Spring Flowering Bulbs

One of my favorite plants is blooming now, Snowdrops! This stunning and tough little flower benefits pollinators. If the temperature is above 4o degrees F when it is blooming, you will find honey bees visiting these delightful flowers.

Other spring flowering bulbs that benefit pollinators include Glory-of-the-Snow and Crocus. Consider planting these bulbs this fall in your pollinator habitat.

MJ Frogge

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Snowdrops blooming in February. Can you find the honeybee?

Perennial Plant of the Year-It’s a Native!

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Butterfly milkweed

Every year the Perennial Plant Association designates a “Perennial Plant of the Year.” This announcement is well know among gardeners and horticulturists like me.  I usually have it as a featured article in the Horticulture section of our county newsletter the Nebline. The 2017’s selection made me jump with joy! It is an important native pollinator plant, butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).  This plant will be recognized and promoted extensively this year.  I am hopeful many gardeners will plant it and continue to add native plants to their landscape. It is beneficial to Monarchs and other native pollinators.

MJ Frogge

Tracks in the Snow

After a fresh snow fall, I like to visit the pollinator habitat to see who has been visiting. It is often obvious when you view the tracks from the night before. I found many bird tracks around the feeders. At least one rabbit had passed through. The deer tracks were interesting to look at.  I could see where it was entering and exiting the habitat. I also added my own tracks.

MJ Frogge

Feeding Birds

The Cherry Creek Habitat hosts many American Goldfinch. I placed three sock feeders for them in our mature trees that border the habitat. I also hung the sunflower seed bird feeder for our seed eating birds. We often see Dark-eyed Junco and Northern Cardinals in or near the habitat.

M J Frogge

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from all of us here at Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County!

Today, we recycled the fall decorations from our office by placing them into the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. It will be fun to watch the wildlife on the live camera as they check out the pumpkins, squash and cornstalks. You can watch at http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/bees.shtml

While working around the insect hotel, I noticed an opossum has been raiding the black oil sunflower seeds, chewing the seeds up and then regurgitating almond-sized pellets or “nuggets”. People sometimes notice these same pellets around bird feeders and aren’t sure what they are! Now, you know!

To learn how to create your own pollinator-friendly habitat, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/bees.shtml.

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!

Soni

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

“For the golden corn
and the apples on the tree,
For the golden butter
and honey for our tea;
For fruits and nuts and
berries, that grow
beside the way
For birds and bees and
flowers, we give thanks
every day”
–author unknown

It is Official! Certified Habitat

This week we received our Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification for the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat.  Our habitat earned a certificate and we also have an attractive sign to proudly display.

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Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification sign for the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat.

So what does this mean to have a Habitat Certification?

We have made the commitment to protect pollinators by:

Providing a diversity of plant material essential to providing both nectar and pollen to support a healthy ecosystem. We use plants that provide pollen and nectar sources from early spring to late fall, provide a diversity of plants, flower shapes and flower sizes, choose older cultivars and  heirloom varieties of annuals and limit newer introductions, incorporate pollinator friendly native plants into the garden and place plants in masses (three or more) to attract pollinators.

Provide water, shelter and nesting areas for pollinators.

Practice conservation practices to protect and support pollinators by reducing lawn areas, maintain a layer of organic mulch over tree roots, shrubs and plant beds, plant groundcovers or use mulch on thinly vegetated areas to decrease erosion, avoid chemical pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides where possible, use a rain barrel or other means of capturing/utilizing rainwater to irrigate plants and water plants only when necessary.

If you are interested in certifying your garden or want to learn the requirements, please visit the Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification site to see the application.

http://go.unl.edu/pollinatorhabitat

MJ Frogge

Monarch Migration

The monarch migration has begun! We are seeing so many monarchs in the Cherry Creek habitat this week. This is really good news.  Thousands of monarchs died in Mexico due to a surprise snow storm, in March, before they started their migration this spring. The fact that there are so many this fall is a good sign.  We will remain hopeful that the population will rebound.

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Monarch on zinnia in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat in September.

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Several monarchs on the zinnias in the pollinator habitat during fall migration.

To continue helping monarchs and other pollinators in the fall it is important to have fall blooming perennial plants like asters and tall sedum.  Also consider annual flowers such as zinnias and sunflowers in the landscape too.

Enjoy the great fall weather!

MJ

Where have the butterflies gone?

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar in parsley. Photo by Jody Green

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar in parsley. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

As I drove home yesterday, a monarch butterfly flew very near my truck! I was relieved to have missed it (or it missed me!) Unlike other years, I just haven’t encountered a lot of butterflies in my pollinator garden at home or on the road.

Are you seeing butterflies and moths? Are you also wondering where the butterflies have gone? I’ve gotten several calls from people who grow host plants in their landscapes specifically for butterflies. Some call me every year to report what they are seeing. But, like my own garden, people are reporting very few butterflies or caterpillars. Continue reading

Picky eaters: Bumble bees prefer plants with nutrient-rich pollen

Bumblebee on a common milkweed in the habitat

Bumblebee on a common milkweed in the Cherry Creek Pollinator habitat

This is an excerpt from on-line Science Daily June 27, 2016:

Bumble bees have discriminating palettes when it comes to their pollen meals, according to researchers at Penn State. The researchers found that bumble bees can detect the nutritional quality of pollen, and that this ability helps them selectively forage among plant species to optimize their diets.

According to Anthony Vaudo, a graduate student in entomology who led the study, scientists previously believed that bees’ preferences for flowering plants were driven by floral traits, such as color, scent, morphology or nectar concentration.

“Here we show that bumble bees actually choose a plant for the nutritional quality of its pollen,” said Vaudo. “This is important because pollen is bees’ primary source of protein and lipids.”

Read more about this Penn State University study in the on-line Science Daily June 27, 2016

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!

Soni

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

Getting to Know Leafcutter Bees

Thanks to our colleague Dr. Jonathan L. Larson for providing this information. Dr. Larson is an Extension Educator in Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties

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QUICK FACTS

  • Leafcutter bees are important pollinators that are members of the family Megachilidae. They tend to be stout-bodied, dark in color, and have pollen collecting hairs on their “belly”
  • They visit many crops including alfalfa, blueberries, cherries, almonds, onions, carrots and dozens of different wildflowers
  • Leafcutter bees pose little sting hazard in comparison to the honey bee or even Beedrill and even though they can cosmetically damage some plants it is best not to use insecticides against them

Continue reading