Posts Tagged ‘bumblebee’


Any walk through the garden is sure to include the sight and sound of bumblebees making their rounds as they busily buzz from flower to flower, pollinating as they go. The bumblebee above (Bombus sp.) is visiting a bloom of a false indigo hybrid, Baptisia ‘Decadence Dutch Chocolate’.

Recently, I noticed a bumblebee settled on a hosta leaf, apparently munching on a rose chafer (Macrodactylus subspinosus). Hmmm. Something wrong there. Not a flower in sight! What gives?

This bumblebee isn’t a bumblebee at all. It’s a robber fly, a swift predator and member of the genus Laphria, which includes amazing bumblebee mimics. There are at least 63 Laphria species in North America. The bee disguise at once protects them from predators while aiding in their own predatory tactics by disguising them as flower visitors. Laphria prey on other flying insects, often ones as big or bigger than themselves. Victims are injected with a paralyzing neurotoxin and digestive enzymes that allow the robber fly to suck out the prey’s liquified insides. Ooooooo. Here’s my not-a-bumblebee robber fly, below.


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Bumblebee on Bluebeard (Caryopteris ‘Longwood Blue’)

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“At the southeast corner of Willow House, two trees form a graceful arch over the pathway to the door. They don’t have the sturdy trunk we usually associate with trees, but appear rather like two large bushes.” Does this passage sound familiar? If you have been a faithful follower of The Chronicles, you might recognize it as the opening to The Whisperers.


After studying the winter trees, I concluded that they were Manitoba maples. However, knowledgeable nurseryman and former property owner Tony kindly pointed out my error. The pair of trees are, in fact, non-native ornamentals, Amur maples (Acer ginnala Maxim). Tony shared the above photograph of the twin Amurs, taken after the Ice Storm of 1998, when the trees were badly damaged. Now that the trees have leaves, the Amur and Manitoba maples are easily differentiated. The compound leaflets on a central stock, shown below on the right, are those of the Manitoba maple (Acer Negundo).


In winter, the plentiful maple keys, or samaras, of the Amur maples, rustling gently in a hushed evening breeze, made the trees whisper. But now that the trees are flowering, I noticed a different sound coming from the trees. They are abuzz with pollinators such as the bumblebee (Bombus sp.), shown below.


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