“…mysterious and little known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions.”
E.O. Wilson (Biophilia)
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© Adrian Thysse and Splendour Awaits, 2009 - 2015.
Image use is permitted for non-profit, educational use only. Sharing of images and other content is permitted only with full credit and links back to Splendour Awaits.
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DISCLAIMERI am a photographer, not a biologist. I do my best to have professionals assist in identifying the subjects of my photographs. However, positive identifications can not always be done unless the specimen is viewed under a microscope. If you do find an error or have doubts about the identification provided, please let me know in the comments or by email.
Category Archives: Pollination
Another reliable plant in our front garden is the perennial Blue False Indigo, Baptisia australis, a member of the family Fabaceae (legumes) that contains other garden plants such as beans, sweet peas, lupines and the shrubby caraganas. Blue False Indigo grows best in gritty well-drained soil, but it also does well our clay-based Edmonton earth. It can be slow to establish, but is long-lived and will eventually grow to about 90 to 120 cm tall (3 to 4 feet) and wide. The stems begin branching half-way up and have grey-green foliage with trifoliate leaves. The flower spikes are tipped with upright terminal racemes with the pale blue to deep violet pea-like, bisexual flowers about 2.5 cm (1 inch) long. It thrives in full sun and is tolerant of dry conditions.
B. australis flowers in early summer for about two weeks. The sexual parts of the flowers are enclosed by the two lower petals (called a keel), with the pollen-bearing anthers in close contact with the stigma, so it can be self-pollinating. However, the flower design still allows for insect pollination in a very selective way.
The petals of the Blue False Indigo flower are arranged in a classic pea-flower shape. There is a large upper petal called the banner (sometimes called the standard) with a petal called the wing on either side. The two lower petals that form the keel are fused on the bottom edge and contain the stamens and pistil. The nectar lies at the base of the stamens, which are unreachable by most insects. Most, but not all–bees of a certain weight and/or persistence can find a way to get at the riches of nectar and pollen that are hidden deep within the flower.
(All images taken in our front garden in Edmonton, Alberta between June 24 and July 3, 2014)
I am in the process of tweeking a macro photography presentation for tomorrows workshop at the Ellis Bird Farm, when I came across this pic. Photographed in the front garden, this Bombus nevadensis queen is visiting the flowers of blue indigo (Baptisia australis), a favorite of the many smaller leaf-cutter bees we have had in the garden this year. The E.H. Strickland Entomological Collection page has a great description on the life history of this bee, authored by L. Vandervalk (2011) and based on D.V. Alford’s book, Bumblebees (1975):
Once a suitable nest has been found, the queen constructs an apple sized hollow structure within it. The queen deposits her eggs in parallel rows within a mound of pollen on the floor of the structure; she also constructs a honeypot for storing nectar. Newly hatched larvae begin consuming the pollen mound, requiring the queen to continue provisioning it. The queen periodically incubates her brood by sitting upon it and respiring to generate body heat. The larvae spin cocoons in the final instars, as do the pupa; the cocoons may be re-used later for storage of pollen or nectar. Upon pupation, the emerged adults take nectar from the honey pot. Once the nest consists of the new young workers and the queen it can be considered a social unit and is referred to as a colony.
Yes, this queen incubates the young! Read the complete description at the species page.
Thanks to Gary Anweiler for the ID!
Pollinator Week ended in the United States yesterday, but let’s not forget about these essential critters.
I could have called it “Plight of the Bumblebees“, but here are some that are doing well in our city garden…
Buglife in the U.K. have initiated a call-out for a Pollinator Pledge. What can you do to to help save bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators? One way is in your garden: remove lawn, stop using pesticides and add more flowering trees, shrubs and perennials (preferably native). You’ll be doing a good thing to help sustain wild bee populations.