Friday, April 14, 2017

Draba Pollinators

The Draba cuneifolia have been in bloom for over six weeks now.  They went unscathed through a week long bout of cold weather that included single digit low temperatures, heavy frost and a covering of snow.  They baked through several sunny afternoons of temperatures above 80°F, stood beneath the pounding of two inch downpours, and some even spent a few hours submerged during an uncommon upland flooding event.  Despite all this, the plants have continued to produce blooms and in turn, seed pods have been forming.

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Draba cuneifolia is an annual species that depends on its seed crop to produce the next generation of plants.  The flowers are capable of self-fertilization, so seeds will be produced even without pollen being moved between flowers.  However, sharing pollen is essential for the maintenance of a genetically diverse plant population, and the number one mover of pollen for these little Drabas is insects.  I recently spent some time sitting in the Draba patch, photographing the many pollinators visiting the flowers.  The rapidity at which the insects moved from flower to flower, along with it being a typical windy March afternoon, made it difficult to get many clear photos. The video above shows what conditions were like, but even though I only captured a few good images, the variety of pollinator species that I saw was amazing.

Draba flowers are tiny, but they must be good nectar producers.  Most flower visitors behaved just like this small native bee, only stop moving when you are drinking.

Another small native bee.  Small bees were the most common insect found on the flowers.

A Paper Wasp.  

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Paper Wasps were the only insects large enough to move from plant to plant without flying.

Several species of flies were present.

Flower Flies were the most common of the fly species.

Plant Bugs were the only insects that spent any length of time at a single flower.  This one fed here for several minutes.  When it finally moved on, it went no further than the next open bloom.

I saw two of these day flying moths.

Not a pollinator, but this Carolina Wolf Spider is definitely interested in all of the activity only inches above its burrow.  Some of the flower visiting insects came by low to the ground, but none ever came within reach of the spider.

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