Description of Flower-Visiting
This website contains a database of insects that visit the various wildflowers of Illinois to suck nectar or collect pollen. It also includes a few predacious insects that lurk near the flowers to consume other insect visitors. This database can be accessed through the link for each individual plant species on the home page. For each plant species, the flower-visiting insects are organized into the following groups: Long-Tongued Bees, Short-Tongued Bees, Wasps, Ants, Sawflies, Flies, Butterflies, Skippers, Moths, Beetles, Plant Bugs, and Lacewings. Within each group, the insect species are organized alphabetically within the appropriate insect family and its subdivisions. This website is not intended to be an identfication guide of flower-visiting insects and it contains no photographs (except for the one on the upper right corner of the home page).
Insects that feed exclusively on the non-floral parts of prairie plant species are not included in this database. The information for flower-visiting insects is based primarily on the publication, Flowers and Insects (1929) by Charles Robertson. He was an entomologist who lived in Carlinville, which is a small town in southwestern Illinois. Robertson's field observations were made within 10 miles of this location during 1880 to 1910. His book has a limited distribution, but can be found at a few university libraries. The database of this website includes insect visitors of herbaceous wildflowers of prairies, thickets, woodlands, wetlands, and waste areas, as well as some woody shrubs and trees. The flowers that are visited by the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird are also included in the database. I am still expanding this database, as my time and energy permit.
It has been necessary to update the scientific names for the originally published insects and plants. Most scientific names for insect species conform to the listings in Nomina Insecta Neararctica (1996-98), although the scientific names for butterflies, skippers, and moths are derived from Field Guide to Butterflies of Illinois (2001) by John Bouseman and James Sternburg, the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Butterflies (1992/1998) by Paul Opler & Vichai Malikul, and the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Moths (1984) by Charles Covell, Jr. The classification of solitary wasps into subfamilies was influenced by Solitary Wasps: Behavior and Natural History (2001) by Kevin M. O'Neill.
In addition to Robertson's Flowers and Insects (1929), I include observations from publications of other scientists, including Graenicher, LaBerge, Moure & Hurd, and others. These scientists and their publications are described further in the Abbreviations of Scientific Observers and References links of the home page of this website. Among these observers, only S. Graenicher of Wisconsin approaches Charles Robertson in the extensiveness of his observations, spanning a broad range of insect and plant species. Each of these authorities are denoted by a 2- or 3-letter code within parentheses, which immediately follows the scientific name of the insect species. If there is authority code within parentheses after the scientific name of an insect, then by default the observer is Charles Robertson. Insect activity codes also occur within the database, which sometimes follow the scientific name of an insect species. These codes are denoted by 2- or 3-letters (without parentheses), and they are similar to the insect activity codes in Robertson's Flowers and Insects (1929). Where no activity codes follow the scientific name of an insect species, it should be assumed that the insect sucks nectar and can pollinate the flowers of the plant species. See the link for Database Abbreviations for Insect Activities on the home page of this website for more information about these insect activity codes.
To help non-expert visitors develop an understanding of these insects, I have included a list of common names for the insect families (or subfamilies) and insect species that are contained in the database. While common names for most insect families and lepidoptera species (butterflies, skippers, & moths) exist, the vast majority of insect species have no common names. I also provide supplemental descriptions of the insect families and important subfamilies and tribes. Providing coherent descriptions of groups of insects is rather difficult, as numerous exceptions always exist. Even the same species of insect can be highly variable in appearance and local habits. The photograph in the upper left of the home page shows a bumblebee visiting the composite flower of Cirsium discolor (Pasture Thistle), which is one of the wildflowers of Illinois.