Science for Gardeners: Bees, Ladybugs, Dragonflies

Science is fascinating, especially science that relates to gardeners and gardening. Below are synopses of three interesting articles about bees, ladybugs and dragonflies.

Canada moves to protect bees.

Bee on a sedum blossom.

Bee on a sedum blossom.

Ontario, Canada is first territory in North America to restrict neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides implicated in bee die-off. Following a winter in which 58% of Ontario’s bees died, government officials developed a plan to reduce such pesticide use 80% by 2017. In 2013 the European Union placed a two-year moratorium on neonicotinoid use. The US is not expected to consider any neonicotinoid restrictions until 2018.

Multiple studies have implicated neonicotinoids, habitat loss, and disease as contributors to bee die-off. Read more in this Salon article.


Invite ladybugs Indoors.



Most gardeners understand how valuable ladybugs are in controlling aphids and other pesky garden plant pests, but may not be inclined to welcome ladybugs indoors when they begin seeking out warmer habitats as cold weather hits. Jessica Ware, of Rutgers University-Newark suggests we actually welcome ladybugs, aka ladybird beetles, inside to manage unwanted houseplant pests. Read more in this ScienceDaily article.


Dragonflies: how do they fly like that?

Ever watch a dragonfly perform aerial aerobatics? It’s all in their wings … four of them, each controlled by different muscles according tho this article in ScienceDaily. Dragonflies can rotate each wing which allows them to alter the aerodynamic forces acting on each wing, and can change the directions in which they flap each wing. These traits allow them more aerial freedom than any fixed-wing aircraft could ever achieve.

A Pumpkin Spider for Halloween

Spotted crossing the driveway the week before Halloween, this spider, an Orange Marbled Orb Weaver, is a Halloween decoration on the go.


Marbled Orb Weaver, Araneus marmoreus, shown next to an oak leaf for size comparison.

Marbled Orb Weavers (Araneus Marmoreus) are common and harmless to humans, but their color certainly attracts attention. Apparently, their color ranges from white to yellow to yellow-green to orange; BugGuide shows the many color variations.

After stopping for a quick photo shoot, this one ambled away to a place unknown … but it’s likely in one of the perennial and shrub beds along the edge of the driveway. This adult will die after laying eggs that will hatch in the spring.

Orange Orb Weaver spider, aka Pumpkin spider, in Connecticut during Halloween week, October 2014.

Orange Marbled Orb Weaver spider, aka Pumpkin spider, in Connecticut during Halloween week, October 2014.

Marbled Orb Weavers spin circular webs in low vegetation. They spin these each morning for that night’s catch. For more comprehensive information on Marbled Orb Weavers visit this BioKIDS link.

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