Fields, Knapweed and Insect Visitors

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Old fields, forest edges and road corridors harbor an impressive variety of summer flowers, many of them alien. Knapweed is one that I have grown to appreciate due to the tremendous insect activity associated with its flowers.  On a hot, muggy summer afternoon it is possible to hear a field of knapweed in full bloom before you see it….bees! I liken the sound to that of the faint hum of traffic on a distant highway.

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I appreciate the importance of this bloom as a food source for bees, and couldn’t walk away from a serving of knapweed honey. However, the main reason I trudge through the matted, thigh-high tangles of knapweed in the mid day heat is butterflies.

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Skipper

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Fritillary

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Painted Lady

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Tiger Swallowtail

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Viceroy

Photos by NB Hunter (late July, 2017). ©All Rights Reserved.

Flowers Along the Way

Every so often we see wildflower planting projects along highway corridors, state and federal programs aimed at the beautification of “scenic byways”. Mother Nature does this too, but in a cheaper, more sustainable manner. Ironically, I took most of these photos on a rainy Sunday in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the road maintenance crew.

Locally, Queen Anne’s Lace and Chicory dominate roadside ecotones. Knapweed is a prolific associate. All are extremely hardy aliens that colonize the most inhospitable places!

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Queen Anne’s Lace and Chicory

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Roadside corridor dominated by Queen Anne’s Lace

Unfortunately, these flowery scenes can’t be fully appreciated from a vehicle. Close examination reveals an impressive variety of flowering plants and associated wildlife activity.

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Queen Anne’s Lace and daisies

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Daisies

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Chicory

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Birdfoot Trefoil (surrounded by Knapweed)

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Meadow Macros

Flower Spider (Goldenrod Spider, Red-spotted Crab Spider) on Knapweed

Sulphur on Chicory

Red-tailed Bumble Bee on Goldenrod

Wood Nymph on Knapweed

Jewelweed (Touch-me-not)

Sulphur on Goldenrod

Cucumber Beetle on Aster

Viceroy on Goldenrod

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Wildflowers: Summer Pinks

Early summer walks invariably lead me to summer pink: pinkish wildflowers in full bloom. Many are alien and occur in abundance along roadsides and waste places, but some are native, with specialized site requirements.

Herb-Robert; a native Geranium; moist, rocky woodland sites

Everlasting Pea; alien; roadsides

Wild Basil

Swamp Milkweed; locally common around wetland habitats

Swamp Milkweed

Musk Mallow; common weed

Queen-of-the-Prairie on the edge of a cattail marsh; a rare occurrence in the Northeast; native to the central and east-central part of the U.S.; wetlands; threatened or endangered status in 6 states where native.

Tiger Swallowtail on Knapweed

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

In the Heat of the Day!?

The summer season and waves of brightly colored wildflowers that arrive with it can be a seemingly endless array of sights, sounds and ecological interactions. There’s usually something in the mix to baffle, entertain and satisfy any nature enthusiast, regardless of their specialty. A simple, short walk through an open natural area (meadows, fallow fields, waste places) in the middle of a hot, steamy day can prove to be quite rewarding!

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St. Johnswort

My gallery is a sample of images captured in the month of July. Let’s take a hike!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

“Butterflies….the essence of cool in the insect world”

My title is from the opening line of an article in the Washington Post by Darryl Fears, published in the Syracuse Post Standard, a local newspaper, on 9July13. Fears connects the health of butterfly populations with that of the environmental with alarming statistics and quotes from experts around the country. Habitat loss, pesticides and other mortality factors are decimating butterfly populations. Nineteen species and subspecies are now listed as endangered or threatened in the U.S. alone; at least one species and two subspecies are presumed to be gone. I think that means forever.

I spend a lot of time observing and photographing butterflies and feel compelled to engage in this environmental wake-up call by blogging about my butterfly experiences in the Northeast, largely New York state. July is butterfly month. I’ve see six or eight species in as many days (a lot for this area), nectaring, perching, chasing and breeding in meadows and brush lots.

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Baltimore Checkerspot, perching on an unoccupied songbird nest box.

My first dedicated butterfly post features the Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton), one of the more abundant and accessible species in early July.

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Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillars on Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), an alien wildflower

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Baltimore Checkerspot; emergence coincides with the bloom of Knapweed (Centaurea; the pinkish glow in the background)

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Baltimore Checkerspot

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A pair of Baltimore Checkerspots; they’ve just perched together following an aerial chase/courtship and are about to mate

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Baltimore Checkerspots, mating

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Turtlehead (Snapdragon family; Chelone glabra); wetland wildflower; preferred species for adult egg-laying and caterpillar feeding.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Summer Meadows Magnified

Examined closely, summer meadows reveal a great variety of wildflowers and insect activity. These habitats are most appealing to me on sunny, damp mornings when there is a chill in the air (slows down the bugs so I can get at ’em!), but they’re worth visiting just about anytime. In the heat of the day, meadows can be pleasantly noisy (?) with the humming wing beats of many thousands of bees working flower to flower!

Knapweed (Centaurea) has just started to bloom, is attracting large numbers of honeybees and skippers, and will soon be the most abundant flower in the landscape. Bee-keepers know this plant, as it is a major food source for the honeybees in their colonies. Bedstraw (Galium) is everywhere and Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus) is scattered about in small patches. The latter is a member of the Pea family, useful in agriculture (hay), conservation (land reclamation) and wildlife management (food plots).

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Birdsfoot Trefoil

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Skipper on Birdsfoot Trefoil

 

 

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Honeybee on Knapweed

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Buttercup entangled in Bedstraw

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Skipper on Knapweed

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.