I have been spending way too much time outside with the camera lately. I’m not sure whether the diversity of pollinators in my garden has expanded this year, or I just wasn’t paying attention until now — mostly because I never had a camera that could come close to capturing these tiny, very active insects.
Well, mostly tiny. That very cool-looking creature above is actually relatively large, maybe the size of one of our common carpenter bees. Those “feathered” back legs are its diagnostic feature. It was bouncing around on my bronze fennel flowers.
As I mentioned on the Piedmont Gardener Facebook page earlier, this fly is a garden ally, not just for its pollination prowess. Its larvae parasitize the larvae of squash bugs and green stink bugs. Bring on the feather-legs!
This one was much smaller and also on the fennel flowers. Its red body-black head and wings conjures in my admittedly strange mind a mini-superhero pollinator.
All of these little wasps, bees, and flies are covered in tiny hairs that catch pollen.
I’ve learned that scoliid wasps come in a dazzling array of colors and stripes. All have larval forms that parasitize scarab beetle larvae, many of which are also garden pests. Until I had a camera that could capture these tiny beauties, I never realized how diversely wonderful they are.
I ponder the shape of this one and wonder how such tiny “waists” are adaptive.
The oregano and fennel flowers — both tiny and numerous — seem to attract the most diverse array of pollinators. This fall, I’m going to add some new perennials that will produce similar flower clusters. I want to attract all the squash bug and beetle eaters that I can!
Many different bumblebees, carpenter bees, and honeybees were all over the fennel and oregano too, but not dominantly so. The bees seemed to prefer anise hyssop flowers, zinnia blooms, and the abelias currently perfuming the humid air.
The butterflies are still around too, but still not as numerous as I’d like. I still haven’t seen a Monarch, although sitings not far from me have been reported.
Far more numerous than the butterflies are the dragonflies. I think they are largely responsible for the ragged look of many of the butterflies.
Of course, I’m not the only one who has noticed the pollinator palooza going on in my garden. The predators become more numerous daily. In addition to the sky dragons, spiders are setting up shop between tomato plants, on the bean trellis, among the tall zinnias — anywhere that’s likely to intercept the flight path of an unwary pollinator.
This mantis set up shop in the bronze fennel several days ago. It’s still there, so I’m thinking it is enjoying picking off the busy pollinators visiting the flowers just above this predator’s head.
When the mantis is extra hungry, it eschews its disguise, preferring to perch boldly right on top of the flowers.
This wheel bug moved in on the mantis’s fennel turf yesterday. They are ignoring each other, so I guess there are enough delicious pollinators to go around.
Of course, pollinators also need to be wary of non-insect predators like this young skink, which was chasing Pearl Crescent butterflies in the boulder garden.
As always happens in summer, mature green frogs have moved into my little water feature. Here they are safe from predators, such as water snakes, and can focus on being predators themselves.
I’m picking beans and tomatoes every day, thanks in large part, I’m sure, to all these busy pollinators. But that productivity won’t last much longer, unless summer rains decide to visit my yard. In the last few weeks, all the storms have missed me. My creek has stopped flowing; it’s just a series of puddles between sand bars at the moment. Here’s hoping some juicy clouds have pity on my yard soon.