This week is National Pollinator Week, as designated by Congress 12 years ago. For me, it is a week to observe and appreciate species that might go unnoticed for much of the year.
Of course, we have our butterflies, moths and bees, but there are so many more species of flies, beetles, ants and wasps that do a large amount of pollination without much fanfare.
A couple days ago, while perusing the prairie flower umbels, I found this red wasplike insect. The bright licorice-colored thorax really stood out to me as an insect I had not seen before. This is the poison ivy sawfly (arge humeralis).
The name tells you the larva of this insect feeds on poison ivy, which automatically makes it a more endearing creature to many. In fact, some studies I read have done research on if this sawfly could help control poison ivy.
I saw this specimen at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and, I can tell you, we still have plenty of poison ivy lying around. On the iNaturalist database, we only have five documentations for it in Illinois, so, perhaps, it isn’t as common as we would like.
Once the larva becomes an adult, it becomes a pollinator as it flies from flower to flower. The poison ivy sawfly is just one of thousands of unique pollinators you can see if you take the time. Each has a different life history and purpose. Many of these species we know very little about.
Get outside this week and see something new.