Host and Guests: Texas Ragwort

This year we have had a big bloom of Texas Ragwort, and on my walks I noticed many insects visiting them.

Texas Ragwort, single plant.

Growing all around a dead tree.

A close-up of the flowers.

Funereal Duskywing, Erynnis funeralis.

Western Honeybee.

Fiery Skipper, Hylaphila phyleus.

American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis.

Brown Stink Bug.

Banded Bee Fly.

Hairy-footed Scoliid Wasp, Dielis pilipes. Scoliid wasp larvae parasitize beetle larvae, but the adults eat nectar.

Common Buckeye, Junonia coenia.

Monarch, Danaus plexippus.

These dark caterpillars of the Salt Marsh Moth can be seen from far away.

These photos were taken over about a one-month period.  That is a nice long bloom time for a wildflower.

They are growing in an 11-acre pasture, and one thing I noticed, was that the area with the most insect activity seemed to change from day to day.  One day a ring of Ragwort growing around a dead oak tree would have all kinds of insects, but the rest of the field wouldn’t have any.  The next day it might change to a small area of open field, or to a ring around a Tupelo tree, or to the edge of the field near some pine saplings.  I would love to know why that is.

I am so grateful for iNaturalist, for help in identifying all these species!  I used to spend hours going through guidebooks, only to give up.

Now when I post a picture of a species, the AI on iNaturalist makes suggestions as to species, and then I can look at their information pages to help me choose a species or genus to label the picture.  After that, quite often specialists will jump in and help me make a more precise ID.

And now, once I have the species ID from iNaturalist, when I go to look it up in my guidebook collection, I find that they don’t even mention that species.  For example, I own about 6 books on Texas wildflowers — Texas Ragwort is mentioned in just one, and the picture given is of a species that is closely related, but has an entirely different leaf.  I would never have figured out the ID on my own.

I also used to print out my photos and try to arrange them taxonomically in binders, to create my own personalized guidebooks.  Now iNaturalist does all that automatically as well.

If you would like to see all of my observations on iNaturalist, my page is here.  And if you have an account on that site, please let me know and I will look you up!  🙂