Who'd have thought the growing season, and pollinator season, of southern New England starts this early? But it does.
First, there's that funky swamp-life called skunk cabbage. The odiferous blossoms smell mighty good to particular flies and beetles. Those flies offer something to the skunk cabbage, too--pollination.
A mourning cloak butterfly flies on March 21. Early-blooming red maples provide it with nectar.
Jack-in-the-pulpit appears in late March, attracting its own pollinators--fungus gnats.
Don’t mistake their small size for lack of importance in our quality of life. Queen bumblebees are among the earliest insects to emerge in our area, and their pollinating activity is critical to both them and us.
And if you imagine that early emergence gives them a leg up on the rest of the bees, think again. It actually poses a problem. The queens are their species’ sole support in April, but very few plants blossom at the same time they emerge.
Big bursts of yellow forsythia call out to us in late April, like billboards for spring, easy to see as we fly by in cars, trains, or on bicycles.
It's a welcome sight, but the picture is missing something. Forsythia is not native to our area—and, therefore, not of life-nurturing importance to some early-emerging insects such as bumblebee queens, some butterflies, flies, wasps, and moths."
Some of these choosy creatures rely on early-blossoming native flowers. These early flowers are called spring ephemerals because, usually by summer, their flowers and leaves will die and disappear entirely.
I had fun designing and assisting with the installation of a waterside buffer garden at Lake Hayward, East Haddam, CT. In June 2014, the garden was maturing. (See the photos below.) Yarrow and Penstemon (aka Beardstongue) were in full bloom. Both plants have a lot of ecological value. Penstemon is recognized by the Xerces Society as attracting large numbers of native bees. Yarrow is both attractive to native bees and attracts predatory or parasitoid insects that prey upon pest insects.
See the Lake Hayward garden website.