Frustratingly, we are often gone during the time when the goldenrods are in full bloom. I say "frustratingly" because I am fascinated by pollinators and by the interaction between plants and the insects that use them...and goldenrods are among the most highly utilized flowers in my gardens. Only asters seem to attract more insects.
We only have 2 species of goldenrod in our yard so far. One species, wreath goldenrod (Solidago caesia), I planted. The second species, whose identity is more problematic, came in on its own. When I looked at the USDA Plant Profiles site, there are 12 goldenrods said to be native to Okaloosa County, Florida. I can eliminate two of those species based on growth habit, but I am still left with at least 10 possible species that might be "my" goldenrod. That said, I'm not sure how important it is to know the exact identity as, to my knowledge, all goldenrods are spectacular pollinator plants.
Like most years, we were gone for 10 days during peak goldenrod bloom time this year, but I was able to get a few photos the day we left and, again, a day or two after we got back. I don't have all the insects identified, but I thought I'd share some of the photos with you anyway.
As I listed the species I'd photographed nectaring on or otherwise using our goldenrods, I realized that goldenrods are marvelous predator attractants. There were at least 6 different wasp species nectaring, most of whom feed their young on moth or other caterpillars. (Note: I am paranoid about wasps, but have never been bothered by a wasp feeding on a flower. Generally only social wasps and bees are aggressive, and then only in defending their nests.) There were other insect predators, too.
There were at least 4 different mason or potter wasps, all of whom feed their young on caterpillars:
Shown below, northern paper wasps can be very colorful. This IS a social species and they build a classic "wasp nest" made of regurgitated wood fibers (paper). Typical of social wasp species, paper wasps do defend their nest - but the individual wasps pay no attention to people when they are away from the nest, feeding on nectar. Like the species above, this species hunts caterpillars but they hunt other insects, too, to feed their larvae. They chew up their prey and feed their young on the protein rich regurgitated mix that results.
Thread-waisted wasps are odd looking creatures, but again they are great predators. While the adult feeds on nectar at flowers, they feed their young on moth caterpillars. Good protein for growing bodies!
Assassin bugs are indiscriminate predators and feed on many different kinds of insects. I have to wonder how this brightly colored insect can get close enough to any other insect to capture it and eat it, but obviously they do.
There were common green bottle flies nectaring on the goldenrod, too. These are one of the insect species whose larvae feed on carrion - and those larvae are also used by forensic scientists to date the age of corpses. Obviously, the adults feed on flower nectar.
When you think of pollinators, you think of bees, right? So far I haven't actually shared photos of any bees that were visiting the goldenrod, but there were, indeed, several different species of native bees that I saw.
There was one big black bee that also had a shiny abdomen. I'd never seen one quite like it before, so I submitted the photos to BugGuide, where I was told it was also a carpenter bee....
.... a female southern carpenter bee (Xylocopa micans). The males of this species have yellow or orangish hair on their thorax, similar to the eastern carpenter bee above, but they often seem to have green eyes... or at least that's what it seems like, looking at the images on BugGuide.
There was a male green metallic bee (Agapostemon splendens), a species I've seen on other flowers in the yard before.
If we'd been home during the peak goldenrod bloom time, I'm sure that I'd have more insect photos to share with you. There were, for example, several butterflies that I'd see nectaring on the goldenrod, but they were always gone by the time I got outside with my camera.
All in all, though, I'm pretty happy with the 15 different species I observed using the goldenrods in our yard. These pollinators will also be pollinating other flowers in the area...and over half of these species will also be controlling leaf-eating insect species in the yard as they raise their families. That's pest control I LOVE to see happening!