Download Pitcher plants : the elegant insect traps by Carol Lerner PDF

By Carol Lerner

Work, drawings, and textual content depict the species of plant referred to as pitcher vegetation, which consume bugs to outlive

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Extra info for Pitcher plants : the elegant insect traps

Sample text

The range of the white-topped pitcher, Sarracenia leucophylla (right), begins in eastern Mississippi and continues east into parts of Florida and Georgia. Its leaves are usually very tall, sometimes over 3 feet. 35 Prey and Parasites The Victims Hundreds of different kinds of insects are found, dead and dying, in pitcher leaves. Flying moths and wasps, creeping ants and beetles, treehoppers and leafhoppers all stumble down the slippery slide and into the pitcher well. Some kinds of insects appear so rarely that their presence seems accidental—the odd grasshopper landing on the hood of a leaf and staying to explore within; a clumsy June beetle blundering over the edge of the nectar roll.

T h e y split the leaves open with their beaks and feed upon the pupae hiding within. 52 Epilogue T h e natural enemies of plants are usually attacked by other forces in the same biological system—plant or animal—and held in some sort of rough balance. It is different in the case of human activities. For centuries the pitchers had a measure of protection because they grew in areas that do not welcome settlement. Swamps were invaded to remove the finest trees and fields were drained at the edges of bogs, but most of the habitats of pitcher plants were little changed until well into this century.

Before spinning its cocoon, the larva cuts a small hole in the pitcher wall. In about two weeks' time, after the larva has changed into a moth, this will be its exit route. 48 49 Even as an adult the Exyra moth clings to the shelter of the pitcher leaf. It spends its days resting within the tube, wings folded, always with its head toward the open end. If disturbed it backs down farther into the narrowing tube. These little moths walk freely around the inner surface of the leaf. How they avoid falling into the trap is a puzzle, since their legs and bodies appear to have no special structures to give them a secure footing inside the pitcher.

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