Life's Little Moments

By dbifulco

Sunflower Biodiversity - Symbiosis

I am just completely fascinated with the relationship between the ants and the Keeling Treehoppers (Entylia carinata) who lay eggs in our sunflower leaves.  The female treehoppers arrive and stake out a leaf, carving a slit in the center vein and depositing eggs (you can see a photo of one mom with her eggs and a few just emerged nymphs HERE on FLickr).

While the female is guarding her nest of eggs, she is usually attended by ants (see my blip of 10 July for an explanation of this most intriguing symbiotic behavior between ants and treehoppers.  And, once the nymphs start to grow, the ants divide them into smaller "herds" which are carefully tended on different leaves usually on the same plant.  Needless to say, the leaves on my sunflowers look a mess, but to me a chewed leaf is a good leaf.  It means I'm supporting biodiversity in my own little way.  Keep in mind, this sunflower is bird seed that was planted by chipmunks...

I particularly liked this photo because it shows one ant stroking an adult treehopper (to make it secrete honeydew) while another tends the tiny nymphs.  The ants work in a very orderly manner when tending their charges - it seems that each has their job.  Interestingly, I found another small treehopper colony on another sunflower being tended by a totally different kind of ant, one that is much smaller.  Intriguing.

I went over to my friends' farm today and we found FOUR tiny little Black Swallowtail cats, so she snipped the dill they were chewing on and has them safely tucked into a butterfly container.  The joys of raising butterflies.  She also gave me some dried seed heads from her dill so I can plant some here.  It was she who gave me the phlox and red bee balm that has become such a huge part of my garden.  Friends who give you gifts from their gardens and special indeed.

I have a walk scheduled tomorrow in a location is usually excellent for butterflies.  However, the forecast looks iffy with a strong possibility of rain which would pretty much mean no butterflies.  So, I"ll play it by ear.  Always plenty going on here in my own garden.

Cheers, and thank you for stopping by.


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