The cover image for our new issue was taken by David Cappaert and shows a sweat bee and the blister beetle on the flower of a cutleaf silverpuff (Microseris laciniata). This image relates to the article Experimental shifts in exotic flowering phenology produce strong indirect effects on native plant reproductive success by Waters, Chen & Hille Ris Lambers (2020).
This study found that indirect interactions (between two species, mediated by a third species) are especially likely to be affected by phenological shifting, because interactors may not shift synchronously. Such shifts could change mediating behavior by the intermediary species, affecting the interaction outcome. This research manipulated flowering phenology of exotic plants and found strong effects on seed production by neighboring native plants, probably due to changes in foraging behavior by shared pollinators.
As climate changes and flowering phenologies of neighboring forb species shift relative to one another, insects may make new decisions about where to forage. We watched insects foraging in floral neighborhoods that offered a novel suite of floral resources, created by altering the timing of flowering by exotic species.
As always, the natural history itself – what we see in a meter square in 15 minute increments – is singularly compelling: animals of astonishing beauty displaying intricate behaviors. There are also lots of curious events. The Lasioglossum (bee) in the photo is a common visitor to Microseris; the Epicauta (blister beetle) is more of an oddity. However, on this particular day, at this particular site, the flowers were crowded with beetles displacing the usual pollinators. Surprises like this are routine, and an important part of the payoff for hours spent staring at flowers!
Written by Susan Waters & David Cappaert
All photographs by David Cappaert.
You can read the full article by Waters, Chen & Hille Ris Lambers here: Experimental shifts in exotic flowering phenology produce strong indirect effects on native plant reproductive success.