Sunday, May 17, 2009

Catalpa in Bloom

The Catalpa is a large, spreading tree with large round, heart-shaped leaves that is often recognized by its long seed pods. The seed pods, over a foot in length, remain on the tree for a long time. The catalpa is in bloom now with large, white flowers with purple or brown stripes. The nectary from which the honey bees collect nectar to produce honey is located both inside the flower and on the underside of the leaves. Pollination by insects is a necessary step in the production of the seeds. The catalpa and the honey bee share a mutually beneficial relationship. The catalpa helps feed the honey bee, and the honey bee helps ensure reproduction of the catalpa. The catalpa is well known throughout the Mid-South as a source of fish bait. Catalpa worms, brightly colored caterpillars that can be found on the leaves of catalpas in the summertime, are collected as highly effective catfish bait.

The catalpa tree is a member of the trumpet creeper family. The trumpet creeper is a vine with large orange flowers that is very attractive to hummingbirds. Many of the plants with deep flowers cannot be worked by honey bees, because their tongues won’t reach the nectar. In these cases, the honey bees rely on leaf cutting bees to make a hole in the base of the flower, exposing the nectar. On this day the catalpa was visited by soldier beetles, solitary bees, carpenter bees, and honey bees. All of the insects appeared to be working the nectary inside the flower.

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