Friday, September 14, 2007

A goldenrod community

It's 67 degrees at 10:30 a.m. on a cloudy, thankfully rainy, day in Virginia.

Earlier this week, I attended a great naturalist presentation by Frank Taylor, a local high school biology teacher. During his talk, he mentioned plant/insect interactions and specifically goldenrod and a yellow and black beetle. His talk inspired me to look at goldenrod a little closer.

Yesterday, I looked for monarch caterpillars--about 6 of them I have been observing all week in a couple of old pastures. They were nowhere to be seen but I could not find any chrysalis either. So, I turned my attention to a stand of goldenrod.

The beetle Frank mentioned was there in profusion.

The yellow and black striped beetle is the locust borer, whose larvae wreak havoc on the black locust. But, other insects also caught my attention...

A locust borer and spider wasp feed together on one plant.

I caught this hornet in an unflattering pose. Besides these insects, I saw soldier beetles, butterflies, and a variety of bees.

The insects on the goldenrod make me reflect on the finding this week that scientists believe they have found the cause of what is killing the honey bees: a virus. Honey bees were originally from Europe and they are kept in hives in close quarters. Hundreds of these hives might be trucked to farmer's fields which consist usually of one crop. So, in contrast to the diversity of insects in the goldenrod community, the same species of bees is counted upon to pollinate the crops. Viruses are known to be more prevalent where people are in close quarters (e.g. schools, offices) so it is not surprising to me that honey bees would succumb to viruses. Perhaps the beekeepers could learn something from the goldenrod community.


  1. Feel very bad for those honey bees! Great post and love all those Goldenrod pictures (with the goldenrod critters)! Keep up the great work!

  2. Thanks again for your comment. I too hope the honey bees come back--see plenty of them around here.