September 25, 2023

Pollinator of the Month: Skippers (Ochlodes)

Ochlodes, commonly known as skippers, is a genus in the butterfly family of skippers (Hesperiidae). They are named after their distinct flight pattern which consists of quick darting motions that bar resemblance to a skipping motion. There are 300 species of skippers native to Canada, and are distributed through every province and territory. Currently, there are 27 recognized species native to Alberta. One of the most common native species is the Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides). The European skipper (Thymelicus lineola) is classified as invasive to Alberta.

Skippers are found in a variety of habitats which include grasslands, prairies, open woodland, meadows, and anywhere else open grasses and flowers are present. Skippers feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers, facilitating pollination and reproduction of plants.

Adult skippers have stubby moth-like bodies, hook tipped antennae, and wings the same length as the body. Skipper wings are commonly orange, red, or brown in colour, and vary in patterning. The forewings are triangular shaped, and the hindwings are rounded. Some species have their wings spread, where others keep their hindwings in a more erect position so that they sit higher and more pronounced than the hindwings. Their eyes are large for their body size. The wingspan is typically 2.5-3.5 cm.

Male skippers will spend their time by patrolling an area for females, or they will simply perch and wait for a female to be nearby. After mating, the female skipper will lay her stringy eggs on a host plant that are commonly either broad leaf trees or bushes, or grasses. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae (caterpillars) will then feast on the leaves of the host plant. Young caterpillars can fall prey to lacewings, ants, and wasps. Most larvae will spin themselves into the leaves with silk to better protect themselves from the elements and predators while they gather enough energy to pupate. The caterpillars enter a state of inactivity (called diapause) in the winter, and regain activity in the spring and continue to feed and moult until they pupate. The adults emerge from their cocoons in the summer and begin to feed on nectar from a variety of flowers and will mate to produce a new generation.

brown and orange skipper butterfly on yellow flower brown and orange skipper butterfly on purple flower

Posted on September 25, 2023 02:17 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 05, 2023

Plant of the Month: Goldenrod (Solidago)

Solidago, commonly known as goldenrod, is a genus of perennial plant in the daisy family (Asteraceae). The genus name ‘Solidago’ is derived from Latin and means “to heal or make whole” which is reflecting its use as a traditional herbal medicine. Goldenrod flowers and leaves can be dried or used fresh to make tea. The flowers are also edible and can be used as garnishes. Leaves are edible and spinach like and can be used in the same manner. Goldenrod is often used as a supplement for improving urinary health as well as reducing inflammation of the body.

The most common species of goldenrod native to and found in Alberta include Giant Goldenrod (S. gigantea), Missouri Goldenrod (S. missouriensis), Sticky Goldenrod (S. simplex), Alpine Goldenrod (S. multiradiata), and Elegant Goldenrod (S. lepida; previously S. canadensis - split into two new genera). The shape of the flower plumes, leaf shapes, hairiness, and flowering time vary between species. However, they can look quite similar, so when in doubt, just identify it as “Solidago.” All goldenrods have clusters of many small yellow daisy-like flowers at or near the top of their stem. Around Calgary, you will find goldenrod blooming from late July through September. Goldenrods are great native plants that support many pollinators.

Some goldenrod species, commonly S. gigantea, are parasitized by the goldenrod gall fly, Eurosta solidaginis. The larvae will eat the inner parts of the stem and secrete a chemical that triggers the plant to form a gall. The larvae will continue to eat the inner soft layer of the gall, overwinter in the gall, and then emerge as an adult in the late spring.

goldenrod goldenrod goldenrod

Posted on September 05, 2023 03:37 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 01, 2023

September Update and Events

Hello Everyone!

Happy September, I hope everyone had a great summer!

Our last Pollinator Walk of 2023 will be held on Saturday September 9, 2023 from 12:00pm-1:30pm at Dale Hodges / Bowmont Park. Register for the event here.
We will have a small end of summer celebration with coffee and donuts to thank all of you who have come out to participate in community science this summer. Please let us know if you can make it. I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many cool people this summer and cannot thank you enough for supporting my passion project and research.

I know there are quite a few new members that have joined us over the summer so I wanted to take a second to reintroduce myself. My name is Justine, I am a masters student studying at the University of Calgary. My project focuses on how plant-pollinator interactions are affected by urbanization and pollinator preferences for native or non-native plants. I am also looking into the benefits of community science; more to come on that in October!

As you know, each month I have draw a prize winner for members of the project that contribute observations during the month. Our August prize winner is @alacringa , congratulations!

August 2023 Stats
Observations made: 745
Research grade identifications: 356
New members joined: 16
We are at a total of 9,555 observations. Only 445 to go until 10,000!

Posted on September 01, 2023 05:58 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 21, 2023

Pollinator of the Month: Two Spotted Lady Beetle (Adalia bipunctata)

Adalia bipunctata, commonly known as the two-spotted lady beetle, is a species of beetle in the order Coleoptera. The species name ‘bipunctata’ is composed of the Latin prefix “bi,” meaning two, and “punctatus” meaning spotted. Two-spotted lady beetles are native to North America and are one of the 75 species of lady beetle present in Alberta. This includes introduced, invasive, and native species. The most common introduced species is the seven spotted lady beetle (Coccinella septempunctata). Some other examples of native lady beetles include the eye-spotted lady beetle (Anatis ocellata) and convergent lady beetle (Hippodamia convergens). Increased pressure and competition from introduced species is leading to the range of the two-spotted lady beetle to narrow.

Two-spotted lady beetles can act as pollinators when they seek shelter in flowers for short periods of time, known as accidental pollinators. Adults can overwinter by burrowing in fallen vegetation such as leaves, bark, and sticks. Two-spotted lady beetles can be found inhabiting grasslands, forests, rural, and urban environments. Both adults and larvae prefer to be in shrubs and trees, or any vegetation where there are small insects such as aphids, small insect eggs, and mites to feed on. Their life cycle starts with females laying their bright yellow eggs on the bottom of leaves in locations with sufficient food sources for the larvae. The eggs hatch into larvae which feed until they pupate, and then emerge in their adult form with wings.

Two-spotted lady beetles are 4-5 mm in length and ovoid in shape with 6 legs when at adult size. Their pigmentation and patterning is highly variable. However, the most commonly found form has orange/red elytra (wing cases) with two black spots on the centre of each elytra. The thorax and head are black with two large symmetrical white spots on the thorax, and two smaller symmetrical white spots on the head. The thorax also has two rounded white patches closer to the midline near the base of the elytra. The underside of the lady beetle is also all black.

two spotted lady beetle on a leaf

Posted on August 21, 2023 05:20 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 07, 2023

Plant of the Month: Shrubby Cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa)

Dasiphora fruticosa, commonly known as Shrubby Cinquefoil, is within the Rosaceae (rose) family. Its other common names include golden hardhack and potentilla. Dasiphora fruticosa, formerly Potentilla fruticosa, is the only species of plant in the Dasiphora genus.

Shrubby cinquefoil is a low rounded shrub about 3-4 feet tall and equally as wide. Its leaves are dark green and pinnate in shape with 5 leaflets that are oblong and typically 3-20 mm in length. The leaves have fine silvery hairs about 1mm long. They most commonly have bright yellow flowers, that have 5 round petals, similar to a buttercup flower, but blooms can be pink, white, or red.

Shrubby cinquefoil is commonly used as a landscaping plant in Alberta due to its drought resistance and its benefits in reducing erosion. It will grow in partial shade or full sun, prefers cooler overall climates, and requires medium to minimal moisture. It is a perennial shrub that is attractive to butterflies as well as other pollinators such as bees. Shrubby cinquefoil has a long blooming period from early June through October, providing pollinators with a consistent nectar source. Shrubby cinquefoil plants can be dioecious (having one sex per plant) or bisexual (having both sexes in a single plant). Dioecious bushes are either all female or all male flowers, meaning in order to be pollinated there must be two bushes of each sex within pollinating distance from one another.

I have had awesome luck finding many different types of pollinators visiting D.fruticosa this summer!

Our August Pollinator Walk will be held on Saturday August 12, 2023 from 12:00pm-1:30pm at Caburn Park. Register for the event here.

Posted on August 07, 2023 06:19 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 01, 2023

August Updates and Events

Hello Everyone!

Happy August! I hope everyone has been having a fun summer!

Our August Pollinator Walk will be held on Saturday August 12, 2023 from 12:00pm-1:30pm at Caburn Park. Register for the event here.
Hope to see you at the next walk!

Our June prize winner is @pbulman for submitting 55 observations this month! Upload observations during the month of August to have a chance to win the next month's prize. Prizes include native plant seeds from ALCLA and Wild About Flowers, beeswax food wraps, eco-cloths from Mystical Metis, and other prizes!

July 2023 Stats
Observations made: 650
Research grade identifications: 317
New members joined: 10

Posted on August 01, 2023 03:58 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 22, 2023

Pollinator of the Month: Leafcutter Bees (Megachile)

This month our feature pollinators are Leafcutter Bees (Megachile)!

Leafcutter bees, belonging to the genus Megachile, are found in various regions across the world. They have a broad distribution and can be found in North America, Europe, Asia, and other parts of the globe. The name "Megachile" is derived from Greek; it refers to the large jaws (mandibles) that female leafcutter bees use to cut leaves for nest-building. Leafcutter bees are solitary bees, which means they do not form large colonies like honeybees. Each female leafcutter bee creates her own nest, typically in pre-existing cavities such as hollow plant stems, holes in wood, or even man-made structures like bee hotels. These bees are not aggressive and are generally docile in nature.

Leafcutter bees play a crucial role as pollinators in various ecosystems. They are known to be generalist pollinators and visit a wide range of flowering plants. While foraging for pollen, female leafcutter bees skillfully cut circular or oval pieces from leaves, which they use to construct cells within their nests. These cells serve as food reservoirs for their developing offspring.

Bees in the Megachilidae family such as mason bees, carder bees, and leafcutter bees have hair on the underside of their abdomen that carries pollen, making their underbelly appear yellow. Leafcutter bees, as a genus, can be identified by their robust body shape and prominent mandibles in females. They have a size range of around 5 to 20 mm in length. The coloration can vary among species, but they typically have a dark-coloured body with pale bands or patches on their abdomen. Males and females may also differ in coloration. There are currently 21 recorded species of Megachile in Alberta.

As always, feel free to add any information that I may have missed about leafcutter bees!



Posted on July 22, 2023 02:45 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 08, 2023

Plant of the Month: Wild Bergamot (Monarda fitsulosa)

Monarda fitsulosa, Wild Bergamot, or Bee-Balm is a stunning pink-purple-flowered plant in the mint family that is widespread across North America. Wild Bergamot attracts a variety of pollinators including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It is a hardy, drought tolerant plant that can grow in nutrient poor soil and can be found in a variety of habitats, including prairies, meadows, open woods, and roadsides.

Wild Bergamot has distinctive tubular flowers arranged in dense, spherical clusters atop long, leafy stems. The flowers can vary in colour; typically they are shades of pink, purple, or lavender. The plant has lance-shaped leaves that are aromatic when crushed. You can often smell a sweet minty smell in the air if you walk by a patch. They can reach a height of 2 to 4 feet and often grow together in clusters due to their spreading nature.

Indigenous tribes have used Wild Bergamot for centuries and continue to use it in traditional medicine. Some tribes use different parts of the plant, including leaves, flowers, and roots, for medicinal purposes, such as treating digestive issues, colds, and sore throats. Additionally, the plant's aromatic leaves are used in teas and potpourris.

Wild Bergamot are a great alternative to cornflowers/bachelor button flowers (Centaurea). They look beautiful and do not have the invasive potential and environmental risk of plants in the Centaurea genus, as Wild Bergamot (Monarda fitsulosa) is native to North America.

purple flower

Posted on July 08, 2023 06:13 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 06, 2023

July Updates and Events

Hello Everyone!

Happy July! I just got back from vacation so this will be a all in one update post!

Our July Pollinator Walk will be held on Saturday July 15, 2023 from 12:00pm-1:30pm at Griffith Woods Park. Please register for the event here.

Thank you to everyone who came out to our June pollinator events, all those who have added observations to the project, and all those who are working to identify the pollinators! The St. Patrick's Island BioBlitz, U of C Pollinator Week Garden Party, and our Pollinator Walk with the City of Calgary at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary all had a great turn out! I can't wait to see everyone at the next walk!
June 2023 Stats
Observations made: 606
Research grade identifications: 249
New members joined: 60

Our June prize winner is @joshual723 for submitting over 10 different insect species this month! Upload observations during the month of July to have a chance to win the next prize - upload as many different insect observations as you can: bees, flies, beetle, butterflies, moths, we want to see them all! Prizes include native plant seeds from ALCLA and Wild About Flowers, beeswax food wraps, eco-cloths from Mystical Metis, and other prizes!

Posted on July 06, 2023 04:02 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 22, 2023

Pollinator of the Month: Bumble Bees (Bombus)

Happy Pollinator Week! Our pollinators of the month this month are Bumble Bees!

Bumble bees (Bombus) are a genus of social bees found primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, including North America, Europe, and Asia. The genus name Bombus comes from the Latin word for "buzzing" or "humming," which refers to the sound that bumblebees make as they fly. There are over 250 species of bumblebees worldwide, with around 41 species found in Canada, and 28 species in Alberta. Some common examples of native bumblebee species found in Alberta include Hunt’s Bumblebee (Bombus huntii), the Red-belted Bumblebee (Bombus rufocinctus), and the Cryptic Bumblebee (Bombus cryptarum).

Bumblebees are social insects, living in colonies led by a queen bee. The size of the colony can vary from a few dozen to several hundred bees, depending on the species. They occupy a wide range of ecological niches, but are most commonly found in habitats such as meadows, fields, and gardens. They are important pollinators of native plants because of their relatively long tongues, which they use to reach nectar from deep flowers that other pollinators may not be able to access. Bumble bees also facilitate buzz pollination; certain species of plants depend on the vibrations from the bumble bee’s wings to release their pollen, for example, plants in the Nightshade family like tomatoes. Bumblebees are attracted to a variety of flowering plants, particularly those with brightly coloured, fragrant flowers. A few common examples of native plants that bumblebees like include bee balm, milkweed, and sunflowers.

To identify bumblebees, look for their characteristic large, fuzzy bodies, black and yellow or orange stripes. The colour and pattern of the stripes can vary between species. Pictures from multiple angles of the dorsal/back side that allow you to see the banding pattern of the bumblebee are helpful to distinguish between bumblebee species.

Please share any other tips you may have for bumble bee identification! Here is a great guide for bumble bee species identification in Calgary.

Reminder for Pollinator Week Events:

U of C Garden Party: Friday, June 23rd, 11:30am - 1:00pm
University of Calgary Community Garden
Free Bee Box-Building workshop, Pollinator Walks, Wagonstage Theatre Performance
Register for the event HERE

Calgary Pollinators: June Community Pollinator Walk: Saturday June 24th, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Inglewood Bird Sanctuary
Register for the June Community Pollinator Walk HERE
Bring your friends, family, and your smart-phone! We recommend downloading iNaturalist ahead of time.
There will be performances by the Wagonstage Theatre: The Little Forest at 11:00am and 1:00pm
Pollinator Week events will be taking place on the Walker House lawn within Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

Bonus content:
I recently did an interview with Arch Digital Magazine at the University of Calgary and they published the interview just in time for Pollinator Week! Enjoy!

Posted on June 22, 2023 07:46 PM by jdo77 jdo77 | 0 comments | Leave a comment