Eco-Postcards

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The Erigeron philadelphicus (common names: Philadelphia Fleabane, Fleabane Daisy) is a flower belonging to the family Asteraceae. This flower is a wild daisy that commonly grows around fields and woodlands. They have many white raylike flowers and flat yellow centers. The flower heads are approximately ½ to ¾ inch across.

 

The Philadelphia Fleabane is a biennial which means that the plant will take two years to complete the flowering cycle. The second year will contain the flowers. They typically bloom between March and June and have various colors such as white, yellow, and purple. Philadelphia Fleabanes are found throughout most of the United States and Canada. They require part shade and medium amounts of water to survive. (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 2012). This flower grows well with partial sun and disturbed areas with plenty of water. While this is a native species, most consider this a weed.

 

These flowers are pollinated by bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and other insects. During early spring, these are an excellent food source for small mammals like rabbits and groundhogs. Additionally, they give the bees a head start on honey production. Native American tribes such as the Cherokee tribe used this plant for various medicinal purposes. Different parts of the plants can be used to treat epilepsy, headaches, colds and coughs, inflammation, skin irritation, hemorrhages, and more. There is also some evidence the root was boiled to make a drink for “induced miscarriages” and “menstruation troubles”.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Papilio glacus is a very well recognized butterfly in the United States. This butterfly, as the name entails, is distributed through the eastern half of the United States. The adult butterfly is mostly yellow with four black bands on the front wings. The hindwing margin will showcase some red and blue spots. Some female eastern tiger swallowtails will be mostly black with a row of yellow spots The darker females are hypothesized to be a Batesian mimic of the poisonous pipevine swallowtail. (Hall, 2020)

 

The life cycle is similar to that of any lepidopteran. The eggs are green and there are five larval instars. The eggs are laid on the host plant leaves near a nectar source. The full grown larvae will be green with a larger thorax and blue dots running down the back. There are false eyespots on the metathorax that are black with a yellow ring around it. The pupae are tan with black or brown lateral stripes and dorsal band. Eastern tiger swallowtails are found in a variety of habitats including fields, woodlands, and around creeks and rivers. The larval stage eats most leaves of host plants including ash, common lilac, cottonwood, wild black cherry, and willow. Before pupating the caterpillar will tur a very dark brown color. The first three instars mimic bird droppings, so they are not eaten by predators. They can also emit chemical terpenes that smell very foul to repel predators. Eastern tiger swallowtails are diurnal and solitary. Males will seek out the females by flying above the host plants. During mating, the male will release a perfume-like smell. (UK Agriculture, Food and Environment, n.d.)

 

Eastern swallowtails are important for many reasons. First, they are pollinators. Without pollinators, native plant species could not survive. Second, they provide food for other species such as birds. Without the vital food source the caterpillars and butterflies provide, some species of birds may not survive. Additionally, they may be eaten by other arthropods such as mantids.

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This is the six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata). The range of the species is around deciduous forests in the eastern half of the United States. They are mostly green with yellow/white spots on the elytra. Tiger beetles are predatory, but will not bite humans unless handled. While these beetles are typically found in forests, they are often seen in sunlit patches running around. Most species are fast runners and will fly short distances to avoid danger.

 

Tiger beetles are solitary, but some may be found in the same area if it a popular hunting ground for prey: caterpillars, spiders, and other arthropods. Mating season occurs from June through August. A female can lay three to four eggs per day with various males. The males display mate-guarding behavior where they grab the females thorax with their mandibles to prevent other males from mating (Hawkinson, 2006). The female will lay eggs in dirt or sand patches, and the larvae will burrow into the ground once they hatch. The larvae are also predatory and will lay in their hole and wait for prey to walk by. Once suitable prey walks by, the larvae will jump out and bring the prey inside the burrow. The larvae will develop for approximately one year before they pupate. The adult insect may live four years (University of Wisconsin, 2008).

 

The predators of the tiger beetle include robber flies, dragonflies, toads, and lizzards. When threatened, they may produce poison to display warning colors to the predator in efforts to prevent being eaten. Tiger beetles are beneficial to the environment because they feed on pests and they are even bio-indicators. They utilize microclimates for burrows. Tiger beetles require specific habitats, and due to destruction of their environment, they have disappeared from many beaches. Undisturbed sandy and dirt patches are vital to their survival (Hawkinson, 2006).

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This is the Eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) and it is found throughout the eastern United States and Canada. They are called carpenter bees because they nest in wood. They do not have a queen, and females are responsible for the reproduction, foraging, and nest construction. This bee is often confused with bumblebees, but males have a longer body and females have a wider head. Primary females are larger than secondary and tertiary females. They have adapted maxillae allowing them to externally access the nectar.

 

Mating happens once per year around springtime. There is one mated bee. Carpenter bees have a bobbing dance with about a dozen males. Larger males are more likely to be successful in mating while smaller males will stay around foraging sites. The eggs are laid in July and will become adults by August or mid-September. Like other bees, they go through holometabolist development which includes four stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. The wings take a while to be functional, but they should be fully hardened and dark three to four days after they emerge. They may remain in the nest for up to two weeks eating nectar (not pollen). These juveniles will begin the mating cycle over again in the spring. Females will exhibit signs of aging around July and will die out by August. Older bees will not struggle when handled, avoid flying, and rest in flowers (Potter, 2018).

 

These bees survive mostly on nectar and pollen. They exhibit nectar robbing where they use their maxillae to penetrate the corolla to get to the nectar. They can bypass pollination by doing this, but some plants have a defense mechanism to prevent this and force pollination. One species of bombyliid fly is able to parasitize the carpenter bee larvae. The male bee in unable to sting, but females are unlikely to sting unless roughly handled and can sting multiple times (Jones, 2017).

 

Carpenter bees visit many flowers for pollen to feed the larvae in the nest. Because of this, they are important pollinators for fruits, vegetables, and legumes but are less powerful than the honey bee. Because these bees require wood for nesting in, they either need a tree or wood homes or buildings. Due to the bees inhabiting the wood of homes, they can be destructive to humans. Their pollinating benefits far outweigh their destructive behavior (Jones, 2017).

Hall, D. (2020, May). Featured Creatures. Retrieved from University of Florida IFAS:

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/bfly/tiger_swallowtail.htm

Hawkinson, C. (2006). Beneficials in the Garden: Tiger Beetles. Retrieved from Galveston County Master

Gardeners: https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-33_tiger_beetles.htm

Jones, S. C. (2017, July 3). Carpenter Bees. Retrieved from Ohioline:

https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-2074

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2012, December 7). Plant Database: Erigeron philadelphicus. Retrieved

from The University of Texas at Austin: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=erph

Potter, M. (2018, September). Entomology at the University of Kentucky. Retrieved from UK Agriculture,

Food, and Environment: https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef611

UK Agriculture, Food and Environment. (n.d.). Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Retrieved from Office for

Environmental Programs Outreach Services: https://oepos.ca.uky.edu/content/eastern-tiger-swallowtail

University of Wisconsin. (2008, 16 July). Tiger Beetle (Family Cicindelidae). Retrieved from College of

Letters & Science Field Station: https://uwm.edu/field-station/tiger-beetle/

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center. (2001, May). Philadelphia Fleabane. Retrieved from USDA

Natural Resources Conservation Service: https://webarchive.library.unt.edu/eot2008/20080920064526/http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_erph.pdf