A World on a Honeysuckle

During July and August this year, I spent some time on a step ladder, examining a honeysuckle vine (Lonicera hyb. ‘Mandarin’) that grows on our garage wall. I found an amazing diversity of bugs congregating around this vine, so I thought it would be interesting to do a photo record of the variety of life that congregates here.


Mandarin Honeysuckle bloom with female Ichneumonidae (Ichneumon Wasps) » Cryptinae » Cryptini

Why is this vine so popular? When in bloom, the tubular flowers attract a variety of bees, butterflies, moths and even ruby-throated humming birds. But these are, relatively speaking, the mega fauna. The real source of attraction on this vine are the many aphids that feed on it and the various arthropods that find them, or what they produce, attractive.  The pest-prone Mandarin honeysuckle is a true bug magnet.

As part of my naturalistic gardening practices, I follow a no-spray policy throughout the garden, so the bugs have almost¹ complete free reign on our property. Like most suburban homes I am surrounded by neighbours with varying attitudes towards their yards – all are lawn based and most suffer under regimens ranging from benign neglect to pesticide drenched sterility. Years ago we began ridding our home of turf and we began replacing it with a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials (see Zone 3b for more). So, despite living in the ‘burbs of Edmonton, Alberta, our average-sized property provides an interesting range of buggy photographic material throughout the frost-free season.

The photographs were taken on or immediately beneath the honeysuckle: a rose and a rhubarb plant were also receiving drips of aphid honeydew. I have not identified all of the insects yet – some photographs may show the same species. I will blog on the individuals as I obtain I.D’s. Some visitors to the vine were too active to photograph, or they moved only within the mesh of stems, so this record does not show all the specimens I observed.

Click individual photos to enlarge. ID suggestions welcome!

So what’s the point of this amateur bug survey? If I was a less tolerant gardener, or a less observant photomacrographer, I may have sprayed this plant with a mist of pesticide. Along with the possible death of the aphids (not guaranteed, as pesticide resistance in aphids is on the increase) almost every single insect that would come into contact with the pesticide would also be affected. Butterflies, bees, moths, aphid parasites, aphid predators and the multitude of  scavengers on aphid honeydew (many who prey on, or parasitize other garden pests) – all would succumb.

That’s no way to encourage diversity.

(All photographs taken with a Nikon D80 with a Tamron 90mm DI macro lens mounted on a Kenko Pro 1.4x tele-extender and artificially lit with diffused Nikon R1 system flashes.)

¹ Certain pests, like the Delphinium leaftier, may be ‘plucked’ out on occasion, to the benefit of our resident ants or the goldfish

This entry was posted in Alberta, Apidae, Arachnid, Blog Link, Diptera, Figitidae, Formicidae, garden, Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae, Insect, macro, Parasitism, Summer and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. biobabbler 16 September, 2010 at 9:36 AM #

    NICE. =) Great project and wonderful photographs. Yeah, get to know a few entomologists and any urges to buy pesticides will abate (if, that is, you listen). =)

  2. Ted C. MacRae 16 September, 2010 at 7:45 PM #

    Your ‘crop’ of aphids have attracted quite the variety of natural enemies.

    • Adrian Thysse 17 September, 2010 at 11:41 PM #

      A ‘herd’ rather than a ‘crop’! – row 1-1 shows a s ‘cow’herd ant getting defensive.

  3. Susannah 16 September, 2010 at 7:51 PM #

    Nice collection of bugs! And a smart presentation, too.

    A honeysuckle vine is an ideal haven for them, with a variety of micro-climates, from the wall to the open sunlight. It will be interesting to see your posts on individual critters, and see how they fit together.

    • Adrian Thysse 17 September, 2010 at 11:43 PM #

      That’s a puzzle I want to solve as well 🙂

  4. Dave 17 September, 2010 at 4:31 PM #

    Wow! What a collection of A-aculeate Hymenoptera. I’m pretty sure the yellowjacket is Vespula pensylvanica (de Saussure, 1857) (sic – pensyl – is how it is spelled). In contrast to last year, when hornets were as diverse as I’ve ever seen them, this year in the HBG has been pretty much V.p., bald-faced-hornets, and the evil, introduced Vespula germanica.

    I must admit, I’m pretty disappointed with my aphid and mildew-ridden Lonicera x brownii ‘Mandarin’ that clings to the west end of the portico. I did try soapy-watering the aphids one year, but it wasn’t worth the effort. Nice to see all those ichnemonoids making a feast of the honeydew. Still, there’s lots of honeydew and sooty mold out there and a shade-tolerant Zone 3 vine would be a welcome replacement

    If you are looking for ids, the fly in the 3rd picture 1st row is a Dolichopodidae, probably a species of Medetera. The first fly in row 2 is probably a Chloropidae (Thaumatomyia sp.) [but some agromyzids (Liriomyza) look very similar]. I’m sure you’ve got the ladybird. Is that chalcidoid/brachonid? at the end of Row 4 nailing the syrphid larva as it eats an aphid?

    • Adrian Thysse 17 September, 2010 at 11:29 PM #

      Thanks for the ID clues, Dave.

      Row 3-1 shows a small wasp that later pierced an aphid, and 5-4 shows a wasp piercing a syrphid (thanks!) larva that was feeding on the aphids! I need to learn more about these.

      The native two-spotted ladybird was more common(but not plentiful)in our garden this year than the seven-spotted, and I am curious why that would be. Out at the Opal ‘Natural’ Area, I noticed mostly seven-spotted.

      I’ll be running the photos through BugGuide and AlbertaBugs soon for ID’s.

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  1. By Honeysuckle Haven « Gardening Zone 3b on 16 September, 2010 at 7:01 AM

    […] Visit this prince of posts (as in ‘article’, not in ‘fence‘) at A World On A Honeysuckle, at The Bug […]

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