Monday, June 14, 2010

New Jersey Tea

This is New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus, a short statured shrub of the prairies. It can grow to be three feet tall, but Blue Jay Barrens specimens rarely attain half that height. Deer love to browse this plant and keep it permanently pruned. The dried leaves were once used to brew a tea.

The New Jersey Tea grows in among the tall grasses. By the time the grasses really start to grow, the Tea will be developing seeds. It’s nice to have one shrub that is adapted to life on the prairie and grows in harmony with the other prairie plants. Clusters of white flowers develop in late spring and attract a wide variety of insects.

This particular shrub was having multiple experiences with the local insect life. When I moved in close with the camera, this katydid shifted position and kept one eye and antenna pointed in my direction.

The adult Edwards’ Hairstreak butterflies are out and that means I have once again missed seeing the older larvae being herded up the tree for their nightly graze. I suppose one of these years I’ll have to sleep in the field so I can keep watch through the night. Blooming of the New Jersey Tea usually coincides with the peak activity of the Edwards’ Hairstreak, so this is a good location to scout for the butterflies.

The point on this fellows head suggests it may be a young conehead katydid. Based on its current appearance, I might name this the horse-faced katydid.

I couldn’t tell if this neat little beetle was actually eating or not. There were a lot of chewed leaves on this plant and a lot of plant eating insects. I love to see native plants hosting a wide array of native insects

This Hairy Flower Scarab Beetle was like a frolicking puppy as it thrashed its way in and around the flower clusters. It’s got a wonderfully hairy body that must work superbly to move pollen between flowers. Its head seems to be carrying quite a pollen load and that head went into every flower it came to.


  1. This a great post, Steve, and timely for me! I've been working on finding more insects and this is very inspiring! You found so many on one plant! Tomorrow I'll be out seeing what I can find on some of our local native plants!

  2. The first beetle is Babia quadriguttata - most leaf beetles are rather host specific, but this one feeds on a wide variety of shrubs.

    The scarab looks like Trichiotinus bibens.

  3. Debbie - I hope you find something interesting. I'll be watching for your drawings.

    Thanks, Ted. I'll have to do some studying so I can tell rarities if I find them. I know so few beetles that they're all wonderfully new to me.