Saturday, August 15, 2009

Purple Loosestrife and its Visitors

The photo above shows a cluster of Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). This flower is native to Eurasia but was introduced to this continent in the 19th century. It has since spread through most of the United States and Canada. While its racemes of purple flowers, this plant's tendency to crowd out native wildflowers has landed it on least wanted lists. It is common in wetlands and along highways and waste areas.

This particular cluster, a large, dense mix of loosestrife and Phragmites australis, seems quite attractive to a variety of insects. (No doubt this attractiveness had aided its spread.) I have included photographs of several below.

First up is a Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), a species mentioned in a previous post.

Next is what I believe to be a Crossline Skipper (Polites origenes). This was a challenging identification because I only have a shot of the undersides of this butterfly's wings, but it seems to be the best match among species that might be flying now.

Photographing the skippers was somewhat difficult since many of them showed little inclination to sit for long on a single raceme. I caught this Hobomok Skipper (Poanes hobomok) just as it was taking off. (The closely-related Zabulon Skipper was featured in a previous post.) In addition to the butterflies shown above, there were many European Skippers (Thymelicus lineola), as well as a few Orange Sulphurs (Colias eurytheme), Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae), and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus), none of which I managed to photograph.

The cluster also attracts other insects, such as the wasp above. Wasps are still somewhat beyond my identification skills, so I cannot put a name on it at present. The closest I can find is the subfamily Eumeninae, which includes potter and mason wasps. These are mostly solitary wasps that feed on nectar and kill various insects to feed their larvae. If anyone has a better identification, please leave a comment.

Included in this week's SkyWatch Friday: