I noticed a beautiful male Queen butterfly keeping me company.


And on the Fall Aster, newly blooming just on the other side of the Gregg's Mistflower, little hoverflies enjoyed a feast without getting the attention of the bigger bees nearby.   

hoverflyb10-07-09.jpg hoverflyc10-07-09.jpg Sure enough, these little flies can hover. Someone sure came up with a brilliant name for them! (Hey, guess what hoverflies eat? Aphids! Yay!)

Pollination inspiration, here's my poem for the day:



© Great Stems


Fly little fly

Fly little bee

Queen be flying

But not Queen Bee


Meredith O'Reilly happily
gardens for wildlife in
Austin, TX. She enjoys
educating people of all ages
about native flora, fauna,
and healthy environments.

Nature Blog Network


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