Pollinators are Celebrating at College Hill Park

Pollinators are celebrating at a revitalized garden at College Hill Park in Poughkeepsie, NY. The park is situated in the center of an urban landscape and on top the highest point in the city a most curious Parthenon like structure, known at the “Shelter”, stands with grand views of the Hudson Valley. Down the hill from this structure built in 1935 is the Clarence Lown Memorial Rock Garden.

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Mr. Lown was a pioneer of American rock gardening and after his death plants from his garden were brought to this location. Most recently the College Hill Revitalization Committee has been working to restore this garden. The garden is very attractive to a plethora of pollinators.

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Bees are abundant and easily detected in this garden. One of most noticeable species are honeybees that seem to favor the orange butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa). The butterfly weed, native to eastern North America is a species of milkweed, the host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars.

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A honey bee dwarfs a native sweat bee on butterfly weed

The second most evident species are the large bumble bees that are seen visiting most of the flowers in the garden, including the coneflower (Echinacea) and a variety of mint (Mentha spp.). Watch carefully and you will see brown belted bumble bees (Bombus griseocollis) , confusing bumble bees (Bombus perplexus) and the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens). Bumble bees represent the few social bees in North America.

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Brown Belted Bumble Bee (Bombus griseocollis) on a variety of mint.

The purple flowers of Blazing Star (Liatris spp.) were attractive to many bees including one sighting of a type of mining bee (Andrena spp.) Mining bees are a solitary bee and as their name suggest build their nesting chambers in underground tunnels. Mining bees are one of the best represented families of bees, with over 400 species in North America.

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A variety of mining bee (Andrena spp.)

Growing in large clusters, the orange sneezeweed (Helenium spp.) is enjoyed by a variety of bees including leaf cutter bees (Megachile spp.). All bees in the Megachilidae family, forego carrying pollen on their legs, as bees typically do in other families, but carry pollen on scopae hairs on the underside of their abdomen. Other bees commonly found in this family the more commonly known mason bees (Osmia spp.).

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Leaf Cutter Bee (Megachile spp) on Sneezeweed

One morning a male long horn bee (Mellissodes spp.) was found just resting atop a sneezeweed flower. Only males possess the long antennae attributed to the common name of this species, whereas the females have shaggy scopae hairs they use to collect pollen. Often times, a cluster of male bees can be found hanging out together on a flower.

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Male Long Horn Bee (Mellissodes spp.)

Yellow Coreopsis flowers though attracting bees and wasps were also infested with a small red aphid that clustered together on the stems of the flowers. Perhaps a hungry ladybug would come to the rescue and feast on these small insect pests. Though damaged by this insect the flowers were still attractive to a variety of pollinators.

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A solitary potter wasp seeking out a nectar reward.

Crimson bee balm or Monarda didyma is more attractive to hummingbirds than bees! Birds don’t have a a developed sense of smell but are attracted to red flowers that have nectar hidden in long tubes that are a easy reach for the long tongue of the hummingbird. Bees are unable to see the color red. However, Monarda fistulosa is a light lavender and is a favorite among bees and butterflies with long tongues.

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Female Ruby Throated Hummingbird at a Crimson Monarda

Though bees are designed for pollination they are only one of a variety of insect pollinators.  Beetles, flies, wasps, ants and of course butterflies and moths are all busy pollinators.  A diverse variety of butterflies can be seen gracefully fluttering among the flowers including the Great spangled fritillary. In addition to visiting flowers, butterflies also each have a favored host plant needed for their caterpillar larvae.  Violets are a favored host plant for this species of butterfly.

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Great Spangled Fritillary on Echinacea.

As the seasons progress from early spring to late fall, the species of bees seem to change as the flowers each take their turn in this seasonal parade. Some bees, like the small carpenter bee, bumble bees and some varieties of sweat bees produce generations of bees throughout the growing season and can be seen throughout the growing season.

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