Written and Photographed by Mary Free, Certified Master Gardener
We wrap up pollinator week with one last challenge: can you identify the insects in the video? These hairy pollinators were buzzing around the Echinacea at Green Spring Gardens on Wednesday. One characteristic that distinguishes them from most other species in their genus is a belt of brown hairs on T2 (“T” is for tergite, a dorsal plate; “2” refers to the second plate covering the abdomen). The answer is at the end of the recording.
#1 When flying, this stout-bodied insect with hooked-club antennae appears to skip or dart from flower to flower. When this insect perches or basks, it often opens its wings in a distinctive ”fighter jet” position.
Vanessa atalanta (red admiral, a brushfoot butterfly)
#2 Easily recognized by an orange-red forewing band and dorsal hindwing margin (ventral hindwing is mottled), this insect has very short, hairy front legs that resemble bottlebrushes and give the illusion of a four-legged insect. It prefers to feed on sap and fermenting fruit, but will eat flower nectar when the others are in short supply.
#5 This two-winged insect is often mistaken for a four-winged insect from which it gets its common name.
Augochlorini (sweat bee) in the Bon Air Shade Garden
#6 When this insect, which is attracted to the salts in human perspiration, rapidly moves its flight muscles, it creates sonic vibrations that release the pollen of certain flowers. It carries pollen on brush-like tufts of hair (scopae) on its hind legs.
Euodynerus hidalgo boreoorientalis (mason wasp)
#7 In the larval stage, this beneficial insect eats insect pests. As an adult, it feeds on floral nectar. It uses mud in building its nest.
Toxomerus geminatus (syrphid fly aka hover fly aka flower fly) in the Bon Air Shade Garden
#8 In Great Britain, this insect earned its common name because of its uncommon flight—unlike most insects it can hover and fly backwards. In the United States, it earned its common name because the adults frequent flowers. Not only are some better pollinators than native bees (for crops like apples and mangoes), but some rival ladybugs in consuming aphids.
Bombus (bumble bee, maybe B. impatiens, common eastern bumble bee)
#9 This insect, with fuzzy thorax and abdomen, also uses sonication or “buzz pollination” to release the pollen of certain plants so it can be conveyed to other flowers. Females use a hind leg pollen basket (corbicula) to carry pollen to their small colonies.
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Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.