Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flowers in the Fields

The Bass Ponds is part of the Long Meadow Lake division of the Minnesota Valley NWR. It consists of a series of man made ponds that are all interconnected. The ponds were originally used to breed fish to stock Minnesota lakes but now they are mostly used by people who enjoy nature, like myself, as well as joggers, people walking their dogs, and kids fishing.
The land around the ponds consists mainly of marshes and fields, except for the wooded portions in the north. During the summer the fields are a carpet of color as wild flowers of many different color go into bloom.
The blooming flowers attract many insect looking for nectar and/or pollen. Like the bumble bee pictured above. When this bumble bee returns to its hive it will do a dance, a couple of acrobatic passes over the hive, similar to what a returning honey bee forager does when it returns. However the honey bees dance communicates the location of a good food source, where the dance of the bumble bee seems only to encourage the bees to go out and forage and does not communicate any location.
Bumble bees where not the only stinging insect that was present. While they are a member of the same suborder, Apocrita, the yellow jacket is actually a wasp and not a bee. Wasps have a noticeably different body structure then bees do and are not covered in hair. Wasps can also be omnivorous. The adults usually feed strictly on nectar while the larvae primarily eat other insects. Social wasps like the yellow jacket will forage for insects which they bring back to the nest for the larvae.None stinging insects that were enjoying a drink at the flowers included this monarch, which was drinking from the blooms of a milkweed plant. Milkweed is the host plant of the monarch larvae or caterpillar. Although the nectar and pollen of the milkweed plant are food for many insects, the plants them self contain chemicals that are toxic to many insects, birds and small mammals. The monarch caterpillar ingests these poisons making it distasteful and dangerous, as a larvae and adult, for many predators to eat, which acts as a defense mechanism.
The painted lady butterfly is not so lucky. It does not have a defense mechanism like the monarch does. The painted lady Caterpillar prefers to eat things like hollyhock, sunflower, mallow, malva and thistle. The painted lady above is perched on a thistle bud. Painted ladies can be found all across North America as well as Europe, Asia and Africa. Unfortunately the painted lady's life expectancy, in its adult butterfly form, is only a couple of weeks, so this butterfly needs to hurry up and get to the business of procreation.


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Shellmo said...

Loved seeing the bees busy at work in the flowers and your painted lady butterfly was my favorite!

Leedra said...

You captured a great photo of this Painted Lady, it appears to show light through it. Has such a wonderful look.