FINALLY! We've lived here for about 16 months now and at last I am beginning to see a greater variety of insects attracted to and living in our yard. It's so exciting to go outside and see native pollinators nectaring at the few little blooms we have scattered around, or predatory insects patrolling the foliage and flowers. It sure goes to show that changes don't have to be big or dramatic to have an impact. Every little bit counts.
So here are some of my recent finds....
Gulf fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae) are gorgeous butterflies, with silver patterns on the undersides of their wings and an almost fluorescent orange coloration on the top side. The fresh individual in the top photo was nectaring at garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), while the tattered one in the lower photo is nectarying at Flyr's Nemesis (Brickellia cordifolia), a rare wildflower in Florida that has recently become available at some native plant nurseries, including 7 Pines Native Plant Nursery in DeFuniak Springs.
Predators are pretty rare in the yard still. It took me around 5 years to start noticing them regularly in my Kansas gardens, so I'm trusting that they'll increase in number as I garden naturally here.
With a lake right out the back door, however, we do have several dragonfly and damselfly species. One of the species I've just started to see is the eastern amberwing (Perithemis tenera). A male and a female have staked out the small patch of powderpuff (Mimosa strigillosa) in the front yard and I can count on finding them there essentially every day.
Although this species is quite small for a dragonfly, the male eastern amberwing, shown above, is easy to spot since he's dramatically colored, with shining amber-colored wings and a darker amber body. Up close, the camera captures yellow markings on the thorax and abdomen that the eye generally misses. The female, however, is much different....
These small dragonflies are said to eat "tiny, flying insects", which I interpret to mean mosquitoes. Hopefully my male and female eastern amberwings will produce lots and lots of baby eastern amberwings to patrol my yard even more thoroughly!
Another colorful species that I've observed, photographed, and been able to identify is the metallic green bee, Agapostemon splendens. I've always loved the metallic green bees, especially the ones that are entirely green, because of their vibrant coloring.
Unlike the colorful green metallic bees, the next bees I want to share with you are somber black with a few white markings.
What drew my attention to this bee was the pointed abdomen, which is very distinctive. Cuckoo bees are parasites on other bees. The females of this genus of cuckoo bee, Coelioxys, use that sharp abdomen to break into the nests of their host species and lay eggs on the pollen and nectar stored there for the host's eggs. Because female cuckoo bees don't have to provision their own nests, they don't have pollen baskets and they aren't seen carrying pollen; they do, however, still have to feed themselves.
This particular species, the carpenter-mimic cuckoo-leaf-cutter, is a parasite on a single bee species called the carpenter-mimic leaf-cutter bee (Megachile xylocopoides). Ironically, when I went to look up M. xylocopoides, I recognized the pictures as showing the same species as another, unidentified bee species in my recent photos! I even took the photos of the two different species within a few feet of each other, just 1 day apart!
There are many more sightings I'd love to share, but this post is long enough for now. Hope you're seeing lots of interesting insects in your gardens, too!