Is a picture worth a thousand words?
Well it inspired me to write this post. Don’t think I can make it to 1000 words though, would likely bore you if I could.
But let’s meet (Trout) Lily, Erythronium americanum and (Pure green magnificent) Bee, Augochlora pura. They’ve been springtime friends for eons, since they really need each other. And Bee’s latin name actually translates to “pure green magnificent” – you can see why in this USDA pic.
It’s possible that Bee needs Lily a little more than Lily needs her, because flowers are pretty scarce when Bee wakes up from her winter sleep and has to eat. But because Bee is a green metallic sweat bee (Halictidae) and a generalist, she’s used to plying any flower she can find. She’ll need plenty of nectar and pollen – the nectar for her, the pollen for her babies. And in her nest beneath the bark of a fallen tree, she’ll shape the pollen into little yellow loaves to line the cells she constructs. Each cell will get an egg when it’s food supply is complete.
Lily, on the other hand, has had to deal with rotten spring weather (which makes his/her flowers close to protect the pollen) and pollen hogs – bees that make off with half of a flower’s pollen and head straight to their nest. And Bee is so faithless! She visits such a multitude of species, Lily’s pollen may not be getting to other lilies. So he/she (Lily has both genders in one flower) doesn’t rely just on pollination to make more lilies – only about 1% of the plants flower each year! That’s because Lily has a better strategy, “droppers”. Imagine planting your hand in the ground, then new fingers growing out of it. These burrow down into the ground and then rise up growing new yous. That’s what droppers are, clones of Lily that form big spreading colonies over time.
After her frenzy of nest-building, pollen-gathering and egg-laying, Bee is just frazzled and done for by early summer. The do nothing (except mate) male bees die too, but the young’uns will be out and sipping nectar on all the late summer flowers. Lily’s leaves have yellowed and died, giving back the tremendous amount of phosphorus their roots extracted from the spring rains. Ants have snagged the few seeds Lily produced and carried them to their nest. Lily hunkers down for the year with a deeply buried corm full of stored carbohydrate.
Lily and Bee, they’ll meet again next spring…