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Randi V.W. Eckel, PhD


Nov. 19, 2015



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The Winter Holiday Season is almost upon us!


Witch-Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

As we approach Thanksgiving we are thankful for the past year as well as the unseasonably warm weather we've been enjoying recently. By the calendar and the lack of leaves on the trees we know that cold days will soon be here, but there are still a few hardy wildflowers persisting in our landscapes. In the past week alone I have seen Blue Wood Aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium), Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens), Thin-leaved Coneflower (Rudbeckia triloba), Closed Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrews), and Witch-Hazel (of course!) all in bloom.

On that note, since early November I have been answering questions from folks who are concerned that they have seen bees and butterflies that are still active - and my answer is "Of course they are!", and you can support them by planting late flowering wildflowers. Unlike Monarch Butterflies that migrate away, the vast majority of our insects, including our native Bees, Butterflies and Moths, are preparing for winter. Many insects will overwinter as eggs or pupae, often in leaf litter or some other protected spot, such as the hollow stems of plants. Some even overwinter as Adults!


Closed Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)


The Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma)

For example, we have been enjoying watching some beautiful Eastern Comma Butterflies this past week. These delicate but hardy butterflies overwinter as adults so they will be active as long as warm temperatures allow. The caterpillars of this butterfly feed singly on host plants in the Elm and Nettle families, including the American Hackberry Tree (Celtis occidentalis). The adults, however, instead of 'nectaring' on flowers, actually feed on rotting fruit and tree sap.

Bumblebee Queens are also active through November busily visiting any flowers they can find before they retreat to underground nests to spend the winter. Both the Bumble Queens as well as the Eastern Comma Butterflies will become active again here as early as late February, when they will be such a welcome sight just as our late season snows are melting!


Common Eastern Bumblebee (Bombus impatiens)


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