Thoreau butterfly garden is attracting lots of pollinators

Today, the butterfly garden at Thoreau School was glorious.  The New England aster was in bloom with deep purple flowers that attracted nine or more species of insects.  The various bees, flies, and butterflies are feeding on nectar--and in the process pollinating the flowers.  A good deal for both.

The Thoreau Butterfly Garden was funded with a grant from The Friends of Lake Wingra.

The garden is a wonderful example of biodiversity.  One seldom sees such variety of colorful insects in one spot. You don't have to be concerned with tedious identification.  It's a pleasure to just observe, note the differences, and see how many different kinds you can find.

Let's take a look at what's there.

This hoverfly is nearly as big as a bumble bee.  You can tell it's a fly because it has only two pairs of wings, and huge eyes.  With black and yellow stripes, it gains protection from predators by looking like a bee.  Tentative identification: Flower Fly

Three hoverflies.  The one in the middle is hovering like a helicopter.

Here's another kind of hoverfly, with different markings.

Here's a beautiful, shiny green bee.  It's not a honeybee that lives in colonies.  Instead it's a wild bee, probably one that lives alone.  There are a large number of wild solitary bees--very important for pollinating crops.

Here's another shiny green bee--but you can see that it's abdomen has stripes, while to one in the earlier photo had a green abdomen. So this one is a different species of wild bee.

A third kind of wild bee--this one without any green.

Size comparison--more bees.  Upper left is a honey bee.  The wild green bee below it is about the same size.  In the lower center is a much larger bumble bee.

There was one small butterfly.

Meanwhile, waiting to eat unwary bees was a large crab spider, hidden in plain sight.  Can you find it?* (Click the photo to enlarge.) These spiders are named for the "crab-like" way their legs are arranged--like a trap to snap shut on their prey.  They are ambush predators.

Our biodiversity tally today on just one kind of flower...
2 species of hoverfly
3 species of wild bee
honey bee
bumble bee
crab spider

If you examined other kinds of flowers, searched longer, or visited at a different time of day, you'd find many more species.

#               #               #

* The crab spider is hiding in the center of the flower in the upper right.  Most crab spiders are colored like the flowers they inhabit.

More info on threats to pollinators...

1. Syngenta asks EPA to raise tolerance level for 'bee-killing' chemical, Greenwire, September 5, 2014 

Proposed Rules, Federal Register [PDF], General Accounting Office, September 5, 2014 

2. Insecticides put world food supplies at risk, say scientists, The Guardian, June 23, 2014 

Bee Deaths Prompt Calls for U.S. to Ban Some Pesticides, Bloomberg, May 14, 2014 

3. Ibid. 

4. Pesticides Behind Bee Collapse Should Be Banned, Natural Resources Defense Council, July 7, 2014 

5. Bee die-offs: New tests find bee-killing pesticides in 'bee-friendly' plants from garden centers nationwide, Friends of the Earth, August 14, 2013

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