The namesake coloration of the rusty-patched bumblebee can be seen on its back.
Image © Caroline Hlohowskyj
District researchers recently discovered a rusty-patched bumblebee at a forest preserve wetland. The insect is a native species that has in recent years become rare throughout much of its range in the Upper Midwest and East Coast. It has been placed on Canada’s federal endangered species list, and a conservation group has petitioned to have the species included on the U.S. list. They insects have the same fuzzy appearance as most bumblebees and sport a rust-colored patch on their second abdominal segment. They feed on nectar and are excellent pollinators of wildflowers. The recent sighting was in a healthy natural area and points to the importance of open space and natural habitats to provide food and shelter for wildlife of all kinds. That a sighting of a rusty-patched bumblebee in 2012 took place in a small wildflower garden at a Downers Grove home points to the fact that individuals can make a difference for wildlife, too.
To see a brief video of the bee in the wild taken by a District ecologist, click here.
Staff members continue to report sightings of monarch butterflies in the preserves and note that the species seems to be more abundant than last summer, when distressingly few were seen. A mating pair was spotted at Mayslake, while at Churchill Woods a visitor reported seeing adult butterflies as well as a caterpillar munching on a milkweed plant. Other recent butterfly sightings include a viceroy at Mayslake and a red-spotted purple at Churchill Woods.
Summer’s still in full bloom on the prairies. There are a few plants typical of fall starting to open up, though, so look for goldenrods and asters here and there. Some late-summer species of the woodlands are opening up, too, including white snakeroot and tall bellflower. Obedient plant, purple Joe Pye weed, cardinal flower, great blue lobelia and nodding wild onion, which can occur in prairies or woodlands, have also been seen in bloom.
Animals sightings reported this week include two white-tailed does at St. James Farm and a doe with two fawns at Danada. Also at Danada, a few tree swallows were seen perching on a small tree and goldfinches continue to zip between prairie flowers and trees.
This week's snapshot is a viceroy butterfly. The viceroy closely resembles the monarch, another DuPage County native butterfly. These two species are often regarded as a classic illustration of mimicry, a defense where one species gains an advantage due to its resemblance to another. Monarchs feed on milkweed plants, and the mild toxins present in the plants in turn make these butterflies distasteful to hungry birds and other predators. Though viceroys do not eat milkweeds and are not toxic, their similar orange, black and white coloring still signals “stay away” to potential predators.