Looking Closely

One of the great pleasures of working in the Botanical Garden is the opportunity to observe insects.  I love watching them, they look so BUSY and purposeful, totally ignoring me unless I remove their food source. Or squash them, which I try not to do.

Most of the insects I see in the garden are pollinators. Because we  maintain the garden without pesticides,  a wide diversity of insect life is  found, keeping most species within a reasonable balance.  Therefore,  our sustainable plantings are usually not devastated by  “bad”  insect attacks. The pollinators are abundant and have plenty of nectar and pollen sources in the garden.

In some cases,  the insect can only feed on a certain plant and the plant can only be pollinated by a certain insect. Monarch butterflies are one of these, with the caterpillars surviving solely on Asclepias/Milkweed. Of course, there are generalists too, like the little wild bees in the second picture. These seem to come in all sizes, from large bumblebees to the tiny ones we called “sweat bees” as kids. I am always happy to see honeybees, monarch butterfly on echinaceasince their population has been reduced drastically by disease and pesticides over the past few years. They are gentle creatures who really only sting in defense of the hive and queen. I’ve heard they will only forage from plantings which offer a large amount of nectar in one place (like a field of clover),but apparently a really big hydrangea is sufficient to draw them in.

wild bee on hydrangea






honeybee on hydrangea


pollinator on echinacea

(Click on any picture to look really closely.)


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