Observing and Identifying Pollinators with iNaturalist

Virginia has had tremendous rainfall this year! Big storms during migration often result in fallout. This is when birds land to rest and refuel. So as soon as the storms cleared, I headed out to Lenn Park in Stevensburg to look for birds. What I didn’t expect was to stumble upon lots of pollinating insects! Apparently, they also can be found in greater numbers after storms.

Thanks to the iNaturalist app and website, I am able to discover what species I observed. I snapped photos of most of the insects with my iPhone and later uploaded them to the iNaturalist app. If you haven’t heard of iNaturalist, I highly recommend it for identifying wild organisms. It is free and easily to use. (Warning: it can be addictive.)

Insect observation and identification is so much easier with digital cameras! You can zoom in on your subject and see them in much greater detail than with the naked eye.

For example, there are many types of hover flies. Without experience one might mistake them for wasps or bees.

With a zoomed in view, and/or cropping of photos, you can figure out what hover fly you are seeing.

I am getting better and getting photos of butterflies and moths before they fly away. It can be difficult to capture a clear shot with the average camera. With a little practice, I have managed to take more photos of these fast moving and easily startled creatures.

I was amazed to see over 20 Alianthus Moths! They were all over the goldenrod.

This was a “lifer” moth for me and I am still trying to nail down its species. It many be a spotted beet webworm moth?

This moth is considered an agricultural pest, however, it is also a pollinator!

Skippers are just plain cute!

Not all lady bugs are natives to the United States. This common lady bug in an invasive species.

I used to be concerned about wasps and whether they would sting me. Since becoming an avid observer of insects, I have found that they don’t bother me and I can approach them to take photos!

I have even become interested in flies! There are so many species of flies and many are pollinators too!

The hardest species to photograph are spiders in webs! My camera fails to focus on the correct subject. One spider building a web in a plant just is not very visible in the photos I took.

I captured an orbweaver spider thanks to its larger mass, however, the photo is of poor quality. It makes identification difficult. I think this orbweaver is a spotted orbweaver based on the markings I saw with my binoculars before taking the photo below.

Lots of people do not like spiders. I used to be one of them! I still do not like to be surprised by them (when they turn up unexpectedly), however, I find them interesting. Perhaps, most people find beetle more to their liking.

All of these species contribute to pollination as they make there way from flower to flower. I have been contributing pollinator observations to iNaturalist. Checkout my observations here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?user_id=kellykrechmer

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