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

Bumble bees!

Bumble bees on Mexican giant hyssop.

Bumble bees on Mexican giant hyssop.

The past two mornings I have observed bumble bees in the Cherry Creek Habitat.  I am very excited about this. This has been one of my objectives to create a habitat that bumble bees would visit and hopefully nest in.  The bumble bees were visiting the Mexican giant hyssop that is in three of our container planters and the white clover that recovered nicely from being fed on over the winter by rabbits and deer.

MJ

Tips on Creating Habitats for Bumble Bees

The Xerces Society has recommendations on how to create habitats for bumble bees.
There are three things that bumble bees need in the landscape to thrive: flowers from which to gather pollen and nectar, a place to nest, and a sheltered location to overwinter. Continue reading

Habitat News

View of pollinator habitat.

View of pollinator habitat.

This morning Soni, Chris and I worked in the habitat.  It was cool and cloudy.  Perfect day to weed, unload and spread mulch.  Thank you for your help Chris! A few days ago I posted a picture of our beautiful dill plants hoping we would have something eating them soon.  Today we spied tiny swallowtail caterpillars on our dill plants!

MJ

Swallowtail caterpillar on dill.

Swallowtail caterpillar on dill.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come…

Today’s editorial in the local newspaper, the Lincoln Journal Star, focuses on the plight of bees and the United State’s efforts to do something about our pollinator populations.

From the editorial – June 30, 2014

Six years ago, at a time when news media were giving attention to the high rate of bee deaths, the Journal Star mused in a tongue-in-cheek editorial that maybe one day the nation would be forced into “dotting the landscape with national bee refuges………”

Take a moment to read the rest of the editorial on-line here.

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

 

Habitat Discovery for 4-H Youth

Kids nature journaling in the pollinator habitat.

Kids nature journaling in the pollinator habitat.

Today Soni and I taught a Clover College session for Lancaster County 4-H youth. Our class was called Habitat Discovery.  We taught the kids about pollinators and why they are important.  We gave a tour of our pollinator habitat and explained the bee house and insect hotel.  The kids then made nature journals.  They took their journals out into the habitat and made observations.  They wrote about the weather.  It was sunny and hot!  They searched for pollinators and other insects.  They drew what they saw and colored their pictures.  By spending time in the habitat they could watch the pollinators visit the flowers.  They saw the solitary bees visit the bee house and enter the holes drilled in the wood.  Each kid got to take home their journals, purple coneflower seeds and a small bee house that Soni made for them.  What a perfect way to finish Pollinator Week!

MJ

We have more photos on our office Flickr. See Clover College 2014 – Day 4: Habitat Discovery
Here are even more photos from the day…  Continue reading

The Great Sunflower Project

Planting sunflower seeds in pollinator habitat for the Great  Sunflower Project.

Planting sunflower seeds in pollinator habitat for the Great Sunflower Project.

Our Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat will be participating in The Great Sunflower Project.  In May my daughter and I planted Lemon Queen sunflowers in the habitat.  The sunflowers are growing well and will be blooming in a few weeks.  We will then do pollinator counts and report our findings to The Great Sunflower Project web site. They recommend planting untreated seed of Lemon Queen sunflowers. Gardeners from around the United States who planted this one type of sunflower will record their results for the Safe Gardens for Pollinators Program. If you do not have room for sunflowers, do not worry, they have other pollinator counts you can participate in too. To learn more about this project, visit their web site at greatsunflower.org  Consider participating in one of their pollinator counts and take the Great Pollinator Habitat Challenge!

MJ

Use untreated sunflower seeds. The project recommends planting Lemon Queen.

Use untreated sunflower seeds. The project recommends planting Lemon Queen.

Lemon Queen sunflower plants.

Lemon Queen sunflower plants.

Herbs are Meant to be Eaten

Dill is an excellent larval plant for Swallowtail butterflies.

Dill is an excellent larval plant for Swallowtail butterflies.

A corner of the habitat has been planted with herbs. Herbs are excellent larval and nectar plants for butterflies. We have planted borage, dill, parsley, basil, garlic chives, oregano and thyme.  Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on dill and parsley plants.  The caterpillars feed on the plants until they pupate.  I hope there will be lots of herb eating in the habitat this year.  We can always plant more.

MJ