Wild Cockscomb
The Wild Cockscomb in the Healing Plants section of the Ecogarden

The current plant of the day in the Ecogarden has to be the Wild Cockscomb (Celosia argentea). Not only because of the beauty of its radiant pink blooms and its sweet scent that permeates the ‘Healing Plants” section of our garden; and not only because”virtually every part of this plant is useful to man,” as the label exclaims; but mostly because it is a magnet for all sorts of insects.

The most prominent among them are the scores of scoliid wasps that buzz around the flowers. When I first noticed them from a distance, I thought that some bee hive had discovered this great nectar source. It is common to see honey bees in large numbers, as they are social insects and recruit their nest mates, telling them where to find the good stuff.

Scoliid wasps
Scoliid wasps on the flowers of the Cockscomb

But on closer inspection I realised that these buzzers were not bees, but wasps. And they weren’t all from the same colony of social wasps, they were scoliids, a type of solitary wasps whose larvae are parasites on beetle larvae in the ground and hunt down other insects to feed on. In fact, from their slender appearance and long antennae it appears that most of the animals around our cockscombs are males. (In social bee and wasp colonies, the food foragers are all female.) So each of them must have found our plant of the day independently.

Posted by:Andy Giger

Andy is the Science Centre Singapore's Director of Strategy. He is a Neuroscientist who started out studying how Tunisian desert ants navigate, then tamed honey bees to find out more about their visual system, and moved on to counting cockroaches, feeding termites and attracting mosquitoes. Now he deals more with people, and enjoys being in touch with science on a much broader basis.

6 replies on “Plant of the Day

      1. And I was rewarded with a treat at the Ecogarden yesterday afternoon!

        My third sighting of the monitor lizard so far. 🙂


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