24 de febrero de 2024

Pollinator of the Month: Mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)

The mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) is a native butterfly that can be found throughout the northern hemisphere. They spend their winters hibernating in crevices as adults. To survive the winters they have thick sugar syrup in their veins, which does not freeze. During the winter they may occasionally and temporarily emerge from their hibernation during warm spells. They usually emerge before the snow has fully melted, and are often the first butterfly that can be observed in the spring. They are most abundant in Alberta during the spring months. During these months they feed on sap, rotting fruit, and nectar from flowers. Mourning cloaks may also enter a summer hibernation (aestivation) due to dry conditions.

They have a wingspan of about three inches, which make a clicking sound when they fly. Their upper side of their wings are dark maroon wings with a creamy yellow border. Inside this creamy yellow border there are spots of iridescent blue. The underside of the wings are black with a yellow margin to help the butterfly blend in with the bark of trees.

The eggs are whitish and laid in clusters of rings, though they turn darker closer to their hatching. These eggs are laid on branches of deciduous trees, such as willow, elm, hackberry, cottonwood, poplar, rose, birch, and mulberry trees. The caterpillars are covered in branched spines, small white dots, and large orange-red spots. They can become pests, causing damage to the plants that they eat. Their chrysalis’ are gray, with two rows of spines that have red tips.

The mourning cloak’s scientific name has mythical origins as it was based on the Greek figure Antiope, who was the leader of the Amazon.

a mourning cloak butterfly with their wings closed, hanging on a branch. They are pictured in a side view
a mourning cloak butterfly with their wings opened, resting on the ground. They are pictured from above

Publicado el febrero 24, 2024 07:41 MAÑANA por kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

16 de febrero de 2024

New webpage for Community Science!

Hi Everyone,

The Calgary Pollinator Project has exciting news! We now have a community science page on the University of Calgary Biodiversity site! This page will be where we post about upcoming events and new community science projects. Feel free to check out the pages below!

Community Science and Events
Calgary Pollinator Project

There is a new community science project at the U of C this year! My colleague, Tory, is starting up a new project: Rare Plants of Alberta. They are studying Green Comet Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) and Sticky Purple Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum). She will be hosting plant walks near Lethbridge this summer to learn more about these rare plants and their habitats. I encourage you to check out their project and join their events if you can!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Family Day long weekend!



Publicado el febrero 16, 2024 11:35 TARDE por jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de febrero de 2024

Plant of the Month: Showy Milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)

Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is a native plant to western North America that belongs to the Apocynaceae family. Its genus is named after the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios. The species name, speciosa, refers to the flowers' showy appearance.

Showy milkweed grows 1.5 to 5 feet tall on an erect stem that has opposite leaves growing along it. The leaves are blue-green to gray-green in colour, are 4 - 7 inches long , oval, and covered in velvety hairs. The flowers form loose spherical clusters at the top of the stems. The flowers have a star-like or crown-like appearance that are purple-pinkish in colour. However, the flowers turn yellow as they age. They produce reddish-brown silky-tailed seeds that spread via the wind. They exude a milky latex sap from their stems and leaves if they are cut.

Showy milkweed is somewhat weedy in appearance which might discourage some from planting it, but is less prone to spreading and more manageable than common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). It can hybridize with common milkweed, creating intermediate forms. Showy milkweed is a good choice for a native plant garden, as it attracts wildlife and provides coluor and texture. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and is drought-tolerant and deer-resistant.

Showy milkweed is an important food source for many insects, especially for the monarch butterfly as milkweed is their host plant. Other insects that have been observed visiting this plant within Calgary include bumble bees, European honey bees, and ants.

Showy milkweed is also useful for humans in various ways as showy milkweed is considered one of the least toxic milkweed species. The plant can be used as a cleansing and healing agent, specifically helping with warts, cuts, ringworm, colds, and swelling. The young and immature parts of the plant can be eaten as a vegetable and the sap has been used to make a gum. The tough fibers of the plant have been used to make fabric, textiles, rope, and many other items.

a clump of light pink star-shaped showy milkweed flowers surrounded by large green leaves with an orange central vein

Publicado el febrero 9, 2024 09:03 TARDE por kiarra13 kiarra13 | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

23 de enero de 2024

Pollinator of the Month: Ornate checkered beetle (Trichoda ornatus)

We previously featured the two-spotted lady beetle as a pollinator of the month since lady beetles benefit flowers through accidental pollination and through the pest control services they provide, however there are many species of beetles that pollinate flowers because they eat the pollen. There is a long history of beetles pollinating flowers as they existed before other common insect pollinators evolved. This includes soldier beetles, scarabs, long-horned beetles, sap beetles, and checkered beetles.

The ornate checkered beetle (Trichoda ornatus) is native to Canada. They are 5 to 15mm long, though they experience sexual dimorphism with the females being significantly longer. They are a metallic blue-black colour and a bright yellow to red blob-like pattern. They are also covered in long sparse hairs.

The genus name Trichodes refers to the hairs they are covered in and the word has Greek origins. The species name ornatus is Latin and refers to their decorated appearance.

They are found throughout Western North America, typically on flowers such as yarrow, asters, fleabane, daisies, buckwheats, cinquefoils, groundsels, or elderberries. This is because they lay their eggs on the flower heads. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae will attach to the legs of Hymenoptera, typically a leaf cutter bee or a potter wasp, who was pollinating the flower. The ornate checkered beetle is brought back to the nest of the Hymenoptera, where it enters a cell meant for the Hymenoptera larvae. Once the cell is sealed with food provisions and the Hymenoptera larvae, the beetle begins to feast. First eating the pollen and honey provisions then eating the Hymenoptera larvae. The ornate checkered beetle larvae eat 1 to 8 Hymenoptera larvae. They then pupate and overwinter in this state. When the adults emerge they feed on pollen from flowers.

yellow and blue-black ornate checkered beetle on yellow flowers

Publicado el enero 23, 2024 06:43 TARDE por kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de enero de 2024

Plant of the Month: Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) is named for its capability to quickly take over areas that have been burned by fire or otherwise been disturbed. It is a perennial flower in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae) that is native to Canada and found throughout Canada and other parts of the northern hemisphere.

The fireweed has long (15cm) narrow leaves alternating along the 1 - 1.90m stem. The leaves also have a white central vein. The flowers have four pink to purple petals, four sepals and a stigma that is divided into four lobes. The flowers are clumped together at the ends of the stems, called a terminal raceme inflorescence. Fireweed will bloom from late June through to August.

Fireweed has a number of traditional uses, including treating skin condition, inflammation, allergies, and digestive issues. It also is used for treating yeast, bacteria, and fungus infections. The leaves and shoots can be consumed when young. The roots can also be consumed, typically before the plant flowers. Additionally, fireweed has been depicted on the official floral emblem of Yukon.

In Calgary, fireweed is primarily visited by bumble bees and solitary bees, though it is also commonly visited by butterflies, flies, beetles and the European honey bee. The fireweed also attracts hummingbirds.

fireweed flowers with the bottom flowers in bloom and the top flowers budding

Publicado el enero 9, 2024 07:45 TARDE por kiarra13 kiarra13 | 1 comentario | Deja un comentario

23 de diciembre de 2023

Pollinator of the Month: Clouded sulphur (Colias philodice)

The clouded sulphur, also known as common sulphur, (Colias philodice) is a butterfly that belongs to the family Pieridae, which includes other yellows, whites and sulphurs. The clouded sulphur is native to Canada and can be found throughout North America. The adults are best adapted to open areas such as moist meadows, lawns, and alfalfa and clover fields, where they feeds on nectar of various plants, including alfalfa, clovers, milkweed, dandelions, thistles, goldenrods, common selfheal, wild teasel. Adults also extract moisture and minerals from mud puddles or animal excrements. The larvae feed on members of the legume family.

The clouded sulphur produces several generations each year. To mate, the male typically flies towards the female and after the female lands the male will repeatedly hit his wings against the female's body. This results in pheromones being released. The female may then lower her abdomen and mating will occur. Their eggs are cream to yellow in colour when first layed, turning red shortly after, and hatching within about 5 days.. The larvae are green with light stripes on their sides and a dark stripe on the back. They also have a smooth texture. The larvae will construct a chrysalis that is green and pointed on both ends where they will remain overwinter. . The adults have yellow wings though this varies throughout the season, with them being green-yellow in the spring and fall, whereas they are yellow in the summer. Their wings have a black border on the upper side. This feature on the females is interspersed with yellow spots. The underside of their hindwings have a silver spot surrounded by two red rings. Some females can be white. Adults live for 2 to 7 days.

Clouded sulphurs can hybridize with orange sulphurs (Colias eurytheme) as they are closely related species. This happens when the females are young (less than one hour old) and are unable to distinguish between the pheromones of the two species, resulting in offspring that may be sterile.

A clouded sulphur butterfly on a purple flower, with their proboscis extended into the flower

Publicado el diciembre 23, 2023 07:07 TARDE por kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de diciembre de 2023

Plant of the Month: Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Cirsium arvense is commonly referred to as the Canada thistle. It is considered an invasive weed species as it causes significant crop loss and out-grows native plants along disturbed areas, such as roadsides, riverbanks and logged forests. It can reproduce by seeds or by its extensive root system, which can spread horizontally and produce new shoots. It contains thick, deep growing roots that make this weed very hard to control. The root starts as a single tap root that grows downward (about 1.8 to 3 meters on average) until it finds moisture, then lateral roots start forming. This thick system of roots allows for regeneration after top-growth removal. Additionally, the Canada thistle can reproduce through lateral roots. This type of reproduction is more common than reproduction through seed production, which leads to large groups of individuals that are genetically identical.

When seed production does occur it results in an average of 1500 parachute-type seeds being created, and is the result of insect pollination. Solitary bees, bumble bees, flies, butterflies, beetles, and honey bees are commonly observed visiting plants in the Cirsium genus within Calgary.

While the Canada thistle is considered invasive within Canada, there are many native species of thistle (Cirsium sp.) that provide nectar to pollinators and whose seeds can act as a food source to birds and other wildlife. The Canada thistle can be distinguished from other thistle species as the Canada thistle does not have spikes on its stem. The Canada thistle also has white to purple pom-pom like flowers that grow in groups of up to five at the ends of the stems, and are typically smaller than other thistle species. They also have leaves with sharp, spiny edges and white hairs covering their undersides.

The plumeless thistle (Carduus acanthoides), marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre), purple-flowered knapweeds (Centaurea sp.) are non-native species that look similar to the Canada thistle.

In Canada, a number of mechanical, chemical or biological controls have been used to attempt to control this weed. As mentioned above, mechanical controls do not work well because of root regeneration, however correct timing of tillage and repeated efforts can make this method more effective. Herbicides (chemical controls) tend to be effective in only controlling topgrowth of the Canada thistle, however systemic herbicides are more effective. A combination of tillage and herbicide use can improve the effectiveness of control. Additionally, biological controls in the form of stem gall flies, stem weevils, and defoliating beetles have been used to control Canada thistle in Canada.

A close up of the flower of a Canada thistle with a small black insect on it. Other Canada thistle flowers can be seen in the background Spikey leaves of the Canada thistle

Publicado el diciembre 9, 2023 08:23 TARDE por kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de noviembre de 2023

Pollinator of the Month: Indiscriminate Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus insularis)

There are four species of Psithyrus (cuckoo bumble bees) found in Calgary; they are the Ashton's cuckoo bumble bee, indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bee, Fernald's cuckoo bumble bee, and Suckley's cuckoo bumble bee. All four species are native to Calgary.

Cuckoo bumble bees are considered obligate brood parasites or social parasites. Female cuckoo bumble bees emerge fertilized in the spring. They then enter another bumble bee nest and kill or immobilize the host species queen and lay their own eggs. Once the eggs of the cuckoo bumble bee hatch, the larvae are taken care of by the host species workers. The adults of the species are reproductive males and females, no workers exist. This differs from the typical life cycle of other bumble bees.

As a result of being social parasites cuckoo bumble bees lack a worker caste and no longer develop pollen baskets (corbicula), making them completely dependent on their host species for survival. Despite not having pollen baskets they are still considered pollinators, however they are only visiting flowers for their own nourishment thus the pollination behaviour of cuckoo bumble bees differs from other bumble bees which may negatively impact plant reproductive success.

Cuckoo bumble bee populations may be threatened by decline in their host species populations, however while cuckoo bumble bees have negative impacts on the survival of the host species they likely do not contribute to population decline of their host species. . For the indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus insularis) their host species include yellow-fronted bumble bee, Nevada bumblebee, tricolored bumblebee, and golden northern bumble bee.

To identify the indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus insularis) look for a yellow top of the head and yellow area in front of the wings (scutum). The area behind the wings (scutellum) can be yellow or black. The area between the wings (alar) is black. The abdomen is divided into six sections (tergites). The first and second sections are fully black; the third section is usually black with yellow being sometimes near the bottom and sides of this section; the fourth and fifth sections are black in the middle with yellow on the sides. The tergites never have any white hairs on them.

Indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bees have been found pollinating fireweed, asters, goldenrods, common basket flowers, and narrow leaf hawkweed.

An indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bee on top of a yellow flower with pollen on their face

Publicado el noviembre 25, 2023 07:13 TARDE por kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de noviembre de 2023

Plant of the Month: Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Papaver rhoeas is typically referred to as the common poppy, red poppy, corn poppy, Flanders poppy and many more. This scientific name, Papaver rhoeas, comes from the Latin papps which describes the milky latex that comes from the stems of the flowers and from the Greek rhoeo which is used to describe how quickly the petals fall. The common name corn poppy is attributed to this poppy being a common weed in many agricultural fields. The common name Flanders poppy is in reference to the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by John McCrae, which was inspired by this poppy being a common site in the western front during World War I. This has led the common poppy to be worn on the left side of the body and over the heart as a sign of remembrance for those who have died in war and to honour veterans.

To identify a common poppy look for four petals that are arranged in two whorls and range in colour from pink to red. They also have two sepals that are separated from one another. There are 13 or more stamens in the common poppies. They have leaves that have an alternative arrangement on the hairy stem. The leaves are simple (undivided or unbranched), which can be lobed or unlobed and have a fuzzy or hairy underside. They tend to be 10-60cm tall. The common poppy is native to the eastern Mediterranean. The common poppy was introduced to North America. They are commonly found in man-made or disturbed habitats, meadows or fields, or forest edges.

Poppies have many uses. Many people like to plant poppies in their gardens because they are easy to grow and have a beautiful, bright colour. Their petals have been used as red dye. Their seeds have been used as a filling for baked goods. The corn poppy can produce 65 000 to 450 000 seeds which can remain dormant for up to 80 years before sprouting.

Poppies were pollinated primarily by the glaphyrid beetles (Glaphyridae), however as it spread throughout the world bees, flies and other beetles became important pollinators for the common poppy. This shift in pollinators was also correlated in a shift in the light reflected by poppies found in Europe versus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Common poppy from a top view

Publicado el noviembre 11, 2023 04:18 TARDE por kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

26 de octubre de 2023

Pollinator of the Month: Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)

The western honey bee (Apis mellifera), also known as the European honey bee, is a eusocial species. This means the adults live in a group, have individuals caring for young that they did not give birth to, have a division of reproductive labour where not all individuals are capable of reproducing, and have overlapping generations. The queen bee is the only female in the colony that lays eggs. A queen bee is raised by feeding a female larvae royal jelly in addition to pollen and nectar. She can lay up to 15000 eggs a day. Male bees, also known as drones, are produced from unfertilized eggs (haploid) and have the role of mating with the queen. Worker bees are female bees, who are produced from fertilized eggs (diploid), and are only fed pollen and nectar, are responsible for the maintenance tasks in the hive, including raising the young and collecting the nectar.

Western honey bees are commonly 10-20 mm and have hairy eyes. Their abdomens have orange, brown and black stripes. They also have hair on their thorax, but tend to be less hairy than bumblebees. They also tend to be more slender than bumblebees.

Western honey bees were brought to North America from Europe in the 1600s for their agricultural capacity to produce honey and pollinate crops. Western honey bees are generalist species, foraging on a variety of flower species. They are currently still a managed species that is important for the pollination of crops and are rarely able to survive in the wild. However, the western honey bee likely outcompetes native bees by using too much nectar and not leaving enough for other bees to use. This negative effect that the western honey bee has on native bees may not be as prominent due to different flower preferences or feeding times, as scientists are still investigating competition patterns between European honey bees and native bee populations. Western honey bees may also negatively impact native bees by spreading diseases and infections to them.

To support native bees you can plant native flowers, including flowers with a variety of bloom times, shapes, sizes and colours. Additionally, you can try to add areas or materials that bees use to create habitats. This includes putting up bee hotels for solitary bees and leaving patches of bare ground for ground nesting bees.

Western honey bee on a pink and yellow flower

Publicado el octubre 26, 2023 06:42 TARDE por kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario