Sunday, February 10, 2019

Insects Using Gaillardia in My Gardens

Another staple of my (native) pollinator plants is Indian blanket or Gaillardia, Gaillardia pulchella to be precise.   This widespread, short-lived perennial blooms for months and months;  the colorful blossoms almost always seem to have some sort of insect on them. 

Interestingly, though, as I went through my photos, the variety of insects utilizing Gaillardia was not as great as it was for fogfruit.  For 2018, I have photos of only 6 different species using Gaillardia in my gardens. 

By far the most frequent visitor to my Indian blanket flowers was Poey's Furrow Bee (Halictus poeyi), one of the small, somewhat nondescript, native bees. 

I saw this little bee a lot, from early June through the end of October, and it could well have been present before or after I have it documented photographically.  As I understand it, the hook on the back, lower corner of the head, which you can see in this photo, is "diagnostic" of this species.  Even in photographs, though, it can be hard to see this feature due to the diminutive size of this bee and the fact that it tends to round its back and tuck its head a bit as it feeds.

This is typical of what I usually see, even through the camera lens, when looking at Poey's Furrow Bee.

Throughout the summer months, the Brown-winged Striped Sweat Bees (Agapostemon splendens) visited regularly.  I love these vivid little green jewels.  The females are solid green, while the males have black and yellow striped abdomens and a green "jacket" on the thorax. 

In the photo above, the male is probably more interested in the female than in the flower.

Here is a closer view of a different female, giving you a bit more of a feel for the vivid coloration of these little sweethearts.  What a disappointment the common name of this bee is - "Brown-Winged Striped Sweat Bee".  The "A. splendens" of the Latin name much more closely describes how I feel about them!

An insect that I've seen on several different plants around the yard, this Camouflaged Looper, a.k.a. the caterpillar of the Wavy Emerald Moth (Synchlora aerata), looks a bit different depending on which bloom it's raiding for its wardrobe.

What looks like a large, brightly colored piece of debris hanging from the underside of the flower is, in fact, the caterpillar with bits of petal attached.   

Yes, the bloom this little guy raided looks rather tattered, but I personally think it's well worth the less than perfect blossom to see how the flower finery has been used!  In 2018, I photographed camouflaged loopers on Gaillardia blooms on June 23 and again on August 5.

Getting back to native bees, one of my favorite groups is the leafcutter bees.   Females in this group are easy to recognize because they carry pollen in hairs on the underside of their abdomen, giving them a potbellied appearance.
This cute little female (Megachile sp.) demonstrates that trait perfectly.

The only insect I photographed utilizing something besides the bloom of Gaillardia was this paper wasp, which I saw on July 18th.

Truthfully, I don't know if I just didn't notice other insects on the stems and leaves, or if few insects actually utilize the foliage of this plant.

The final insect in my Gaillardia roundup is this flower beetle, the Pygmy Chafer (Strigoderma pygmaea).

In conclusion, I enjoy having Gaillardia in my gardens a lot, finding that it brings in a reasonable number of insects and provides a nice pop of color throughout most of the growing season.  Loving full sun and tolerating pretty dry conditions, it's usually very easy to grow.  The only downside I've found to Gaillardia pulchella is that each individual plant lasts for 2-3 years at most.  It will reseed a bit and, if I watch for seedlings, I can usually keep it as a garden presence without having to buy it again each year.  If you live within its (wide) native range, I'd definitely recommend it for your pollinator garden.