By Mary Reid Barrow
A very tiny flower and its even tinier pollinator in the yard captivated me the other day.
My very small, blue eyed grass with its blue petals and bright yellow eye, was blooming. Up close, you could see minuscule waspy critters, flying about and nectaring on the blossoms. They had black and yellow striped bodies, black heads, and clear wings.
Picture blue eyed grass flowers, that are only about ½ inch across blooming atop grass-like stems, playing host to these even smaller insects, only about 1/8 inch long.
The little wasps are hover flies, confirmed entomologist Stuart McCausland. Toxomerus Species, he added.
Some people call them a flower fly or Syrphid fly, but I like “hover” because it speaks to their behavior of hovering over the flowers.
There are many species of these little pollinators, perhaps thousands of them, world-wide. They are all small, ranging from only about 1/8 inch to about 1 inch long. Our little Toxomerus species is one of the smallest.
In addition to their value as pollinators, gardeners also love them because hover fly youngsters feed on aphids and thrips, among other things.
It is as if Mother Nature created tiny blue eyed grass with the littlest hover fly in mind. This sweet flower blooms at the end of a grass-like blade as though it is reaching out to wink at you. “Blue eyed” is not spelled with a hyphen because the petals are all blue, but the eye is a distinct yellow, thus the flower is both blue and eyed!
Blue eyed grass is a native, but I am not sure whether mine is the true native or not. All species are tiny with yellow eyes and blue petals, but the shade of blue can vary, and the grass stems are variable in widths.
I was lucky enough to find mine growing among my flowers one spring. I seem to get a lot of unexpected treasures like that from native plant sales when little extras get dug up by mistake and become bonus plants!
But native or not, I love my blue eyed grass, and I love that the hover fly loves it too. Even in nature, one size doesn’t fit all!