Guest Blogger: Nicole Richer
My camera is never far away from me when I am in my backyard, as I know that a special viewing opportunity can occur at any moment. Aside from a bottle of water and my sun hat, a camera is always at my side. I do not want to miss a great opportunity from the insect open bar that is my garden!
One of my routine tasks in the garden is to remove faded flowers. “Deadheading”, as it is called, is an important task to keep up in the garden throughout the growing season. During the blooming season, flowers lose their attraction as they fade, spoiling the appearance of a garden. As flowers shed their petals and form seed heads, energy is focused into the development of the seeds. Cutting faded heads regularly keeps the energy on the flowers. In doing this, the plant maintains a good appearance and improves blooming.
The best technique to remove these faded flowers is to snip or pinch the base of the flower to separate the flower from the stem. This way, the clean cut has less possibility of damaging to the rest of the plant.
Recently, while performing this task, my attention was drawn to a beautiful pink Cosmos. The Cosmos plant is a favorite of gardeners for their colorful flowers. It is a very beautiful annual plant, easy to maintain. Its blooming is generous and beautiful in pink, white, and purple. Though the plant does not have any special scent, its beautiful colors attract insects of all sorts. Recently, garden centers have been offering the Cosmos atrosanguineus with maroon flowers and a chocolaty scent, which chocolate lovers will be delighted to grow in their garden.
Why so many insects on this beautiful flower? The insects use flowers as food sources. They use pollen, nectar, or both of these as food, either for adults or to feed their young. As a partnership, flowers exploit insects to pollinate and the insects exploit flowers for food. Each insect species have evolved special sets of mouthparts to exploit the food that flowers provide.
Unfortunately, insect pests also use flowers as a food source, they can bring in fungi and other diseases than can sound the death threat for our preferred flowers. Using pesticides, even organic varieties, are not always safe or healthy either. I personally try to find more safe ways to eliminate these pests by planting flowers to attract good insects instead.
In the picture above, the Cosmos is offering food to the following insects:
- One Bumblebee (disambiguatin)
- One Ladybug (coccinellidae)
- Six Pale Green Weevil (polydrusus impressifrons)
Resources and notes:
- To know more about insects and recognize the insects in your garden, a good resource is the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America.
- Check out the Bug of the Week website by University of Maryland entomology professor Michael Raupp. It offers tons of good information including many videos.
- If you want to know more about the functioning of insect mouthparts, please view this neat video by NC State University: http://bit.ly/YBHBNM