This tropical, hibiscus looking flower is actually native to Missouri and parts of the Midwest and southern U.S.. In fact it is a hibiscus, specifically (Hibiscus lasiocarpos), and it belongs in the plant family Malvacea with over 4000 species, including plants such as cotton, okra, cacao, durian, baobabs and hollyhocks. The marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is in fact a plant native to Europe and north Africa, and its sap was used to create the sweet treat …marshmallows. Today, marshmallow candies are no longer made with the sap from the plant, and instead gelatin is used in its place.
Flowers of an okra plant (Abelmoschus esculentu), a plant in the same family as Rose Mallow and Hibiscus.
Back to the Rose Mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpos), this plant is a tall (3 to 7 feet) woody stemmed, perennial plant (meaning it will come back year after year). The five-petaled flowers can be quite large (6 inches). Blooms are either white or pink with a dark mauve/ wine colored center. They bloom later in the season between July through October. The leaves are heart or arrow shaped and are covered by soft velvety hairs. They prefer full sun and moist soil.
Rose Mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpos) blooms can be either pink or white.
They are an important source of nectar and pollen for bees and other insects. Check out this video to see how much pollen bees can get from these flowers (Severn Rose Mallow - YouTube). You might even find a bee specialist, the Rose-mallow bee, (Ptilothrix bombiformis). Females of this species use the pollen from this flower to feed its young. Males of the species can often be found hanging out in the open blossoms waiting for a female to come by. Females will then build a nest to lay her eggs on a ball of pollen that she makes from the Rose Mallow pollen she collects. The young will feed off of this pollen until they are ready to emerge from the nest and continue the cycle.
I found a male last year hiding in my Rose Mallow. As I got closer to it, it did push-ups at me, I assume it was a “get away from my flower” dance, perhaps a way to intimidate other would be male, rose mallow bees from interfering with his digs.
Here is a male Rose-mallow bee (Ptilothrix bombiformis). Notice his splayed out legs and crouched position. He is telling me to buzz off!
This post was written for last year, but got lost somehow so I am re-posting it.
July is almost over so I better write up a post.
For this post I will be talking a bit about a few insects that I have found in my backyard. Summer is the height of insect activity.
The theme for this post is cool insect communication interactions.
Communication? Insects interact? What?
I have a sunflower growing in my front yard, it is huge, over 8 feet tall. Scurrying across the underside of its ginormous leaves are these large ants. The ants as you see in the picture are walking amongst smaller insects that cover the underside of the leaf. These ants are tending the treehoppers (the smaller insects which belong to the family Membracidae). The ants are basically farming or ranching the treehoppers for the honeydew that the treehoppers exude. The treehoppers feed off of the juices found in the plant. They then excrete honeydew which is sugary waste water that the insects do not need, but the ants find rather tasty. So the ants tend to these treehoppers, providing protection for the treehoppers against predators while also getting a tasty, energy laden snack for themselves. A similar association or relationship is also found between ants and aphids.
Treehoppers are known for communicating amongst themselves using vibrational signals. They vibrate their abdomen against the leaf or stem of a plant and this signal is transmitted though the plant to a receiver (another treehopper). In this manner they can communicate to their offspring if predators are nearby or signal in search of a mate. They can even communicate to the tending ants if a predator is attacking them. The ants can then chase away the predator.
Talking about communication and signals, this video is of a conehead katydid calling for a mate. These are common throughout the Midwest US. This specific one is the Nebraska conehead katydid (Neoconocephalus nebracensis). Their calls can be heard all night along grassy roadside ditches and in field or …in this case...backyards. Conehead katydids like other katydid species (family Tettigoniidae) make their calls by rubbing their wings together. Crickets (family Grillidae) also call or chirp by rubbing their wings together. Similar to crickets and katydids are grasshoppers. Most commonly seen are the short-horned grashoppers (Family Accrididae), which are generally more robust in appearance then crickets or katydids and have shorter antennae. They call by either rubbing their wings or wings and hindlegs together. You will often see these during the day jumping and flying close to the ground. You might hear them first as their wings make noise when flying and some have brightly colored wings.
Many conehead katydids have a continuous call, one long uninterrupted buzz, but the Nebraska conehead has a discontinuous call, with short phrases interspersed with silence. Listen to my recording here https://youtu.be/vqJHyrVd9W4
Males in a chorus of this species will synchronize their calls with their neighbors.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.