Sunday, August 1, 2010

New York City Flowerfall Event

You may or may not have noticed, but NYC is in the middle of a major flowerfall event—at least on some blocks! 
I pay attention to such things because two of my students have studied flowerfalls in the tropical rain forest. (Julie Feinstein reared over 1300 insects, including butterflies and moths, weevils, and many, many flies, from flowers shed by trees in the Brazil nut family; Amie Whigham is analyzing some of the factors that appear to make senescing flowers so appealing to insects).

The flowers currently filling our gutters are dropping from the Japanese pagoda tree (Styphnolobium japonicum). 

(Thanks to Carol Gracie, co-author of Wildflowers in the Field and Forest:
 A Field Guide to the Northeastern United States, for the identification-- 
I confuse this exotic with Robinia pseudoacacia until I see the fruits).
Both are common street trees in NYC.
Perhaps these dumpster-diving honeybees 
(Apis melliferaare seeking left-over nectar:
Pigeons and sparrows seem to like the flowers too:
If you follow insects at all, you are probably aware that honeybees are on the decline (if not, search for ‘colony collapse disorder’). I once got into a huge fight at a party because I steadfastly refused to tell a partygoer that I liked honeybees. While I concede that they are tremendously important pollinators of many food crops, in natural environments they can be considered non-native ‘pollen hogs’ that outcompete our native bees (we have more than 4000 native bee species in the US, and most are inconspicuous, solitary insects).  Colony collapse disorder? At the risk of irritating party-goers and colleagues alike, I would suggest that epidemics are simply the price that social animals pay.

For an amazing interpretation of social interactions amongst the honeybees, try to get ahold of Jim Self and Frank Moore's hard-to-find, but classic, East Village dance video, Beehive.

1 comment:

  1. As an avid party-goer, I find it best to avoid topics such as race, religion, politics, and pollen hogs.
    When will we all learn that alcohol and honeybees just don't mix!
    X David