Last week in the garden: August 1-7, 2022

Facebook memory: Goldfinches eating seeds (July 28, 2021)

2021: the Goldfinches are starting to eat seeds from plants in the garden. It is fun to watch them swaying on stems, and doing acrobatics to reach seeds. They are also frequent visitors at the stream. I guess eating so many dry seeds makes them thirsty.

2022: so far this summer, we’ve seen the Goldfinches eating Cup Plant, Anise Hyssop, Coneflower and Evening Primrose seeds.

Facebook memory: Bicolored Green Sweat Bee, AKA Toronto’s Official Bee (August 4, 2020)

2020: The Bicolored Green Sweat Bees really like Red Pincushion Flowers. The pollen is pink, so this female has already been collecting pollen from another flower.

Last year (2019), I found a Bicolored Green Sweat Bee nest next to the driveway. These female bees share an entrance, so they can also share guarding duties. Each one has its own network of underground tunnels where it lays eggs.

In the second photo, you can see the kleptoparasitic bee (reddish insect, lower right on a leaf) that wants to invade the nest to lay its own eggs.

2022: While I do often see these bees in the garden, I’ve never seen another nest like the one I found a few years ago.

Red Admiral drinking nectar from Spike Blazing Star (August 5, 2022)

At first, I thought this was another American Lady Butterfly, but the markings weren’t quite right. It is actually a Red Admiral. This butterfly seemed determined to drink upside-down. The 2nd photo of the butterfly with open wings is from last summer.

They lay their eggs on plants in the nettle family, such as Smallspike False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), Clearweed, and Stinging Nettle. Like a fool, I let a Stinging Nettle seedling that showed up in my garden spread for these butterflies. I have never seen a caterpillar on that wicked plant, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get rid of it. I have since planted Smallspike False Nettle, which isn’t stinging. I also let Clearweed grow in the hedgerow.

Facebook memory: Coneflower slumber party? Sun bathing on petals? (August 6, 2020)

This morning I noticed Bicolored Green Sweat Bees lined up on Purple Coneflower petals all around a flower. By the time I got my camera, some of them had gone. I wonder what they were doing? It was a cool morning, so maybe they were sunning themselves to warm up? Perhaps they are males and they had been sleeping under or on the flower?

Edit: Mystery solved. It was a slumber party! The bees were just waking up after sleeping under the Purple Coneflower. I’ve added a third picture, taken in the dark, of them sleeping underneath.

Golden Digger Wasp (August 6, 2022)

Dotted Mint (Monarda punctata) attracts a variety of interesting wasps. Although they’re large and menacing-looking, they’re quite harmless and uninterested in bothering or stinging humans. This Golden Digger Wasp was drinking nectar from the Dotted Mint flowers. It catches grasshoppers and crickets to feed its offspring, and makes solitary nests in the ground.

Bumblebees also like the Dotted Mint flowers.

Ontario Blazing Star (July 2 and, August 6, 2022)

My Ontario/Cylindrical Blazing Star (Liatris cylindracea) plants are in full bloom right now. This liatris is only about 1 1/2 feet tall. Here it is (last photo) with pale pink Nodding Onions.

Both butterflies and bumblebees drink nectar from the flowers. In the 4th photo, you can clearly see this Brown-belted Bumblebee’s brown belt.

Monarch eclosing weekend (August 6, 2022)

All 3 of my Monarchs eclosed (emerged from their chrysalids) this weekend. I have yet to actually witness one coming out of its chrysalis. The chrysalis turns black up to 48 hours before they eclose, but I still manage to miss it.

American Lady caterpillar webbed enclosure (August 6, 2022)

American Lady butterfly caterpillars make little webbed enclosures to hide from predators. You’ll find them at the ends of Pearly Everlasting stems and on Field Pussytoes leaf rosettes. I counted at least a dozen webbed areas in one of my patches of Field Pussytoes. You can see the black caterpillar in the lower right of its hiding spot.

Facebook memory: Milkweed pollination in action (July 28, 2021)

Milkweed has unique pollen and pollination process. As an insect drinks nectar from milkweed flowers, chains of pollen catch on its legs. The pollen chains are pulled out when the insect leaves one flower, and are then inserted into another flower. I’ve read about this process, but had never seen it happen.

Apparently, small insects that aren’t very strong can become permanently stuck in the pollen chains and die there. I noticed a wasp struggling on some milkweed flowers, and realized it was trying to free its legs. It was strong enough to eventually fly away, but it had a really tough time. The nectar must be very tasty to continue getting stuck for it.

Edit: I’m not sure if chains is quite the right word, but I have seen it used before — pollinia is the technical term for these waxy sacs of pollen.

Bumblebee Central (August 1, 2022)

This corner of the backyard mini-meadow, on the north side of the cedar hedge, is a bumblebee buffet. There’s a Buttonbush, Joe Pye Weed, and a Culver’s Root cultivar.

Bumblebee variety (late July and early August, 2022)

I took many photos of bumblebees at Bumblebee Central (the corner of the garden with a Buttonbush, Joe Pye Weed and Culver’s Root). Here’s a sampling of photos showing different kinds of bumblebees.

I’ve attempted to identify the bumblebee species using an online PDF call “Bumblebees of the Eastern United States”: 1: Common Eastern; 2: Brown-belted; 3. Red-belted; 4. Yellow-banded; 5: Red-belted; 6. Two-spotted.

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