Saturday, June 17, 2023

Milkweed Meditation


It's been a privilege to spend some time with showy milkweed in the Okanagan. The morphology of the flowers is stunning and the scent is intoxicating. We know it as a plant that is important for monarch butterflies, but it is also a nectar plant for some native bees.

A male leafcutter bee has been patrolling the patch near the door of the  PE building on the Okanagan College campus.  He's been knocking the honey bees right out of the flowers. Occasionally he stops for a rest. It took me two days of stalking him with my camera to finally get a few photos of "his nibs".

 The female of this same species has been nectaring on these plants. She's got such beautiful orange scopa on the underside of her abdomen.

The swallowtail butterflies are attracted to the nectar, and will take their time refuelling on the blossoms. I happened to capture photos of one with bright red pollen on its wings and body. My friend Amy suggested it may be horse chestnut pollen.

There are also tiny Heriades resin bees accessing the nectar. Although the flowers are open access for nectar, only certain insects, such as long-horned bees, can actually move the pollinia by getting them hooked on their legs.

To my delight, a monarch butterfly appeared on the milkweed plants in the native plant garden on campus. It was a short visit, and I didn't get too many photos but I hope she laid some eggs!

There's a lot of woolly lamb's ear planted in the garden around the PE building. The female leafcutter has also been nectaring on that plant and the lavender, both non native plants.

The lamb's ear has attracted a number of non native wool carder bees that have been entertaining us with their antics, particularly the males patrolling flowers and being bee thugs. The milkweed has more value here as a native plant that supports many native bees and butterflies. I'm excited about trying to do some cyanotype photos made from negatives of some of these milkweed images.

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