Sunday, May 26, 2019

HumBug: A Patch of Daisies

Posted By on Sun, May 26, 2019 at 2:57 PM

click to enlarge Bumblebee on daisy. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Bumblebee on daisy.

Driving along U.S. Highway 101 lately, you see patches of newly emerging ox-eye daisies (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum). As idyllic as they might seem from a distance, there's a lot going on up close. This European species was introduced to North America in the 1800s and has become widely naturalized. Although considered an invasive weed by some, their seeds are often included in wildflower mixes.

click to enlarge Syrphid fly inspects a daisy before landing. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Syrphid fly inspects a daisy before landing.

Regardless how we humans view them, the local insects see them as a boon. Patronized for nectar and nutrient rich pollen, a cute little patch can support a surprising amount of activity. Flower or hover flies (family Syrphidae) are frequent visitors. Often marked with a yellow jacket's black and yellow warning markings, they are harmless.

click to enlarge Looking like the "earwigs" from the Star Trek movie, "The Wrath of Khan," a lacewing larva hunts. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Looking like the "earwigs" from the Star Trek movie, "The Wrath of Khan," a lacewing larva hunts.

The tiny florets of which the disk is composed attract bees both large and small.
There are pollen eating beetles, as well, that can be found covered with the stuff.
Of course, all those grazers attract predators, including lacewing larvae.

click to enlarge Crab spider takes a honeybee. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Crab spider takes a honeybee.

The biggest and most numerous hunters are the flower or crab spiders (Misumena vatia). I've seldom seen even a small a patch of daisies without at least one lurking among the petals. Dedicated ambush predators, they use no web but long strong front legs and a quick acting venom to immobilize dangerous prey even larger than themselves.
While I was capturing the images for this week's post,  I noted a tick waiting patiently nearby. Tis the season, so please be careful as you venture outdoors.

click to enlarge Suspended on a head of rattlesnake grass (Briza maxima), a tick awaits a potential host. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Suspended on a head of rattlesnake grass (Briza maxima), a tick awaits a potential host.
 
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