|Arid Summer on the High Plains where Black Eyed Susans Thrive|
|Bee Fly (Bombylius major) and Spidfer Wasp (Pompilidae)|
Sharing a Blossom
At the jump, those memories of black eyed susans welled up as I encountered their kind anew. On the other hand, after a bit of reading that evening, I learned that these stands were in truth only what biologists term "naturalized" citizens of this particular area, emigrating here in the last century or two from the midwest, where they were originally at home. Indeed, they arrived just, it appears, as the buffalo who were endemic to the short grass prairies of the high plains were in the process of being wiped out by European settlement. But settlement seems far too kind a word for the practices of mass slaughter and habitat destruction that were involved in that terrible moment of species extirpation.
Dingy Cutworm Moth (Felita jaculifera) Resting.
Western Thatching Ants (Formica obscuripes) on the way to and from
an Aphid Clutch.
|Two Bee Flies Working the Nectar|
Thinking about the past in this way inevitably leads my mind to tread in strange directions. Following out one bearing, I remember how the black eyed susans I encountered lined one side of the road - the side bordered by the state park - but were absent from the other side, which abutted a farmer's field of wheat assiduously cultivated to the road's very edge. Any black eyed susan that dared spring up there had quickly withered and died. Surely herbicides were involved. In a detail, then, is illuminated the history, my history, of European occupation of this place. Our settlement of the west left in its wake a landscape capable of feeding many human mouths but extremely stingy in regard to the desires of other than domestic animals and agricultural crops to find their own patch of earth under the sun. Even a hardy and relatively new arrival like the black eyed susan, generously offering a full range of ecological services to a landscape callously depleted of its capacity to sustain living kinds, is fought with tooth and nail, or plow and sprayer as the case may be.
But following out another bearing I find myself imagining what it must have been for those tribal peoples to love a creature as magnificent and ecologically significant as the buffalo. I grew up consorting with black eyed susans. What would have it been like, I wonder, to have had the same opportunity to be instructed in the ways of the living world in the shadow of a buffalo? This question remains a significant one and is the inspiration for a variety of ongoing projects in Montana to return buffalo to some approximation of an open range. Perhaps the black eyed susan will find its place under the sun there too.
Great Golden Digger Wasp
|Big Wasp Meets Little Wasp in Uncertain Circumstances|
|Yellow Jacket Patrolling her Particular Spot in the Shade|