Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wildlife in the Garden - Insects

First I have to say that I am not a good photographer and I don't have a good camera. Also, I find insects very, very difficult to photograph. Having said that, I have a few good photos that I will post below, starting with my new favorite, a fly sipping nectar from a Coastal Tidy Tips flower (Layia platyglossa). I wasn't sure whether this was a fly or a bee, so I sent an inquiry to and I got a very prompt answer from Daniel Marlos. He said it is a Flower Fly or Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae. Members of this family resemble bees in appearance and also act like bees in the way they forage on flowers. This presumably makes them good pollinators.

There are so many things I love about this photo. The markings on the fly are very clear, and the structure of the "flower" is also very clear, facilitating a discussion of the Asteraceae family (asters or sunflowers). The reason I say "flower" in quotes is that this family produces flower heads consisting of an assemblage of Ray Flowers and Disk Flowers. The Ray Flowers are what we would normally call the petals, but in this case each "petal" is a complete flower in itself (often male). You can see how each ray flower of the Tidy Tips above actually consists of 3 rays fused together at their base. The numerous Disk Flowers in the center are also complete flowers (often female), and this is where the seeds typically form, as in a common sunflower. For these reasons, plants in this family are sometimes referred to as Composites.

Below is a Yellow-faced Bumblebee (Bombus sp.) sipping nectar and gathering pollen from a lupine (Lupinus succulentus). These bees are very important for pollination. Unlike European Honeybees, Bumblebees and their kin are native to North America. If you have a native plant garden you are much more likely to see these native bees. The one below is a female (I think) that is carrying a load of pollen which will be used to feed her offspring.

The other day my grandson Chadd was visiting and we found a grasshopper in the yard.  Grasshoppers are fascinating to kids, so he had to catch it.

Grasshoppers aren't normally thought of as beneficial insects, but I believe they play an important role in the ecosystem. This one had very pretty markings on its wings which I of course could not photograph.

Today I saw this fly on a Clarkia flower (Clarkia bottae). Maybe it's an ordinary housefly but I try to photograph anything that is visiting a flower and is thus a potential pollinator.

There are several butterflies that are regularly in the garden but I don't have pictures of them. I frequently get Monarchs because there is an organization here in Encinitas that raises and releases them, Since I don't have any photos, you can go to their site to see good shots and get more info. I also get a lot of Mourning Cloak butterflies, but alas no photos.

In the summer we often get Hawk Moths (also known as Sphinx Moths).

 These guys forage for nectar at night, primarily on plants in the Evening Primrose (Onagraceae) Family. 

A couple of years ago while we were doing a remodel of our house, I came across a walking stick (Phasmida order). Unfortunately the first picture is out of focus. I told you I'm not a good photographer. I should have taken more pictures. I don't know much about these guys except that they eat plant material. If someone knows more, please let me know.

The final species for today is my favorite butterfly photo that I have ever taken. It is a Lorquin's Admiral sunning itself on a jojoba bush (Simmondsia chinensis).

Wikipedia says "The butterfly is named after Pierre Joseph Michel Lorquin, a French naturalist who came to California from France during the Gold Rush and made important discoveries on the natural history of the terrain." The butterfly reportedly prefers to forage on California Buckeye (Aesculus californica) which I don't have in my garden. They also take yerba santa, privet, bird droppings and dung. I'm not really sure what it was doing in my yard, but it was nice to have it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your post! My daughter and I identified a hawk moth we found perfectly preserved in the garage. We are moth-lovers :-)