Journal archives for November 2023

November 11, 2023

Plant of the Month: Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Papaver rhoeas is typically referred to as the common poppy, red poppy, corn poppy, Flanders poppy and many more. This scientific name, Papaver rhoeas, comes from the Latin papps which describes the milky latex that comes from the stems of the flowers and from the Greek rhoeo which is used to describe how quickly the petals fall. The common name corn poppy is attributed to this poppy being a common weed in many agricultural fields. The common name Flanders poppy is in reference to the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by John McCrae, which was inspired by this poppy being a common site in the western front during World War I. This has led the common poppy to be worn on the left side of the body and over the heart as a sign of remembrance for those who have died in war and to honour veterans.

To identify a common poppy look for four petals that are arranged in two whorls and range in colour from pink to red. They also have two sepals that are separated from one another. There are 13 or more stamens in the common poppies. They have leaves that have an alternative arrangement on the hairy stem. The leaves are simple (undivided or unbranched), which can be lobed or unlobed and have a fuzzy or hairy underside. They tend to be 10-60cm tall. The common poppy is native to the eastern Mediterranean. The common poppy was introduced to North America. They are commonly found in man-made or disturbed habitats, meadows or fields, or forest edges.

Poppies have many uses. Many people like to plant poppies in their gardens because they are easy to grow and have a beautiful, bright colour. Their petals have been used as red dye. Their seeds have been used as a filling for baked goods. The corn poppy can produce 65 000 to 450 000 seeds which can remain dormant for up to 80 years before sprouting.

Poppies were pollinated primarily by the glaphyrid beetles (Glaphyridae), however as it spread throughout the world bees, flies and other beetles became important pollinators for the common poppy. This shift in pollinators was also correlated in a shift in the light reflected by poppies found in Europe versus in the eastern Mediterranean.

Common poppy from a top view

Posted on November 11, 2023 04:18 PM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 25, 2023

Pollinator of the Month: Indiscriminate Cuckoo Bumble Bee (Bombus insularis)

There are four species of Psithyrus (cuckoo bumble bees) found in Calgary; they are the Ashton's cuckoo bumble bee, indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bee, Fernald's cuckoo bumble bee, and Suckley's cuckoo bumble bee. All four species are native to Calgary.

Cuckoo bumble bees are considered obligate brood parasites or social parasites. Female cuckoo bumble bees emerge fertilized in the spring. They then enter another bumble bee nest and kill or immobilize the host species queen and lay their own eggs. Once the eggs of the cuckoo bumble bee hatch, the larvae are taken care of by the host species workers. The adults of the species are reproductive males and females, no workers exist. This differs from the typical life cycle of other bumble bees.

As a result of being social parasites cuckoo bumble bees lack a worker caste and no longer develop pollen baskets (corbicula), making them completely dependent on their host species for survival. Despite not having pollen baskets they are still considered pollinators, however they are only visiting flowers for their own nourishment thus the pollination behaviour of cuckoo bumble bees differs from other bumble bees which may negatively impact plant reproductive success.

Cuckoo bumble bee populations may be threatened by decline in their host species populations, however while cuckoo bumble bees have negative impacts on the survival of the host species they likely do not contribute to population decline of their host species. . For the indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus insularis) their host species include yellow-fronted bumble bee, Nevada bumblebee, tricolored bumblebee, and golden northern bumble bee.

To identify the indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus insularis) look for a yellow top of the head and yellow area in front of the wings (scutum). The area behind the wings (scutellum) can be yellow or black. The area between the wings (alar) is black. The abdomen is divided into six sections (tergites). The first and second sections are fully black; the third section is usually black with yellow being sometimes near the bottom and sides of this section; the fourth and fifth sections are black in the middle with yellow on the sides. The tergites never have any white hairs on them.

Indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bees have been found pollinating fireweed, asters, goldenrods, common basket flowers, and narrow leaf hawkweed.

An indiscriminate cuckoo bumble bee on top of a yellow flower with pollen on their face

Posted on November 25, 2023 07:13 PM by kiarra13 kiarra13 | 0 comments | Leave a comment