The drought has greatly disrupted the normal sequence of blooming plants and created a shortage of nectar sources at Blue Jay Barrens. Teasel, an invasive non-native plant, is currently providing an abundance of nectar to the local insects. I actively work to eliminate Teasel from this property, but some people argue that non-native plants have a place in the landscape if they provide a valuable component that is otherwise missing. The decision to tolerate or eliminate non-native species should be based on the land management objectives for the site. My objective is to create a healthy ecosystem composed of native flora and fauna, so no matter what temporary benefit they may provide, non-native species must go.
Native plants offer multiple benefits to the community of which they belong. Benefits provided by non-native species are generally limited. Indiscriminate consumers of nectar will visit Teasel, but a quick meal is the limit of interaction between this plant and the local fauna.
The fact that I would love to be rid of this plant doesn’t stop me from enjoying the variety of insects attracted to the blooms. Here a Tawny Edged Skipper goes after some sweet nectar.
I see the presence of a non-native plant as signifying the absence of a native plant. Butterflies generally require specific plant species to serve as hosts for their larval stage. If the required host plant can be found, adult butterflies can mate and lay eggs without ever tasting the first drop of nectar. Nectar can prolong the butterfly’s life and possibly increase the number of eggs produced, but the future of the species is dependent upon availability of the host plant. Eliminating the non-native nectar producers and replacing them with necessary host plants is a management goal that would be of maximum benefit to the butterflies. Butterfly viewing opportunities might be reduced, but Horace’s Duskywing and other similar species would not suffer from the absence of Teasel.
Flowering of the Teasels is providing evidence that the butterfly numbers are still down this year. These blooms would typically be swarmed by various swallowtail butterfly species, but none are in evidence. Skippers, like this flashy Silver-spotted Skipper, have been the most frequent flower visitors.
Monarch butterflies have been scarce since their initial spring migration wave. I think the first of the locally hatched crop are beginning to emerge.
Teasel is a biennial plant, so its continued existence depends on production of a large seed crop. Plant numbers can be greatly reduced by physically collecting the seed heads before seed can be released. This is not a large patch of Teasel, so it should not take long to gather up all of the seed heads. Meanwhile, the flowers will continue to provide their nectar and I will watch to see what species arrive for a meal.