Friday, September 27, 2013

The Goldenrod Gang

 As fall begins, a whole lot of things seem to happen at once:
monarch butterflies migrate south;
apples ripen and fall to the ground;
leave turn glorious shades of russet and red and rose.

 Leaves aren't the only thing changing color. Perhaps you've noticed that the roadsides and fields are changing hue as well. As summer colors fade, roadsides and fields burst with the brilliant yellows of goldenrod.

There are more than a hundred kinds of goldenrod in the US alone. If you take a close look at their flowers, you'll see that they are relatives of the sunflower family. Spend time with goldenrod and you'll find that they support an interesting community of insects: the "Goldenrod Gang".

One of the beetles that visits goldenrod is the "locust borer" - a bright yellow-and-black longhorn beetle. It's a native beetle that gets its name from its habit of boring into black locust (you can learn more about it here). 

Another beetle I find on the flowers is the ladybird beetle, aka "ladybug". There are many kinds of ladybugs, but we seem to have more of the non-native multi-dotted Asian Lady Beetles around our house.

Look down on the stem, and you might find some grasshoppers hiding under the leaves. And then - back on the flowers - there are some wasps: dainty black wasps barely larger than an ant, and larger paper wasps sipping nectar and collecting pollen. And of course, bees: honey bees, bumblebees, and bees I don't even know the names of.

Grab your nature journal and head out to a goldenrod patch
What do you see?
What sorts of beetles are hanging out on your goldenrod flowers?
How long do they stay there - and what are they doing?
What kinds of wasps and bees visit your plants?
Is there a difference between what insects visit in the morning and which visit in the afternoon?
What happens when one insect meets another? Do they ignore each other?

Check out other cool science posts and STEM resources over at STEM Friday.

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing how many cool critters like to hang out on golden rods. They are always worth a look.