A plethora of Pollinators

Get a load of all the insects taking advantage of the nectar that this single Milkweed blossom is offering up. I suppose it’s common knowledge that flowers provide nectar in order to attract pollinators to arrive, imbibe, and drive to another bloom. There, the pollen they casually snagged can be fortuitously deposited to inspire cross pollination. When you really think about that process, it can be a bit mind-boggling to consider how such an intricate operation evolved.

The thing about going out in search of beautiful birds to photograph, is that I am privy to all of the other flora and fauna in the environment that are equally as beautiful in their own right. They often inspire me to do a bit of research – if for no other reason than to find out the creature’s name!

Here are some of the amazing insects I learned about, after snapping a few photos of the wildflowers in bloom. I’m not an entomologist, so there’s a chance I have misidentified some of these bugs.

Great Golden Digger Wasp

This wasp is described as fairly harmless as it goes about collecting nectar. But, it sure looks like it’s trying to warn of impending danger with it’s red and black markings. I was not able to ID the beetle in the 2nd image.

Common Eastern Bumble Bee

This is described as the most common seen bumble bee in North America. It’s a workhorse in the pollination realm. The hairs on their body collect pollen, and the bees also deliberately store pollen in pouches on their legs which, when full, triggers the bee to return to the hive.

Milkweed Beetle

These beetles are red with black spots. Most of the photos I caught of them suggest that they use the Milkweed plant for their sexy-time / reproduction.

Pennsylvania Leatherwing Beetle

I spot these orange and black beetles on the Milkweed quite frequently. I’ve read that they eat aphids, which can be quite damaging to the plant. They are frequently just one of the various pollinators on a single flower.

Sweat Bees & Flies

Wow. A little research can open a whole new universe. I never realized how many types of Sweat Bees existed. As a kid I was told that the bees that tended to fly around garbage receptacles during the summer were “Sweat Bees” and that they wouldn’t sting, so not to worry about them. But, sting or no sting, they were very pesky at times. Now, I learn that this group of very small bees are also great pollinators, and some of them are vividly colored. They even sparkle!

Augochlora Sweat Bee (I think)

This small, shiny, iridescent green insect is, I believe an Augochlora sweat bee. I also found a similarly shaped and colored Cuckoo Wasp – but, it isn’t described as “shiny” which I think this bug absolutely is.

Black Blow Fly (I think)

In the next photo you see the Augochlora Sweat Bee top and what I think is a Black Blow Fly below. They both sport the iridescent green color, but the fly is much smaller. I was looking for a “green fly” in Illinois, and this is all I found. This fly is often found on carrion, so I’m not sure it’s actually the right identification, since here it’s on a nectar producing flower.

Flesh Fly (I think)

In the next photo you will see a third insect in the middle of the photo. It’s smaller than the Black Blow Fly, by a significant amount. The closest option I could find at the ID guide I viewed is that it’s a Flesh Fly.

Cuckoo Bee

This is a guess based on a single image at the Insect guide site. This species is named after the avian counterpart (Cuckoo bird) because it lays its eggs in other bees’ nests after removing the original eggs. The parents of the original eggs end up feeding the young of the Cuckoo bee. I actually learned about the Cuckoo bird by researching this unknown insect. I was aware that Brown-headed Cowbirds lay their eggs in other song birds’ nests (and their chicks hatch and are fed and fledged by the unsuspecting parents.) But, I didn’t know that about Cuckoo birds.

Photos below show Cuckoo bee compared to 1. Augochlora Sweat Bee, 2. Flesh fly 3. Great Golden Digger Wasp

When I am out in our fields waiting patiently for a bird to arrive – hopefully one I had never filmed before, one for which I’d like to get a better shot, or most enjoyably a bird that displays a natural behavior that reminds me how incredible Nature truly is, I sometime think about what it must have been like for humans who lived before modern development. They didn’t care about the stock market fluctuation, their kids’ grades, their next promotion at work, they type of vehicle they drove, or how many “likes” they received in social media. But, they knew about the intricate goings-on around them. They had intimate knowledge about their natural world. They didn’t have the internet to help them figure out what sort of bug it was they saw on a flower. They had elders who answered their questions about the flora and fauna and how it all balanced. They relied upon knowledge that was passed down through stories and song. They understood the ebbs and tides of changes in their world and used it to survive and thrive. Oh, how life has changed regarding what we think is important for our own vitality and longevity.

I feel very fortunate that I have the time to sit and reflect on such “trivial” concepts while I await the opportunity to see – if only for a brief moment – part of that Natural world show itself to me. I’ll end this with a few images of insects that aren’t pollinators, but still worth sharing. While I was at the insect identification site I saw dragonflies listed, so I took the few moments to see if I could put a name to these handsome hover-crafts that I’ve capture over the past couple of weeks.

Widow Skimmer Dragonfly

Blue Dasher Dragonfly

Eastern Pondhawk (??)

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