I took so many bee and wasp photos in 2015 that I’ve decided to split them up. But since I am not an entomologist, I expect to get some of these wrong. As I’m learning more about ground-nesting bees in particular, I’m realizing that what I assume are honeybees and bumblebees might not be.

bachelor’s button:

honeybee in the center of a blue flower

coreopsis:

honeybee standing on the disk floret

caught in a milkweed blossom:

honeybee hanging by its middle right leg

fighting hard to get free:

same bee holding on to the flower with its wings blurred in a circle

butterfly weed:

dark honeybee on a bright orange flower

baptisia:

light orange honeybee with its hind legs standing on baptisia and its head in the blossom

sleeping on purple coneflower:

bumblebee lying in the middle of a pink petal

under a milkweed leaf:

upside-down bumblebee looking into the camera

sleeping in a sunflower:

bumblebee hanging upside-down from the lower right side of a disk floret

bee balm:

big bumblebee with a yellow abdominal band on the right side of a bee balm blossom

a different bumblebee on bee balm:

yellow on top, black on bottom, on the left side of a bee balm blossom

stiff goldenrod:

four bumblebees close together, with a barely visible green bee between them

competing over a hollyhock:

a bumblebee in the center of a light pink hollyhock blossom, with another bumblebee further inside

climbing into turtlehead:

bumblebee at an angle, with its right two hind legs still outside

orange-belted, or tricolored, bumblebee, on baptisia:

out-of-focus bumblebee, yellow on top and orange on bottom, on baptisia

golden alexanders:

small bumblebee on the edge of small yellow flowers

yellow coneflower:

yellow bumblebee looking into the camera while holding onto the cone

spiderwort:

Video link

More bugs and critters:

monarch from the right side, with its proboscis in joe-pye weed

Last month everyone was excited to hear that the overwintering monarch population in Mexico more than tripled over the previous year. As we now wait for news about the fate of butterflies who were caught in the winter storm in Mexico, I’ll look at other butterflies because I’ve already extensively noted our monarch activity (inside and outside) from last summer.

Here’s a phenomenon I noticed in previous years: pearly everlasting plants that appear to be damaged by fungus or insects.

pearly everlasting with dozens of caterpillar webs

This year I looked closer and discovered that the white “fungus” was instead nests for caterpillars. Our four large clumps of hundreds of flowers were each covered in webs that protect American lady caterpillars.

two black, spiky caterpillars on opposite sides of a pearly everlasting plant

This went on for several weeks, with the caterpillars getting larger and larger, but one day I noticed that there weren’t any more caterpillars around – and this was the only butterfly I saw:

brown-and-orange butterfly with tattered left wings, viewed from above, on tiny monster geranium

I went back-and-forth about this one: is it a question mark butterfly or a comma butterfly? I said “question mark” when I saw it on July 8:

big orange butterfly with brown spots, wings open, upside-down on common milkweed

And five days later I thought this one was a different butterfly, a comma:

brown butterfly with wings closed, with a white C on the lower wing, viewed from the right side

Now that I’m inspecting the images closely, I think they’re probably the same butterfly, and I think it’s a comma.

I only noticed tiger swallowtails a couple times. This year I will plant dill to attract them:

large yellow butterfly with black marks, sharing a cup plant with two bumblebees

Red admirals:

tattered left wing on a red admiral on white coneflower

butterfly looking into the camera, its wings viewed straight on and nearly invisible, drinking from purple coneflower

viewed from left side, walking down culver's root blossom

Skippers:

medium butterfly with yellow markings on its wings, viewed from the side, on yellow coneflower leaf with its proboscis curled up

brown butterfly from the right side, leaning back with its proboscis extending up and then down into joe pye weed

dark brown butterfly with faint whitish markings, viewed from the top, with its proboscis in tiny monster geranium

The most breathtaking find of last summer – a red-spotted purple:

black butterfly with its wings open, with white, baby blue, and orange spots all along the edges of its wings, in the shade

same butterfly in the sun, its wings turned iridescent blue

same butterfly in shade, viewed from the left side, with the same spots along the wing edges and orange spots over the rest of the wing

More bugs and critters:

In 2015 there were lots and lots of ladybugs in our garden. Most of these are non-native multi-colored Asian lady beetles, identifiable by an M or W pattern of spots on their heads.

red beetle on orange butterfly weed

Two-toned:

red left wing, orange right wing

Orange:

yellowish-orange beetle with 18 spots

Two spots:

darker orange ladybug with a spot at the bottom center of each wing

Six spots:

light brown ladybug with two spots on top, two in the bottom center, and two in the back

No spots:

orange ladybug

Lots of spots:

bright red ladybug with about 20 spots

Big spots:

pinkish ladybug with about 10 spots that are larger than on any other ladybug

(This is starting to feel like a Dr. Seuss book.)

Ladybug with a deformed wing:

viewed from the top, a missing wing cover and a shriveled wing extending farther than its head

viewed from the side, it looks like a cross-section of a ladybug

Aphids before ladybug arrival:

green aphids covering yarrow buds

Aphids after ladybug arrival:

two pairs of mating ladybugs walking on yarrow with no aphids

Ladybug eggs:

about 20 long yellow eggs on the underside of a milkweed leaf

Just hatched:

tiny black bugs crawling out of white eggs

Ladybug larva:

long, skinny black bug with two orange spots and two orange bands on the bottom of a milkweed leaf

Grabbing aphids:

ladybug larva holding an aphid in its mouth with its front legs, with lots of other red aphids nearby

This year, I plan to participate in the Lost Ladybug Project to help document the species in Minnesota.

There were also other beetles, like the milkweed beetle:

long red beetle with black spots

milkweed beetle's head peeking out from behind milkweed buds

Non-native pest, Japanese beetle:

16 shiny black-and-green beetles, some mating, on a holey grapevine wreath

Grapevine beetle – much bigger than any other beetles I saw:

medium-brown beetle at least an inch long

Soldier beetle or Pennsylvania leatherwing:

light orange beetle with long black spots at the ends of its wings, on black-eyed susan

And my favorite beetle sighting of 2015, locust borer:

large beetle with black and yellow stripes around its entire body and head, with long red legs

More bugs and critters:

In early summer, when the yarrow was budding, damselflies were abundant in our wildflower garden.

brown damselfly perched on yarrow buds with its head pointing to the left

blue damselfly perched on yarrow buds with its head pointing to the right

They often congregated in large clusters. This photo has at least eight damselflies. (Click to see a larger image on Flickr.)

yarrow plants with eight mostly blue damselflies

And then came the dragonflies. This twelve-spotted skipper stayed perched for hours.

black-and-white wing spots on a gray dragonfly perched on baptisia

One afternoon I was exploring the garden when it started to sprinkle. Something large and loud whizzed past my ear, and then I found this big green darner dragonfly hanging onto a black-eyed susan to wait out the rain. Monarch butterflies get a lot of publicity for their annual migration to and from Mexico. Green darner dragonflies also migrate south, though it’s the offspring that return north.

green thorax and brown abdomen, clear wings, head with a giant fake eye or bullseye

Meadowhawk dragonfly relaxing in the sun.

brown dragonfly with clear wings, each with a brown spot at the tip, on a milkweed leaf in bright sun

More bugs and critters:

Are flies pests or beneficial? Depends on the fly. It also may depend on who you ask! Some are pollinators; some are predators. Here are flies from last year’s garden.

Long-legged fly:

small fly with a skinny metallic green body on a leaf

Crane fly:

large fly with very long legs and wings folded along its body resting on a gray wall

Tiger bee fly:

brown fly with brown-and-white camouflage wings on a black-eyed susan

Common green bottle fly:

short, metallic light blue body

Unidentified dead flies, likely killed by a fungus. Other people have posted dead white flies like this on bugguide.net; University of Minnesota Extension has a potential cause.

five bloated white flies stuck on the top and bottom of raspberry leaves

The end of a robber fly:

only half of a robber fly remains on a sidewalk

Small and large hover flies:

three small bee mimic flies on fleabane

a larger bee mimic fly on a bright yellow coreopsis cultivar

More bugs and critters to come soon: