Bumblebees are foraging on early fall flowering plants. They can be found in abundance on the open flowers of vitex trees and goldenrod. Other bumblebees are pollinating late-blooming tomato plants, like the one in today’s photo. Click on the photo to see the bumblebee’s pollen baskets filled with light-colored pollen. Bumblebees carry pollen on their hind legs similar to honey bees. The bumblebee vibrates the flower using its flight muscles to dislodge pollen in action similar to the honey bee’s use of flight muscles to generate heat to warm the cluster of bees in the wintertime. The bumblebee’s long tongue and buzz pollination capability make it an effective pollinator of many vegetables.
The warm, sunny early fall days reveal numerous species of bees, wasps, and other insects. Honey bees are dragging drones from the hives. Worker bees returning to the hive with hind leg baskets full of pollen are passing workers stinging and dragging drones. The workers’ stings, though barbed, penetrate the soft exoskeleton of other bees without tearing from the bees’ abdomen as when they sting a human. Red wasps seek shelter and warmth on cool nights under the edge of bee hive covers. Large numbers of red wasps gather around vegetable plants looking for caterpillars. While red wasps are quite defensive of their nest, they ignore my bare hands around the tomato plants as they hunt for caterpillars. I watch a solitary wasp drag a tomato hornworm much larger than its body a great distance through the grass. Some wasps are parasites of caterpillars, laying eggs inside the caterpillar’s body. Mud dauber wasps collect orb spiders to use to nourish their offspring. These paralyzing insects place sting-immobilized spiders inside their mud nests to feed the developing mud dauber wasps. Carnivorous throughout most of the year, yellow jackets seek carbohydrate in the fall and try to enter bee hives for the honey. Numerous species of butterflies visit sunflowers, and single monarch butterflies pass overhead in their fall migration.--Richard