Master Gardeners at the Habitat

Yesterday we invited our UNL Extension Master Gardener volunteers to visit the Cherry Creek Habitat.  They participated in a Stationary Pollinator Count.  Observations made over a known period of time watching a known number of flowers on a single plant species is classified as a Stationary Count.  After the count they toured the habitat.  We discussed the different types of bees that have been nesting in the bee house and viewed the wide variety of plants that we have blooming.

MJ

UNL Extension Master Gardener volunteers in Lancaster County  participating in pollinator count.

UNL Extension Master Gardener volunteers in Lancaster County participating in pollinator count.

When a thistle makes you smile…

Native thistles like this tall thistle, are important to our pollinators. Remember, not all thistles are bad. It didn’t take long for the bumble bees and skipper to find this beautiful thistle flower. The tall thistles are just starting to bloom in the Cherry Creek Habitat. We can’t wait!!

Native thistles are both beautiful and important to our pollinators.


Enjoy “A Pasture Poem” by Richard Wilbur featuring the “thistle”
– also set to music (full text of the poem follows)

Continue reading

Pollinator Counts

On Sunday my family helped me conduct a pollinator count at the Cherry Creek Habitat.  We each selected a Lemon Queen sunflower plant to watch for 5 minutes.  Our results were: 26 pollinators visited 7 flowers on 3 sunflower plants. Our data will be entered at The Great Sunflower Project website.

Pollinator count on sunflowers at habitat.

Pollinator count on sunflowers at habitat.

Why are pollinator counts important?  We know pollinator populations are declining. Little is know about urban pollinators and what their populations are. We do not know much about how healthy bee populations are maintained in an urban environment. Because natural habitats are uncommon in urban landscapes, they may not provide enough resources to support viable pollinator communities. However, if other habitats, such as urban gardens and restored areas, are sufficiently connected to natural habitats, then native populations may thrive.

By finding a way to track and place value on natural ecosystems, we will find a future in which conservation is a guiding principle of daily decision making throughout the world. Our pollinator count at the Cherry Creek Habitat is a step in the right direction.

MJ

 

 

Sunflowers and Pollinators

Lemon Queen sunflower with bumble bees.

Lemon Queen sunflower with bumble bees.

On Monday the Lemon Queen sunflowers were finally blooming.  My daughter and I planted them in May for the Great Sunflower Project.  We will do a pollinator count when there are a few more flowers open.  The bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees and many other pollinators have found their beautiful flowers.

MJ

When the honey bees swarm…

Honey bees swarming July 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by Barb Ogg, Exxtension Educator

Honey bees swarming July 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by Barb Ogg, Extension Educator

A co-worker in our office captured an exciting event on her backyard fence last night – a honey bee swarm.  Sometimes honey bee colonies send off swarms with one queen and several thousand workers. This a natural event for honey bees. Typically bee colonies trigger a swarm when the colony is overcrowded, usually in early summer. This swarm is moving to a new site a little later in the season.

During the move to a new site, the queen bee will select a place to rest while scouts look for a new home. She’ll choose a fence, tree branch or even a spot on the ground. While the queen rests, the worker bees cluster around her.  The swarm stays clustered around the queen until scout bees chose a permanent site for their colony. This may take a a few hours or a couple of days. Once the site is chosen, the swarm quickly breaks apart and leaves. (This is a good time to remind everyone to make sure your home doesn’t have any gaps or cracks where the scout bees could move the colony. Seal and caulk these openings immediately.) Continue reading

Can Wasp Be Pollinators?

Can wasp be pollinators? Yes they can, but some are better than others. Wasp with hairs on their bodies are better at being pollinators than those with few hairs. Pollen sticks easily to hairy bodies making it easy to be passed around from flower to flower as insects move through the garden. Many wasp are beneficial because they are also predators. Not only do they help pollinate, but they also keep pest insects in check.

Wasp feeding on nectar - Cherry Creek Habitat

Wasp feeding on nectar – Cherry Creek Habitat

If you’ve planted a pollinator-friendly garden, you’ll find many wasp species visiting your plants. Take a moment to pause and enjoy these amazing insects. Even social wasp like yellow jackets and paper wasp are quite docile while feeding because they aren’t trying to defend a nest. Solitary wasp like mud daubers, cicada killers, spider wasp and more make great subjects for those who enjoy photography.

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!

Soni

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

Oh those Mason Bees….

Blue Orchard Mason Bee - Look at all the pollen!

Blue Orchard Mason Bee – Look at all the pollen!

This past week, Blue Orchard Mason Bees showed up in the Cherry Creek Habitat. We wondered if they would make an appearance. These robust bees are not native to Nebraska, but are important pollinators in other parts of the United States. We posted information about them May 2013 – Blue Orchard Mason Bees.

If you discover these bees in your garden, take a few moments to enjoy them. They are a little tricky to photograph as they move quickly from flower to flower, but they are fun to watch as they roll around in the flowers collecting pollen.

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!

Soni

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

It’s National Moth Week

Moths are pollinators too! Hummingbird Moth feeding

Moths are pollinators too! Hummingbird Moth feeding (photo by Karen Wedding)

From the USDA Forest Service…. Moth Pollination

After dark, moths and bats take over the night shift for pollination. Nocturnal flowers with pale or white flowers heavy with fragrance and copious dilute nectar, attract these pollinating insects. Not all moth pollinators are nocturnal; some moths are also active by day. Some moths hover above the flowers they visit while others land.

July 19-27 is National Moth Week! Time to celebrate “the moth”! Scientists estimate there may be up to 500,000 species of moths. Their diversity seems endless. Some moths are active in the daytime, others at dusk and still more at night. How may of us have enjoyed the beauty of a hummingbird moth as it sips nectar from flowers in the garden. These moths are called also called hawk moths, sphinx moths, clearwing moths and bee-hawk moths.

Some moths like the polyphemus,cecropia and luna moths don’t even have mouthparts as adults. These large beautiful moths do all of their feeding as caterpillars. As adults, they only live a few days – long enough to mate and for the female to lay eggs. If you want to attract these moths to a habitat, learn about the food plants for the larvae of moths. Fortunately, the Cherry Creek Habitat has some of the trees favored by many beautiful moths and butterflies.

You can celebrate moth week by learning more about the moths in your area. Here are tips from the National Moth Week Web site to help you attract moths for observation. You’ll also find a bait recipe to help lure in moths so you can watch them.

Here’s to sharing the buzz!

Soni

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

The Redbud and the Bees

Redbud and leaf-cutter bee signs

Leaf-cutter bees are using this redbud to help line their nesting cells.

I’ve been carefully tending two Eastern redbud seedlings in my garden at home. The little tree seedlings have survived two major hail storms this past month and yet, they are growing nice and straight. This week while the temperatures are cool, I’ll carefully pot them up so we can transplant them into the Cherry Creek Habitat this fall.

The Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), is native to the eastern US, including eastern Nebraska. It grows in the wild on moist soils in valleys or bottomlands, as an understory tree in open woods. At maturity, the redbud is 15 to 30 feet tall.— Acreage Insights Plant of the Month

When I went out to check on the redbuds this morning, it looks like one of our native bees has also found the seedlings. The circular cuts in the leaves are one of the clues to leafcutter bees – one of our important native pollinators. Pretty excited to see they are in my yard! Although soon, the bees will have to use leaves from my mature redbuds for their nesting cells. Check out this information about leafcutter bees from UNL Extension’s Backyard Farmer series.

Here’s to sharing the buzz!

Soni

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

First Inventory of Wild Bees is Under Way

Bees are in the News! From National Geographic  –

Sam Droege, head of the Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program at the U.S. Geological Survey, is undertaking the monumental task of creating a national inventory of indigenous wild bees.

“The biggest problem is telling the bees apart. Bees are often difficult to differentiate, and about 400 species—ten percent of North America’s bees—lack names. (Compare that to the 1,000 ant species that have been named.)”

Bumble Bee

Could wild bees be the key to saving U.S. crops?

There’s a lot of work to do as scientists try to beat the clock. If honeybee populations continue to decline, scientists believe wild bees could potentially save our crops.

Take a moment to view the video and read more at National Geographic News – As Honeybees Die Off, First Inventory of Wild Bees Is Under Way. Could wild bees be the key to saving U.S. crops? by Sasha Ingber for National Geographic.

Here’s to sharing the buzz!

Soni

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu