Monday, August 4, 2008

Simply Red

I have noticed a lot of things out and about this time of year is red in color, so I thought that would make for a nice post.

One of my favorites is Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis. Such a gorgeous shade of red, with large spikes of blossoms. This plant is a virtual hummingbird magnet. Hummingbirds are equipped with a long tongue that allows them to reach the nectar at the end of the corolla or tube. We have quite a few plants in our wildlife viewing area at the park and hummingbirds visiting them everyday.

A very interested insect, the Milkweed Beetle, is also red. It uses this red coloration to warn predators of its bad taste. The Milkweed Beetle, Tetraopes tetrophthalmus, feeds on leaves of milkweed. Normally milkweed exudes a milky, sticky sap when the plant is broken or, in this case, chomped. But the Milkweed Beetle will make two small incisions in the mid-vein toward the end of the plant that will cause the sap to stop flowing. Then it can dine on the area above the cuts without the mess of the sticky sap. You can tell a milkweed beetle has been to dinner if you see the characteristic notch out of the top of the leaf. They "talk" by making squeeky noises that are audible if you hold them up to your ear. An interesting fact is they have four eyes, two above the antennae and two below. The scientific name tetrophthalmus means "four eyes". I wondered if they are teased by the other insects :)

Notch in the leaf indicating the Milkweed Beetle has been here.

The characteristic chomp marks on the back of the leaf to stop the sap flow.

Below is another interesting insect, the Milkweed Bug, Lygaeus kalmii. This photo has a pair mating. The look like the Pushmi-Pullyu from Dr. Doolittle. This true bug feeds on nectar of flowers and the seed pods of milkweed. Here is a better photo of the mini-beast from Bugguide.

And, here another gorgeous flower that is blooming right now, Royal Catchfly, Silene regia. It is a relative of Firepinks, a beautiful spring flower. It has a deep calyx tube with lots of nectar that hummingbirds also enjoy.

I hope you get out and enjoy some of these beautiful red colors in nature!


1 comment:

Brittany Wierda - Naturalist said...

I love the color red...very beautiful! The pictures are great! As always a very informative blog!!! :)