Late Season Pollinators
Even though the weather has become cooler, we still see a lot of insect pollinators at Prairie Ridge! Many species are taking advantage of the abundant prairie flowers, such as the Frost Asters, Narrow-leaf Sunflowers, and the plants in our native plant garden on warm days as they near the end of their season.
Honeybees are not native to the United States and were brought to this country from Europe during the colonial period, but they have become well established and are now important pollinators. We've seen Honeybees around the remaining Frost Asters recently. The prairie can hum with bees on warm days!
Unlike the Honeybees, bumblebees are native pollinators. They have come under threat in many areas of the country, so it's great to see so many of them flying around late in the season at Prairie Ridge. Some species of bumblebees show a fascinating behavior: nectar robbing. Instead of crawling down long, narrow flowers to gather nectar, you might see them snip a hole at the base of a flower and suck the nectar out from the outside.
There have been a wide variety of wasps out and about recently. Some of the most impressive wasps are the Scoliid (skoh-LEE-id) Wasps, large wasps that feed on nectar as adults. Scoliid larvae are parasites of beetles, including our local Green June Beetles  and the invasive Japanese Beetles. Female wasps dig holes in the ground, sting the beetle grubs to paralyze them, and then lay their eggs on them. The wasp larvae then eat the paralysed hosts.
Skippers and Other Butterflies
Skippers are a subgroup of butterflies with a distinctive flight pattern and manner of holding their wings at rest. They appear to "skip" from flower to flower with a jerky movement. We've seen a lot of them among the fall butterfly population, alongside their relatives the Buckeyes, Cabbage Whites, and American Ladies. Until very recently, we've even seen caterpillars out and about!
Many people mistake Hover Flies for Honeybees, but there's a reason for that: Hover Flies mimic their stinging relatives so that other animals won't eat them. Hover Flies are, however, flies and are incapable of stinging. Though we haven't seen many recently, the larvae of some species of Hover Flies are voracious predators. You can often find them lurking on the underside of Common Milkweed plants, munching on the Oleander Aphids there.
Now is a great time to spend an afternoon enjoying the colors and the fall flower bloom at Prairie Ridge. Come on out and see us!
Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive .