In a Patch of Goldenrods summary by Ethan Perry
Presented By: Larry Weber
Larry Weber is known for his weekly column “Northland Nature” in the News Tribune and the weekly phenology radio show “Backyard Almanac” on The North 103.3 (formerly KUMD). He is the author of numerous northland nature books, and also taught biology for many years at Marshall School.
Larry began his presentation by passing out a free copy of his book In a Patch of Goldenrods to each attendee. This book is hard to find online right now, but you can contact ANPE to get in touch with Larry and obtain a copy. It is full of photographs Larry took over many years of observing a patch of the yellow flowers near his home. He emphasized that he is not a professional photographer, but with patient observation and liberal use of the digital shutter button, he was able to capture clear images of a tremendous variety of insects and spiders in their natural environment.
He began with photos of all the goldenrod species he has observed in the Duluth area, roughly a dozen, including the unusual (for here) Upland White Goldenrod (Solidago ptarmicoides). And he quickly dispatched the common misconception that goldenrods are responsible for late summer allergies by pointing out that, as insect-pollinated flowers, their pollen is too heavy to blow around and get into our noses. We can blame wind-pollinated flowers for that.
Larry then moved on to show us the amazing variety of “critters” that make their homes among the goldenrods. In the first photo a small swarm of what looked like bees was spread over a cluster of flowers, but with closer inspection, Larry pointed out they had only 2 wings, while bees have 4. They were one of several kinds of “flower flies” (Syrphidae), and the first of many mimics he revealed to us.
Larry also discussed 3 types of insect galls that infect goldenrods, and then dove into the world of spiders. True to his own last name, and the title of one of his books (Web Watching), Larry concluded with dazzling photos of several kinds of spider webs, often dew-laden and back-lit.
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