We were treated to a beautiful fall day in the pollinator habitat yesterday. I took advantage of this, by weeding and a little fall clean up. Not too much clean up, it is good to leave some plant material and leaves. It is important not to disrupt overwintering areas for beneficial insects. I also planted wildflowers seeds. A Master Gardener had secured a donation of seeds for us to use. In the collection was purple coneflower. Thank you Kay! I collected seeds earlier in the fall from the habitat. So I planted shell-leaf penstemon and whorled milkweed too.
Habitat in November.
Purple coneflower seeds.
Today the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat hosted a Master Gardener Lunch & Learn. Master Gardeners brought their lunch, toured the habitat and learn more about our bee structures and plant selection for pollinators. They constructed a solitary bee nest to place in their home landscape next year from recycled and repurposed items. Master Gardeners also made nature journals and spent time in the pollinator habitat observing nature. The Cherry Creek Habitat is the perfect place to lunch and learn.
Master Gardeners make solitary bee nests.
At the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat we have included many native grasses. We have established Indiangrass, little bluestem, big bluestem, switchgrass and sideoats grama. The fall color and seed heads are at their best now. If you plan to add ornamental grasses to your landscape, consider native grasses. You will not be disappointed.
Native grasses, like Indiangrass, established in the pollinator habitat.
Last week I attended the UNL Entomology, Agronomy and Horticulture Pollinator Garden and Outdoor Classroom open house. This new garden is located on East Campus in the teaching gardens. Dr. Doug Golick, from the UNL Entomology Department led the tour. Pollinator plots have been seeded with native plants. A water wise garden area, pollinator food plot and larval habitat are also part of this pollinator garden. We viewed many pollinators while we toured the garden.
Nebraska Extension is in the process of forming nineteen new issue teams. I joined the “Protect beneficial insect ecosystems including pollinators” Team. In November this new state wide team will meet for the first time to discuss and plan our mission for the coming year. This team was organized because Nebraskans see beneficial insects and pollinators as a priority.
Pollinator Garden and Outdoor Classroom on East Campus.
Water wise garden.
Honeycomb structure in pollinator garden.
Open house for UNL Entomology, Agronomy and Horticulture Pollinator Garden and Outdoor Classroom.
Southern Plains bumblebee on purple cone flower.
Sometimes we get lucky and see wildlife in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. Today it was a gray tree frog. The bee house is not just for solitary bees after all.
Can you see the tree frog?
Tree frog resting in the solitary bee house.
Asters are one of my favorite flowers. Smooth aster, Aster laevis, is blooming now in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. This native aster produces an abundance of lavender-blue flowers through late autumn.
Smooth Aster is upright with arching branches and reaches 3 feet tall. It easily grows in dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun. Asters are a must for your perennial garden. All bees, bumble bees and butterflies flock to asters. They are an excellent stopover plant for migrating Monarchs.
Bumble bee on Pitcher’s sage.
Pitcher’s sage (Salvia azurea) has been blooming in the habitat for a few weeks. It has an amazing blue color. This native perennial is in the mint family, but is not an aggressive spreader. The stems are tall and erect, with the plant reaching a height of 2-5 feet. Plant it in full sun. Nearly every day this month, I see bumble bees on the flowers of this plant. They love it and so will you.
Pitcher’s sage in the Cherry Creek Habitat.
Its HOT! Bees and other pollinators need fresh water to drink too. Add a bee water station in your yard for bees and other animals to get a drink. Bird baths work fine too. Place a rock in the water station for the insects to land on when they visit.
Bee water station in Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat.
Honey bee visiting a birdbath.
Hoary vervain (Verbena stricta) is one of my favorite native wildflowers.
Hoary vervain, a native wildflower.
It is blooming in the habitat now. The plant has beautiful purple-blue flowers and blooms for at least 6 weeks. It gets 2 feet tall and prefers drier soil conditions. I always see bumblebees visiting the flowers, as well as butterflies and solitary bees.
In the pollinator habitat today I notice a Monarch caterpillar feeding on a swamp milkweed flower. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs only on milkweed plants. Swamp milkweed is blooming now and the pink flowers are very attractive. We also have butterfly, common and whorled milkweeds growing in the habitat. Consider adding milkweeds to your perennial flower beds.
Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed.
The federal government in February, pledged $3.2 million to help save the monarch butterfly. In recent years, the species has experienced a 90 percent decline in population, with the lowest recorded population occurring in 2013-2014.
About $2 million will restore more than 200,000 acres of habitat from California to the mid-west, including approximately 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens. The rest will be used to start a conservation fund, the first dedicated solely to monarchs, that will provide grants to farmers and other landowners to conserve habitat.
This is exciting news. These gardens will benefit all pollinators and help raise awareness of habitat protection.
Posted in butterfly, Habitat, milkweed, Monarch, Plants, Pollinators
Tagged beneficial, butterfly, Education, flowers, habitat, insect, milkweed, Monarch