Pollinators on Blood Mountain
Author: Andrew Linker, Outreach Coordinator
A shiny hiney indicates our native carpenter bee, and a fuzzy hiney with stripes would be our native bumblebee! We saw both, as Irenee Payne, Naturalist and Pollinator Coordinator for Georgia Association of Conservation Districts, led an amazing hike up Blood Mountain on the first chilly morning of fall.
Early fall is a spectacular time to enjoy the dizzying array of over 150 species of asters in Georgia. We saw lots of white snakeroot, tickseed, goldenrod, and late purple asters, all within the Asteraceae family. If you look closely at commonly called asters, each flowerhead has many tiny flowers in the center and another layer of ray flowers around the outer edge. Where there are so many blooms with sweet nectar, the pollinators will surely follow.
Another wonderful wildflower we encountered doesn’t seem to flower at all. As gentian flowers started to reveal themselves along the trail, Irenee explained: “Gentian blooms do not spread their petals like you would expect, and our native bumblebees are the only pollinators able to get to the nectar without “robbing,” the fascinating practice some insects use to eat their way to the nectar from the outside base of the flower.”
From metallic sweat bees to yellowjackets and oil beetles, we all learned something new as we took a moment to observe the activity on flowers we might normally “fly” by. We were greeted by an early blooming American witch-hazel tree and an amazing view from the highest point in Blood Mountain Wilderness. You can see more pictures from this hike HERE.
Pollinators have been getting a lot of attention lately, and rightly so. There is a big push to pay closer attention to our use and timing of mowing and herbicides on public and private lands, especially roadsides. Ideally, road maintainers would mow instead of spray if invasive species are not established. Mowing trail/road sides after the summer flowers have turned brown and are ready to disperse their seed may be an easy way we can all look after the food source and the habitat of our native pollinators.