Happy New Year!
Honey bee visiting a birdbath.
Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed.
Bumble bee on Pitcher’s sage.
Here are a few ways you can help pollinators this year. This is a resolution that will be fun and easy to keep.
Offer a Drink
Bees need water to drink. Create a water feature with rocks for insects to land. Be sure to keep birdbaths clean and change the water three times per week when mosquitoes are breeding.
Plant native plants in your landscape. There are so many amazing plants to choose from. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: plains coreopsis, pasque flower, pitcher sage, purple coneflower, smooth aster and rough gayfeather.
Bloom all Season
It is important to have native flowers blooming the whole growing season. Pollinators need plants blooming March through November.
Monarchs need our help. Provide food for monarch butterfly caterpillars. There are several milkweeds to choose from: butterfly milkweed, common milkweed, whorled milkweed and swamp milkweed.
Protect pollinators by eliminating pesticides from your landscape. Plant native plants that have few pest or disease issues. Maintain a healthy soil by composting. Healthy soils produce healthy plants.
Learn more about organizations that support pollinators such as Pollinator Partnership. You can participate in citizen scientist programs for pollinators such as Bumble Boosters-University of Nebraska, Bumble Bee Watch-Xerces Society, The Great Sunflower Project-San Francisco State University and the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project-Monarch Watch.
Today I placed our sunflowers seed bird feeders and thistle seed feeder in the habitat. First, I cleaned and disinfected our bird feeders. It is important to do this to prevent the spread of bird diseases. Take a minute to read over these recommendations of feeder maintenance and hygiene by Audubon.
Disinfect your feeder and birdbath: To keep pathogens at bay, immerse your seed feeder or birdbath in a nine to one water-bleach solution, rinsing it thoroughly, one to two times per month. In the presence of outbreaks, disinfect twice as often.
Empty water from your birdbath every day: Brush or wipe it clean and rinse, then refill the birdbath with fresh water.
Discard old seed and hulls: When you clean your feeder, get rid of the old seed. Rake or sweep up any uneaten hulls on the ground. The disease-causing Trichomonad protozoan, for example, can live for up to five days in food and several hours in water.
Avoid overcrowding: If possible, provide more than one feeder and spread them out. Crowding only expedites the spread of disease, so give the birds variety and plenty of room. Source: Audubon
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.