Journal archives for January 2024

January 09, 2024

Plant of the Month: Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) is named for its capability to quickly take over areas that have been burned by fire or otherwise been disturbed. It is a perennial flower in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae) that is native to Canada and found throughout Canada and other parts of the northern hemisphere.

The fireweed has long (15cm) narrow leaves alternating along the 1 - 1.90m stem. The leaves also have a white central vein. The flowers have four pink to purple petals, four sepals and a stigma that is divided into four lobes. The flowers are clumped together at the ends of the stems, called a terminal raceme inflorescence. Fireweed will bloom from late June through to August.

Fireweed has a number of traditional uses, including treating skin condition, inflammation, allergies, and digestive issues. It also is used for treating yeast, bacteria, and fungus infections. The leaves and shoots can be consumed when young. The roots can also be consumed, typically before the plant flowers. Additionally, fireweed has been depicted on the official floral emblem of Yukon.

In Calgary, fireweed is primarily visited by bumble bees and solitary bees, though it is also commonly visited by butterflies, flies, beetles and the European honey bee. The fireweed also attracts hummingbirds.

fireweed flowers with the bottom flowers in bloom and the top flowers budding

Posted on January 09, 2024 07:45 PM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 1 comment | Leave a comment

January 23, 2024

Pollinator of the Month: Ornate checkered beetle (Trichoda ornatus)

We previously featured the two-spotted lady beetle as a pollinator of the month since lady beetles benefit flowers through accidental pollination and through the pest control services they provide, however there are many species of beetles that pollinate flowers because they eat the pollen. There is a long history of beetles pollinating flowers as they existed before other common insect pollinators evolved. This includes soldier beetles, scarabs, long-horned beetles, sap beetles, and checkered beetles.

The ornate checkered beetle (Trichoda ornatus) is native to Canada. They are 5 to 15mm long, though they experience sexual dimorphism with the females being significantly longer. They are a metallic blue-black colour and a bright yellow to red blob-like pattern. They are also covered in long sparse hairs.

The genus name Trichodes refers to the hairs they are covered in and the word has Greek origins. The species name ornatus is Latin and refers to their decorated appearance.

They are found throughout Western North America, typically on flowers such as yarrow, asters, fleabane, daisies, buckwheats, cinquefoils, groundsels, or elderberries. This is because they lay their eggs on the flower heads. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae will attach to the legs of Hymenoptera, typically a leaf cutter bee or a potter wasp, who was pollinating the flower. The ornate checkered beetle is brought back to the nest of the Hymenoptera, where it enters a cell meant for the Hymenoptera larvae. Once the cell is sealed with food provisions and the Hymenoptera larvae, the beetle begins to feast. First eating the pollen and honey provisions then eating the Hymenoptera larvae. The ornate checkered beetle larvae eat 1 to 8 Hymenoptera larvae. They then pupate and overwinter in this state. When the adults emerge they feed on pollen from flowers.

yellow and blue-black ornate checkered beetle on yellow flowers

Posted on January 23, 2024 06:43 PM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 1 comment | Leave a comment