Goldenrods: A Special September Attraction

I have associated goldenrods with September for some 70 years, ever since I was in the early grades of elementary school and back-to-school days included a yellow-papered “Goldenrod Writing Tablet.”

Now, I enjoy many September hours in the midst of the different goldenrod species in Eliza Howell Park, watching the “critters” they attract.

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Many of the Eliza Howell summer wildflowers are nearing the end of their blooming season, but the insects appear to find goldenrod nectar plentiful and satisfactory.

Some of those attracted are large and iridescent. Here are two views of the same individual (Great Black Wasp, I think).

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Some are black and white (Bald-faced Hornet and Black and White Wasp).

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The Locust Borer Beetle is one that I do not remember from previous years. It is possible that I missed it or have forgotten, but I wonder if it is now becoming more common in EHP.

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Two that I do remember – and did an entry on last year – are the Goldenrod Soldier Beetle and the Ailanthus Webworm Moth, a moth that does not lead one to think immediately of “moth” when first seen.

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Sometimes the flowers get crowded, but most insects seem to be willing to share.

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It is not just insects that are attracted.

Sometimes there is a mammal (not pictured) wandering among the goldenrods, carrying a little camera.

Snails (Brown-lipped or Banded snails) prefer the stems to the flowers.

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Goldenrods were for years inaccurately thought to be a major contributor to “hay fever” symptoms. There is no reason to avoid and many reasons to enjoy a large path of goldenrods, definitely one of the highlights of September.

In addition to others not mentioned, the wasps and beetles and bees and moths and snails and I are grateful for their presence.

 

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The Beetle and the Moth

In Edward Lear’s famous poem, “The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea.” “The Beetle and the Moth came to Eliza Howell Park” may not be a great opening line of a poem, but the beetle and the moth have in fact come – in large numbers – this August.

The beetle is the Goldenrod Soldier Beetle and the moth is the Ailanthus Webworm Moth. Though I am without records from previous years to compare, it does definitely seem that they are both much more common this year.

Note: These are two just of the “critters” likely to be found among the goldenrods on the public nature walk in EHP on Saturday, August 25, starting at 11:00 a.m.

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle

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Soldier beetles resemble fireflies or lightning bugs. They are called “soldier beetles,” reportedly, because they reminded someone of a military uniform (especially, a red species suggested the British “redcoat”). They are also called “leatherwings.” The Goldenrod Soldier Beetle, named for its close association with goldenrods, is also called “Pennsylvania Leatherwing.”

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These beetles are often found on flowers (here on Wild Bergamot), where they feed on pollen and nectar. They also sometimes eat small insects, such as aphids, eggs, and caterpillars.

Recently, I looked over a patch of some 12 to 15 blooming goldenrods and spotted at least 20 of the beetles. Goldenrods, at this time of the year, also serve as a prime location for mating.

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Goldenrod Soldier Beetles are active as adults mostly from July to September, with peak numbers in August.

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

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When not in flight, this moth, with its tightly closed wings, might be mistaken for a beetle. When in flight, it resembles a wasp. It is diurnal, loves flowers, and is a good pollinator. In the next picture, the flower is White Sweet Clover.

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Ailanthus webworms are originally native to more tropical areas. They have spread north as they have adapted to different plants to use for their webs/nests and for the larvae feed on. One such plant is the Ailanthus tree (after which the moth is named), commonly known as tree-of-heaven.

In Eliza Howell Park, goldenrods now appear to be the preferred flower for adult feeding.

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The owl and the pussy-cat sailed to the land where the Bong-Tree grows and danced by the light of the moon. The beetle and the moth came to the park where goldenrods bloom and feed on nectar in the August sun. Bad poetry, but more accessible viewing.