I recently spent a week watching the Goat’s Beard growing by our front door. Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus) is member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae). I first became aware of the plant when searching for Dusky Azures in the early 2000s. Goat’s Beard is the only plant used by Dusky Azures as a larval host, and I successfully found larvae on numerous plants. In fact, I have seen more Dusky Azure larvae than Dusky Azure adults. In recent years, however, it seems that Dusky Azures have declined, and I have been unable to find larvae on some of the same plants. The larvae are only visible on the plants for a few weeks, and some years I have been unable to search the plants during that short window of time, so hopefully the butterflies are still there and I have just missed them.
Near the end of the typical window of time for finding larvae, the plant blooms (the eggs are deposited on young leaves or developing flower buds). The last year I saw larvae—2010—I watched them as they consumed the Goat’s Beard flowers. While searching for larvae, and when I photographed the blooming plants, I became aware of the large number of insects that visit the flowers for nectar. For this reason—and the plant’s ability to grow and bloom in a shade or dappled sun setting—my wife and I decided to plant several Goat’s Beards around our property. We placed a few along our creek and also planted a couple along the walkway to our front door. As the plants by the front door began to bloom in late May, I decided to photograph as many of the insects visiting the plants as possible, and post the photos here on my blog as I had done last year with our Hercules Club (September 22, 2016). Some Goat’s Beard plants can grow to be three or four feet tall, but the plants by our door are only a few feet tall, so at least I wouldn’t need the ladder!
Below I present a gallery of the visitors I managed to photograph. Some came as pollinators, attracted by the nectar produced by the plant, two came to suck the juices from the stems of the plant, one came to eat the flowers, and a few came to eat the visitors. There are representatives here from five insect orders: Hemiptera (true bugs, planthoppers, and treehoppers), Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (flies), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), and Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps), plus one order of Arachnids, Araneae (spiders).
First off, here are some pollinators (or possible pollinators):
And now, a few visitors which were eating the plant. The leafhopper nymph and Buffalo Treehopper suck juices from the stems, the looper larva eats the leaves and flowers.
All this activity brings predators. The Spined Assassin Bug, Ambush Bug, and Crab Spider sit motionless on the flowers, waiting for unsuspecting prey to wander a little too close.