Friday, May 22, 2020

Bees on a Waterleaf

Walking along the Mail Trace road, it would be easy to miss the tiny pale blue flowers mixed in with grass and small seedlings.  Then you start to notice the bees that are clinging on them, swinging from side to side, slurping every last bit of nectar before moving to the next blossom.  It is hard work, hanging upside down but its all in a days work for these European honey bees, Apis mellifera.

Looking closely at the dusty pollen on the bee's body is a good example of how pollination works.  It also makes me want to sneeze!


They are working on the tiny water leaf flowers.  They are named for the pale stains on the leaves that appear later in the season. 

With a little magnification I can see how deep the bee has to plunge to get to the nectar.  After a vigorous workout, I examined the blossoms and could find no evidence the bee had been there.  These are tough little flowers.

Hairy stems of woolen breeches - Click to enlarge

There are two common Hydrophyllum species along our road.  Virginia water leaf (H. virginiana) is smooth stemmed while these are quite hairy, a defining characteristic of H. appendiculatum.  Fortunately it has the common name of Woolen Breeches which is a good way to identify it and also avoid having to pronounce its proper Latin name.

As usual,  the MDC Discover Nature Field Guide had good concise information on woolen breeches.  More detailed information is at Illinois Wildflowers.