A Story of Labor, Industry, Exhibition, Logistics – and Beauty and Excellence and Efficiency in Design – all Told in the Face of a Sunflower

(This post was updated on February 21, 2018)

Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services is a national leader in exhibition services and event project management.

We work from coast to coast, and operate offices in major cities across the U.S.

Fundamental to our culture and the way we do is business is to strive to– and here we enlist the words of            Vince Lombardi – “do things right … all the time.”   We always try to do our best for our clients and customers – and we seek to be cooperative and valuable teammates with our business partners and suppliers.

We care about and are dedicated to developing our employees, our most valuable resource, and providing them with the support and training necessary to achieve optimally.

Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services believes that throughout an organization, a passion for one’s work, and commitment to doing that work supremely well, is fundamental to the success of the organization.

We believe that a company can do well by doing good – that a company should give to the community, and that it should consider itself and act as a custodian of the natural environment.

In that Willwork is in the exhibition and events and show business, we believe that we should be about promoting beauty and excellence and efficiency in design and production.

We are about admiring and exalting top performance and meeting exacting standards.

To that end, we commend here the header photo of this blog post.   Denise Franzen, Administrative Director for Willwork, used her mobile phone to take the photo on a warm afternoon in early October.  The photo is of the face of one sunflower among a long row of sunflowers that were in bloom in front of the Willwork headquarters.

Every year, from late spring through early fall, there is that row of blooming sunflowers at Willwork.

Helianthus is the scientific name for the sunflower, derived from the Greek helios, for sun, and anthos, for flower.

Busy is the face of this sunflower pictured here.

Three different insects – bumblebee (bombus), ladybug (coccinellid), and painted lady (Vanessa cardui) – are dining at and on the flower; they are consuming its nectar and pollen.

Planted as seeds in early April, the sunflowers grow fully by mid summer, and range in height from around five feet to a little more than nine feet.

The sunflowers are part of an extensive and vast selection of flowers, shrubs, trees, ornamental grasses, and vegetable plants that wring and ornament the grounds of the Willwork corporate offices. Our property is a gardening showcase – carefully and creatively planned, designed, and constructed.

“We choose plants and arrange them in a way that the landscape is attractive and draws positive attention throughout the four seasons,” said Laurie Johnson, Director of Grounds and Maintenance for Willwork. “Willwork puts a lot into the gardening and landscaping, and we are gratified to receive many compliments.”

Laurie handles and plans the arrangement, planting, cultivation, and caretaking of plants outside and inside Willwork.  Laurie also picks the ripe produce which is given to Willwork employees and those who visit the company.

Gardening and growing and harvesting are all part of a Willwork commitment to sustainability.

“Willwork management believes in sustainability – and in taking care of and managing the land we own,” said David King, General Manager for Willwork.  “This belief, and this mindset, is behind the gardening and landscaping here – and also other initiatives, like the solar panel field on the top of our headquarters, which provides a considerable amount of the energy that the building uses.

“Conserving energy, and using energy more efficiently, and practicing sustainability, is in keeping with what we strive to do for our clients: deliver increased value and cost savings.”

Sustainability and Efficiency in Design and Function

Remarkable – the sunflower … the face of that sunflower.

Talk about industry and natural synergy, and brilliant design and structure. It is all here.

Actually the inner disc of the face of the sunflower is a composition of many flowers, or florets, each with its own source of nectar and pollen. Beneath the florets is the seed head, formed from spirals of seeds, which are also the fruit of the plant.   For the bumblebee, painted lady, ladybug, and other insects, sunflowers offer a motherlode of nourishment – plenty of nectar, plenty of pollen.

In New England, there are also bats and birds who eat pollen; as well, there are a few birds in this region who consume plant nectar.

In making available a landing place and food feast for insects, the sunflower supports pollination, and repels deer and other herbivores that eat flowers and leaves, both processes that are necessary for seed plants to reproduce and continue their species.

Of course, the sunflower is an effective marketer and advertiser of its fare, with its showy and large and bright external ray petals inviting and beckoning dining patrons.

Bumblebees, painted ladies, and ladybugs are all pollinators; they do the work of pollination – transferring pollen, produced in the anther, the male part of the plant, to the stigma, the female part of the plant.

This transfer occurs as a bumblebee, or painted lady, or a ladybug moves from flower to flower, with pollen becoming attached to the bodies of the insects and spread along the journey.

Not just insects, but any animal that eats pollen – for example those bats and birds – are pollinators.

Of the three types of insects on the face of this sunflower, the bumblebee is the king pollinator, but ladybugs and painted lady butterflies do good pollination work as well.

The Remarkable and Versatile and Useful Sunflower

 “Sunflowers are like people to me.”

JOAN MITCHELL

Helianthus has a trove of uses – beyond as a source of pollen and nectar. 

Sunflower seeds– raw, roasted, plain, and salted are a popular food for humans. Sunflower seeds are also a favorite food of birds.

Sunflower seeds can also be ground into a butter, or used to make bread. Oil extracted from seeds is used as a cooking oil and refined into biodiesel fuel.

Sunflower leaves are used in cattle feed, as is the “cake” that remains when oil is removed from the seeds.

Fiber from the stem of the sunflower is used to manufacture a high-quality paper.

Seed Patterns in the Sun Flower – the Perfect Math of the Fibonacci Numbers Sequence; the Golden Angle

“The Fibonacci Sequence turns out to be the key to understanding how nature designs… and is… a part of the same ubiquitous music of the spheres that builds harmony into atoms, molecules, crystals, shells, suns and galaxies and makes the Universe sing.” 

GUY MURCHIE

A considerable aspect of Willwork’s success and the value and advantages we provide our clients relies on a variety of precise arithmetic. Precise measurement, precise estimates, precise timing, and precise angles.

A fraction-of-an-inch less than precise can result in a failed job.

Sunflowers represent precise and beautiful and consistent arithmetic that is hardwired and programmed into their system. Like many other organisms, sunflowers enlist what is called the Fibonacci numbers sequence to optimize growing and reproduction.

Fibonacci numbers were identified and introduced by the Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci who lived approximately from 1175 to 1250.

In the Fibonacci numbers sequence, every number after the first two is the sum of the preceding two numbers; hence – 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89 ….

Again, beneath the florets on the face of the sunflower is the seed head, with the seeds arranged in a series of spirals that originate at the center of the sunflower face.  Each successive spiral curves in the opposite direction of the spiral that precedes it – alternating between clockwise and counterclockwise.

In most sunflower heads, there are a total of 34 spirals that curve in one direction, and 55 spirals in the other, with 34 and 55 being adjacent in the Fibonacci sequence.

Other sunflowers have higher, respective, Fibonacci spiral counts, such as 89 and 144, numbers also adjacent in the Fibonacci sequence.

Yet no matter the total alternating spiral counts, starting with the third spiral, the seed count in the spiral is equivalent to the total number of seeds in the preceding two spirals: a Fibonacci sequence.

Now, for sure, and since nature isn’t perfect, the Fibonacci sequence is not always present and exactly realized in the sunflower seed arrangement, but it is fairly routine; it is the modus operandi of the sunflower.

And across the natural world, the Fibonacci sequence is evident – as described in the following excerpt from an article on the Fibonacci sequence in nature, written by Robert Lamb, and published at the HowStuffWorks website:

” …  Some plants express the Fibonacci sequence in their growth points, the places where tree branches form or split. One trunk grows until it produces a branch, resulting in two growth points. The main trunk then produces another branch, resulting in three growth points. Then the trunk and the first branch produce two more growth points, bringing the total to five. This pattern continues, following the Fibonacci numbers. Additionally, if you count the number of petals on a flower, you’ll often find the total to be one of the numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. For example, lilies and have three petals, buttercups and wild roses have five, delphiniums have eight petals and so on.”

And more math – and more precision.

As more seeds are produced and the spirals arch further away from the center of the face of the sunflower, each seed migrates away, and stays fixed at an angle of 137.5 degrees from the seed that had preceded it in the flower’s seed production.  Mathematicians and scientists refer to this angle as the “golden angle”.

The golden angle, as does the Fibonacci sequence, affords and supports the best opportunity for the sunflower to successfully grow and reproduce.

Where there is a Fibonacci sequence there is a golden angle.

 

Bumblebees are All-Star Pollinators – But So-So Honey Makers  

“I felt the richer for this experience. It taught me that even the insects in my path are not loafers, but have their special errands. Not merely and vaguely in this world, but in this hour, each is about its business.”

HENRY DAVID THOREAU, on observing the conduct of bees

About those bumblebees.

Bumblebees don’t produce honey … well, not real honey.  The reason for this is that, unlike honey-making honeybees, entire hives of bumblebees do not survive cold winters in temperate climates, and therefore don’t need to make use of that nutrient-dense food.

Actually, to be precise, it is the male bumblebees who do not survive the winter. Females, aka queen bees, mate in the fall, and as it begins to get cold, enter diapause – a resting phase, usually spent underground, for the entire winter.

Queen bumblebees prepare for diapause by eating ravenously to build fat stores, with pollen and nectar the primary food.  Nectar that queen bumblebees consume, they process into a honey-like substance – think honey light – which it saves in honey pots made of wax that they secrete from their abdomens.  Queen bees will feed on this processed nectar, and it will also feed the nectar, along with pollen, to the queen’s offspring.

Male bumblebees only consume nectar, and only to feed themselves.

When spring arrives, queen bees lay eggs that had been fertilized prior to winter – and the nest and colony begins anew. Queen bees will continue to lay eggs throughout the spring and into the summer.

In service of collecting pollen, a fascinating characteristic and trait of the bumblebee is that they have the ability to detect and analyze electric fields on a flower, which tells them whether that flower has been visited recently.  Understanding whether a plant has already been tapped of its pollen, allows bumblebees to conserve energy by passing on a pollen-depleted plant and moving to a more bountiful pollen reserve.

Bumblebees are nature’s all-stars in pollen transfer. A bumblebee’s hairy body alone works wonderfully in collecting a dusting of pollen which is then transferred to other flowers as the bee makes its rounds.  As well, and here electricity plays another role, when bumblebees approach a flower, they rapidly flap their wings, with this activity building up an electrical charge that helps anchor pollen to the hairs on its body.

Female bumblebees also groom pollen into pollen baskets that are attached to their hind legs, with these baskets containing as many as a million grains of pollen.

Yes, as Henry David Thoreau observed, bees have “special errands” and “each is about its business.”

The Painted Lady, a Pollinator, and a Sometime Migrator

“We are all butterflies.  Earth is our chrysalis.”   

LEANN TAYLOR

The painted lady is one of the most common varieties of butterfly and is found on every continent except for Antarctica and Australia.

This butterfly, which flies in a peculiar screw-shape pattern, is sometimes called the cosmopolitan because, within a region, it shows up just about everywhere: woods, fields, sandy areas, swamps, and vacant lots … you name it.

It is valuable pollinator in that the species will feed on up to 100 different types of plants.

Their appearance in northern areas of the Western Hemisphere, including outside the Willwork corporate headquarters, is irregular. They may show up these parts some years, and not in others.

The total lifespan and growth phase of the painted lady runs from 45 to 60 days, and is comprised of four main stages:

  1. The egg is laid, and within three to five days it hatches.
  2. Once hatched, the larvae or caterpillar stage begins which is completed in five to 10 days.
  3. Next up is the chrysalis or metamorphosis phase, of seven to 10 days, in which the caterpillar spins a silk pad from which it hangs, and while suspended its skin splits from head to toe, revealing a hard case called the chrysalis or pupa. Within the chrysalis, the organism becomes totally liquid and forms into a butterfly, with the butterfly emerging from the pupa.
  4. The Painted ladies live for about two to four weeks.  During their short life, they focus on mating and reproducing.

A lineage of painted ladies may include eight generations in a year.

These generations are not only produced across time – but oftentimes vast space.

You see, a curious characteristic of the painted lady is that it is a migratory creature, yet unlike some other types of butterflies … most famously the monarch butterfly … its migration practice is not consistent from generation to generation.

That’s right, depending on a variety of elements not totally understood, a family line of painted ladies living, for example, in the Western Hemisphere may make a complete round-trip migration between the ancestral winter habitat of the species – which is northern Mexico – and the northern reaches of the United States and parts of Canada, toward which painted ladies travel in the spring.

Or painted ladies may may complete a large segment, but not the entire migratory path – or maybe a small segment; or maybe next to no migratory journey.

And there are episodes of mass migrations of the painted ladies – with clusters of millions of butterflies leaving northern Mexico, with this multi-generational migration continuing northward, and continuing with clusters comprised of millions of butterflies, until reaching their historic northernmost destination, in late spring or early summer.

Along the way, new generations come and go, and the migration continues … with one butterfly, over one short life, able to cover 1000 miles or more. Painted ladies fly at an elevation of only six to 12 feet off the ground, and at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour.  A painted lady butterfly can travel 100 miles in a day.

As autumn arrives, painted ladies living in the northern climes will begin the migration south.

As for the painted lady in this photograph, for all we know it has just about run its course on earth, or it is a newly minted butterfly who is about to up and leave and will be in Connecticut in 24 hours.

Pitching in and Helping Out – the Ladybug  

“A small speckled visitor
“Wearing a crimson cape
“Brighter than a cherry
“Smaller than a grape
“A polka-dotted someone
“Walking on my wall
“A black-hooded lady
“In a scarlet shawl.”

JOAN WALSH ANGLUND

And there is the ladybug, which is actually a beetle. A little background on the name ladybug. It has a religious origin – from Europe and the Middle Ages when the continent was beset with insect crop pests.

As legend has it, Christians offered prayers to Mary, Our Lady, and soon came the arrival of a cloud of these tiny bugs colored red and each with seven black spots (coccinellids in other parts of the world have different numbers of spots).

What was interpreted is that the bugs, as they commenced to devouring the pests, which were probably aphids, had descended from Heaven.

Then there are the coloring and markings of the bug; they were interpreted as a sign, as during this period artists often depicted Mary wearing a red robe, and the seven black spots were thought to represent the Seven Joys and Seven Sorrows of Mary.

People variously called the beetle “Our Lady’s Bug” or “lady beetle” or “lady bird” … or ladybug.

Through the centuries, ladybugs have been admired for their beauty and form, and have been painted, drawn, sketched, photographed … and represented through many other art forms.

Ladybugs are certainly a gardener’s friend.  They voraciously feed on aphids, mites, mealy bugs, scale insects, and other destructive nuisances.  A ladybug can consume 50 aphids in a day.

The livelihood of the ladybug pays off and is a plus in the form of a pollinator, an exterminator, and as a source of beauty and artistic inspiration.

As the Short and Cold Days are Upon Us

During winter, the gardens and grounds at Willwork are not as colorful as during spring and summer, and early fall; but even in the coldest stretch of the year, our property has plenty of beautiful evergreen trees and ornamental grasses for decoration (with these grasses also producing seeds on which birds feed).

Plants are in a dormancy period now. Female bumblebees, and ladybugs of both sexes, are finding covered and secluded places to winter, with ladybugs favoring the indoors of houses if they can gain entry.

Painted lady butterflies have flown away.

And the cycle continues – and again in the summer the sunflowers will grow and establish seed spirals with Fibonacci counts and with seeds spaced at golden angles, and the bumblebee, the painted lady, and the ladybug will return to their eating and their industry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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