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oil beetle larvae attack and consume the bee’s eggs and larvae, along with the pollen and nectar she had collected for her offspring. As a result, instead of producing a batch of bees,

the female’s nest becomes a nursery for oil beetles. Even the most creative Hollywood screenwriter might struggle to imagine such an ironic twist.

A jumping spider hides among the flower buds of a milkweed (Asclepias sp.) with a captured fly.

A Scary World for Pollinators FOR BEES, BUTTERFLIES AND OTHER pollinating insects, life is harrowing. Pesticides and habitat degradation can severely reduce population sizes, but individual insects don’t recognize those threats. Instead, any anxiety dwelling in their tiny brains likely comes from the possibility of predation: Research shows that flowers with predators on them are visited less frequently than those without, so pollinators must be at least somewhat aware of the enemies that might await them at each flower. However, they’re also desperate for food, and it takes a lot of flowers to meet the energy needs of a moth or butterfly — or to supply sufficient pollen for a female bee to feed her brood.

Given the number and effectiveness of predators lying in wait for pollinators, it might seem surprising that we still have any bees or butterflies left. As with all predator-prey relationships, though, each side of the equation is regulated by the other. There are still enough flowers that aren’t harboring a crab spider or ambush bug to furnish most pollinators’ needs. Predators are a necessary part of any ecosystem. As such, we should admire and be grateful for them. They certainly employ a variety of fascinating strategies worthy of our respect. At the same time, it’s appropriate to feel some sympathy for the creatures who spend their lives trying to avoid the danger that lurks among the flowers.

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Profile for Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Wildflower Magazine 2019 | Volume 36, No. 1  

Flower-dwelling predators, love letters to native plants, how to bring nature play home, discovering a rare morning-glory, remembering an in...

Wildflower Magazine 2019 | Volume 36, No. 1  

Flower-dwelling predators, love letters to native plants, how to bring nature play home, discovering a rare morning-glory, remembering an in...

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