Mountain Mint


Great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus).

These large, black wasps are specialist in orthoptera. They provision their underground burrows, or nests, with grasshoppers and katydids.

Note the blue sheen to the wings of this large wasp.

Thread-waisted wasps of the ammophila variety provision their burrow nests with caterpillars or sawfly larvae.

Thread-waisted wasp (Ammophila procera).
Long and lean, this thread-waisted wasp dips into the tiny flowers of mt. mint.

Great-golden digger wasps (Sphex ichneumoneus), like the great black wasp above, is an orthopteran specialist. It too uses grasshoppers and katydids to stock the chambers of its burrow nest.

Great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus).
Oblivious to its surroundings this golden digger concentrates on extracting nectar from the mint’s tiny flowers.

Both bees and wasps seem mesmerized by the diminutive flowers.

Female carpenter bee focuses on nectar.
This carpenter bee strayed onto a bee balm growing amongst the mint.

Indirectly attracted to the flowers, there lurks an insect which may at first appear to be a bee, but is not here for the nectar.

Not a bee or wasp.

Robber flies of various kinds typically lay in wait in the vicinity of flowers and other “busy” insect locations in hopes of ambushing those who might be attracted to the flowers; bees, wasps, butterflies, true flies and more. They are swift and deadly predators.

The one pictured here looks to be a large robber fly known as a red-footed cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes). There are accounts of this species attempting to take down hummingbirds!

Red-footed cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes).

The mountain mint is indeed a very busy spot. But unless you stop and take a look, pause on your walk and observe, you may never notice what’s going on.

You have to walk directly pass the little patch of mint on the way to the Butterfly House and beyond. It’s just to your left as you pass the Farm Yard. Take a quick look.

Mountain mint on left with individual bee balm flowers sticking out of the top and purple coneflower leaning over path on right. The bees and wasps prefer the mint. (Cafe patio in background)

Don’t worry, even though there’ll be dozens of bees and wasps thoroughly and frenetically working over the flowers they’ll be too busy to pay much, if any, attention to you. There’s little danger of being stung. It is worth a look.

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