Fresh Pond Almanac
June at the Meadow
Many insects are pollinating and reproducing, plants are growing with some of the flowers in bloom, and birds and mammals are as active as ever, capitalizing on this dynamic time through means such as predation and plant consumption. It is a beautiful and exciting time of year to visit Fresh Pond, and I enjoyed the time I spent there, observing plant and insect species I had never noticed before. Prior to my time spent with EwA, I had never even heard of planthoppers or leafhoppers, but within a few weeks, I saw red-banded leafhoppers, saddled leafhoppers, citrus flatid planthoppers, and more at Fresh Pond! You can learn so much just from spending just a few hours outdoors. Join us as we take a glance at the plant and insect activity at Fresh Pond in June.
“Now more than ever, with our planet facing issues such as biodiversity loss, I think it’s time to give back to nature and the ecosystems that exist within it. The first steps toward change are education and awareness-- knowing exactly what the problems are before you try to solve them.”
Lucy focused her EwA summer internship on local scale ecology, as well as participated in large-scale research and conversations about the environment. She worked on a site-specific ecological almanac (at the Fresh Pond Reservoir in Cambridge Massachusetts) documenting insects and plants throughout the season, as well as collaborated with citizen scientists in the field. Enjoy Lucy's summer Fresh Pond almanac!
EwA citizen scientists and interns survey the Lusitania meadow 📍 for arthropods every single week during the warm seasons. This gives us the opportunity to get to know the meadow intimately. Each week highlights different relationships between the plants and their ‘wild’ visitors as fascinating stories unfold. This almanac is a wonderful means to share what we observe and record at Lusitania with our communities.
📅 You can usually find us at the meadow weekly on Mondays (unless it rains). Check also our Eventbrite and join us in experiencing the magic of this wonderful meadow—an oasis in the middle of a very busy city.
Now we enter June, the official beginning of the summer season in New England is upon us. While the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, typically occurs between the dates of June 20 and June 22 in the Northern Hemisphere, the signs of the season often reveal themselves in the weeks prior. At the Fresh Pond Reservation and its surrounding areas, temperature levels significantly increase from those in May. Temperatures in New England typically reach a high of 22°C (or 72°F) and the humidity levels are high, averaging 77%. There are occasional days in June when the temperature hits extreme highs– in 2020, the highest temperature was a record 33°C (or 91°F) in the Boston area. June also brings a moderate amount of rainfall. In June 2019, there was a total of 4.99 inches of precipitation in the Boston area. This was particularly high compared to the 2.96 inches observed in June 2018. However, 4.99 inches of rainfall is not abnormal, considering that Boston experienced 4.84 inches in June 2017.
Fresh Pond Reservation is the host to an abundance of life forms. A variety of plant species flower in June, including the large-leaved lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus). The large-leaved lupine is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 1.5 m (4.9 ft). They can be recognizable by their five-parted blue or purple flowers, however the flowers are also sometimes white at the meadow. When the plant no longer holds pollen, the color of the flower petals change, serving as an indicator for potential pollinators. The plant has hairy fruit pods and is also a larval host plant for many butterfly species. The plant does not provide nectar, but many insects visit the plant in hopes of finding it. These lupines, pictured below, were sighted on the outskirts of Lusitania Meadow, on the path that veers to the right from the main entrance of the meadow📍.
The Visitors of Lupine
Hummingbirds, butterflies, and many bees, including carpenter bees, bumblebees, mason bees, and miner bees, are common pollinators of lupines. At the Lusitania meadow, you may spot the Wilke’s mining bee (Andrena wilkella)–the bee in the banner of this almanac and a common pollinator of the meadow’s lupines.
Bumblebees, such as the brown-belted bumblebee (Bombus griseocollis) can also be seen foraging the plant, forcing their way into the lupines’ deep flowers. Insects have to pry open the flowers in order to get inside, something that is not a major challenge for bumblebees due to their size and strength–as you can see below.
The lupine also plays an important role as a larval host plant. One of the species that uses lupine as a larval host is the orange sulphur (Colias eurytheme) butterfly. You may be lucky enough to spot this colorful butterfly fluttering around Fresh Pond in June!
🐞 Nature Quest » Spot the different developmental phases of ladybugs
Lady bugs are active! Try to find three different stages of their development: larva (left), pupa (center), and adult (right). Here are a few shots to help you find them:
Note the tall bunches of white daisy-like flowers at Lusitania. These are fleabanes from the genus Erigeron in the daisy family. Erigeron is a large and very diverse genus closely related to the genus Aster. North America has the highest diversity of fleabane species. The story behind the name ‘fleabane’ is that when dried, the plant was believed to repel fleas. Unfortunately, this story is just a myth; in reality, fleabanes are not effective flea repellents!
We know of at least 2 different fleabane species at Fresh Pond: the Daisy fleabane (Erigeron strigosus) and the annual fleabane (Erigeron annuus). Both are recognizable by their numerous white to light pink ray florets that surround a central yellow disk floret. The species look very much alike and are hard to distinguish from one another. One way to tell the difference between the two is that the annual fleabane has more numerous and broader leaves. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that the annual species has long white hairs spreading all along its stems.
The flowers of the fleabanes are visited by numerous insects. To date, EwA has recorded 31 arthropod species associations with fleabanes. Many species of bees are regular pollinators, including small carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, halictid bees, and masked bees.
Small butterflies, wasps, and other insects often look for nectar on fleabanes, and you may also find several pollen-feeding beetles maneuvering the ray florets. We’ve witnessed quite a number of syrphid flies as well on these flowers, some pollinating, some mating. It is a very giving flower for sure!
These are just a few highlights of the abundant activity at Fresh Pond in June– there is so much more to see. There was not just a lot of plant and insect activity to observe; many other organisms were busy as well, including birds and mammals. In June, I saw a variety of bird species, including the distinct yellow warbler (Setophaga petechia) and the cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). I also spotted eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) hopping about. This heightened ecological activity extends well beyond June, with similar trends intensifying and continuing into July and August. Stay tuned for monthly almanac installations to follow!
Enjoy your visit. 📅 Join our Plants and Wildlife Documentation Walks. Share your findings with us (you can comment below)!
EwA Useful Links
📖 The Book of Swamp & Bog: Trees, Shrubs, and Wildflowers of Eastern Freshwater Wetlands (1995) by John Eastman (Author), Amelia Hansen (Illustrator)
Fleabanes and its visitors by Claire O’Neill. Editing & layout by Claire O’Neill. The banner photo is of a Wilke’s mining bee (iNat record). The photos in this article are visual records that the EwA team has collected at their Middlesex county study sites. Click on the picture, and you’ll land on the record and its owner (records shown in this article are from © Claire O’Neill, © Lucy Janovitz, and © Shilpa Sen). Photos are licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC). See EwA’s biodiversity occurrence records specific to this place in the EwA at Fresh Pond iNaturalist project.
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