Bladderworts – nature’s fastest plant

I collect outdoor UK carnivorous plants. They are interesting from an evolutionary perspective because they would have to have come after the evolution of insects (which was after the evolution of plants). In my collection, I have several terrestrial Bladderworts (Utricularia).

Utricularia_vulgaris_Sturm63

These plants have one of the most complex yet sophisticated mechanisms in nature – a super fast sensitive trap. The bladders are vacuum-driven and are therefore under negative pressure in relation to the environment. When insects brush against the hairs connected to the trap door, they are sucked into the bladder. When the bladder is full of water, the trap door closes and the insect is trapped inside. The process takes about 10 thousandths of a second.

Image: Jakob Sturm’s “Deutschlands Flora in Abbildungen”, Stuttgart (1796) [wikipedia]

Parasitic bees are not cool!

A few years ago, I was extremely disappointed to find out that there are parasitic bees. Every year, I had Solitary Mining Bees returning to the garden and I used to watch them diligently dig their holes. They would spend each day flying to and from their hole with bags of coloured pollen on their legs. One day, I saw a red insect also go in and out of the holes and I retrieved the computer. Unfortunately, the insect was a parasitic, female Sweat Bee – they do not collect pollen and they lay their eggs in the nests of other bees (their larvae eats the larvae of the other bee!)

mining-bee-tucked-inside-her-burrow

To make the story worse, the following day I found an injured black and white Bumblebee. Once again, I retrieved the computer and found out that this too was a parasitic species of bee. I left it to its natural fate. These types of bees are called Cuckoo bees after their nest-stealing nature.

sweatbee

 

Image 1 : lakecountynature.com

Image 2 : http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=1521