Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pickerel Weed, Pontederia cordata

Pickerel Weed (Pickerelweed), Pontederia cordata, is an aquatic plant common to marshes, ponds, and lakes in the south. It grows three to four feet tall, but, you only see one or two feet, because the rest is underwater. It is native to the eastern United States and Canada. USDA Plant Profile.

It is beautifully displayed at Botanica Gardens in Wichita.

The  Pickerel Weed has towering spikes with clusters of violet-blue flowers. Each flower is small, less than half an inch wide. It has two small yellow spots on one petal.

Pickerel Weed blooms in June and continues until November. The Honey Bee and other insects pollinate the flowers. After a flower has been pollinated, it dies and a small fruit grows containing one seed each.

Pickerelweed and Honey Bee

Pickerelweed and Honey Bee

Pickerel Weed and Honey Bee

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Solanum rostratum – Kansas Thistle

Steer clear of this one. It has yellow flowers the size of a half dollar and lobed leaves that look like those of the watermelon.

Solanum rostratum – Kansas Thistle

It is August in Kansas. Near the over grazed cattle pens and along the rocky roads you will find this low lying plant. Don't ouch this plant, the entire plant is a mass of numerous, wickedly sharp, stinging spines. Don't eat this plant, the leaves and green fruit are poisonous

This plant is a member of the Nightshade family, and poisonous alkaloids.

Its common names include: Kansas Thistle, Buffalobur Nightshade, Buffalobur, Buffalo Burr, Colorado Bur, Mexican Thistle, Texas Thistle.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bee Fly

To be or not to be a Bee-
It's not a Honey Bee 
Or Bumble Bee
It's a humble Bee Fly

If you were an insect, would you rather be a bee or a fly?

Bee or Fly?

If I was a lowly fly, why not be a Bee Fly?

Bee Fly in Kansas

These are flies of the genus Bombylius, a large family of flies, Bombyliidae, better known as the Bee Fly. This one was hovering over a Wavy-Leaf thistle in Butler County, Kansas. Bee Flies are widely distributed in the northern latitudes and found in North America as well as Europe and Asia.

A real Honey bee

"Imitation is flattery," and the Bee Fly flatters the bee in that they are golden-brown and furry with a back side that hints of some stripes and make a buzzing sound when flying. A Bee Fly won't bother you. The similarity is called Batesian mimicry, which simply means something harmless imitating something dangerous.

Fly Bee over a Thistle

But unlike bees they have two wings instead of four, large eyes, skinny long legs and very short antennae, not at all like those of bees. They fly like a hummingbird and can hover in midair, move fast and maneuver with skill, changing directions in the blink of an eye. The long probe on the front of their head, call it a nose or tongue, allows them to sip nectar while hovering over the flower.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-Moth in Kansas

Here some fatherly advise from Dr. Seuss in his first book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street

"Marco, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see."

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-Moth in Scotland

Could it be? I think I saw a Bee Hawk-Moth on a Buttonbush in the middle of the day in Kansas?

One expects to see them in Scotland and Britain, but not in Butler County, Kansas. I spotted this furry flying creature lighting for a brief moment on a Buttonbush flower at Lake El Dorado.

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-Moth about to land on the Buttonbush 

Bee or not a bee, that is the question? 

It is actually a moth with a name that fits, the Bee Hawk-Moth, a look-a-like that takes advantage of the bee's stinging reputation. How is that for adaption? 

What is this British Bee/Moth doing in Kansas? For that I don't have an answer. Do you?

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-Moth in Kansas

Monday, August 11, 2014

Snow-on-the-Mountain and the Honey Bee

It is August in Kansas and there is Snow-on-the Mountain. The mass of white flowers appearing singly and in bunches alongside the roads and in the fields makes the name fitting.

Snow-on-the-Mountain, single stalk in Butler County, Kansas

Honey Bee with pollen basket on Snow-in-the-Mountain

This mass of white flowers was found alongside a dirt road in southern Butler County near the Cowley County line. What made it particularly interesting was the honey bee I found gathering nectar.

honey bee on Snow-on-the-Mountain

The bee colony consists of a single Queen bee, the drone, a male whose only job is to fertilize the eggs of the Queen bee, and the worker bees. Workers are completely developed female bees whose ovaries are undeveloped. As the name suggests, they work to gather pollen and nectar and convert the nectar to honey.

Honey Bee head shot

Within the honey comb, the worker is called a house bee. It does comb construction, brood rearing, while tending the queen and drones. Workers bees who leave the hive are called field bees. A field bee's life is brief, lasting only several weeks during the summer.

Bees have a barbed stinger which can only be used once. It rips out of the abdomen, killing the bee.

The busy bee has been gathering pollen and the pollen basket (corbicula,) noticeable on the hind legs, is full and ready for the bee to return to the hive.

Kansas Honey Bee Facts

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Curly-top Gumweed

It is August in Kansas and up pops the Curly-top Gumweed, a bright yellow flower with multiple heads on a single stalk.

The common name, Curly-top Gumweed, comes from the curling flower bracts that top the heads and the sap. The plants are found singly and in clumps in fields and along paths. They are drought resistant with roots that grow to six feet in depth.

Flowering bud of Curly-top Gumweed
The tribes of the Great Plains used this plant to treat coughs, colds, and stomachaches. Then for good measure, it cures snow-blindness, and acts a soothing balm for saddle sores.

Curl-top Gumweed

Monarch Butterfly

What is this butterfly?
An old and tattered coat adorns this still beautiful butterfly, even in old age. What is this butterfly who came to rest in Botanica, the Wichita Gardens? I have called he or she a Monarch, but I can't be sure.

A child’s view of an old butterfly

In an autumn garden:

A child sees a butterfly
Its wings old and tattered
Whose color once bright
Now faded as the blossoms
But still pretty to a child
Who sees the world in pinks and golds

She says,
Do not fear
Stay awhile on my hand
And feel my gentle breath
Do not fly away

For I think,
Of all creatures great and small,
God planned for you
To live this moment
In my garden flowers
With no hint of what’s to come

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pearl Crescent Butterfly in Kansas

Pearl Crescent butterfly, Kansas

The Pearl Crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos) is found in the east and central United States, including Kansas, and in Mexico and parts of southern Canada. This one was spotted in July of 2014 at Chisholm Creek Park in Wichita, Kansas. This is a medium sized butterfly. The wingspan is from 21 to 34 mm, about an inch.

Pearl Crescent butterfly

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Swallowtail Butterfly

Black Swallowtail at Botanica Butterfly Garden

The Black Swallowtail ranges throughout much of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere of the Americas. Here is a lovely film by Kim Smith. vocals by Liv, organ music by Kathleen Adams.

In the garden you may see the caterpillar feeding on leaves of the parsley family including Queen Anne's Lace, fennel, carrot, celery and dill. Females lay eggs on host plants. The egg stage lasts four to nine days, the larval stage 10-30 days, and the pupal stage 18 days. Winter is spent in the chrysalis stage and adults emerge in the spring to feed on the nectar from a variety of flowers in open fields including red clover, milkweed, and thistles.

Black Swallowtail
The best time to view in the United States and Canada, one to two flights from April-October. These images were taken in July at Botanica in Wichita, Kansas.

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail