Is 2023 the Year?

Is 2023 the year you create a pollinator habitat?

Starting a new project can sometimes be overwhelming. Where do you start? Here are a few resources to help you plan your new space for pollinators.

MJ Frogge

GRO Big Red Virtual Learning, Nebraska Extension

Pollinators Bees, Butterflies and Beyond, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCJfOy2IBZk

Creating a Pollinator Habitat, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8T0aKpxrox4

Pollinator Blooms for All Seasons, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQrdGPx8haM

Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification Program

https://extension.unl.edu/statewide/douglas-sarpy/nebraska-pollinator-habitat-certification/

Application and plant list

Click to access ce-application-for-nebraska-pollinator-habitat-fillable.pdf

Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat Summer 2015

Pollinator planting card-Great Plains

https://www.dev.pollinator.org/gardencards

Pollinator Partnership

https://www.pollinator.org/

Xerces Society

https://www.xerces.org/

Winter

Happy Winter Solstice from the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat!

“If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” —Percy Bysshe Shelley

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” —William Blake

“Winter is not a season, it’s a celebration.” —Anamika Mishra

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” —John Steinbeck

“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” —Paul Theroux

“Every winter has its spring.” —H. Tuttle

MJ Frogge

Still Time to Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs

Spring blooming plants are very important to early pollinators. It can be hard to find and add these plants to a Nebraska pollinator habitat. Spring flowering bulbs can help fill this early season void. Plant bulbs this fall and next year you will have early spring flowers for bees and other pollinators.

The early spring period after the temperatures have started to warm but before dandelions have started blooming is a critical time for bees. Here are spring bulbs to consider adding to your pollinator habitat.

Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) are white, nodding flowers that will multiple with time. They are the first to bloom, some as early as late January.  On a sunny day, with temperatures above 40 degrees F, you can find honeybees visiting snowdrops. Plant in a sunny, south facing location for early blooms.

Crocus (Crocus spp.) are the next to bloom and bees love them. Plant crocuses in drifts to provide loads of pollen and nectar. They generally prefer a sunny spot and are great naturalized in lawns.

Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa spp.) is a wonderful sun-loving bulb. Floriferous and very hardy, Chionodoxas have pink, blue and white flowers. They grow to eight inches.

Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) is a beautiful bulb for sunny areas, with deep blue flowers and reaches 6 inches high. This exceptionally hardy plant multiples and creates an impressive naturalized area.

Striped squill, (Puschkinia scilloides) has flowers that are white with blue stripes. In April of this year, a red admiral butterfly visit my small patch of flowers.

Species tulips (Tulipa spp.) are great for pollinators. Plus bulbs come back year after year. Plant in a sunny, very well-drained place.

Grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.) are scented and a favorite bulb for many gardeners. The purple and white flowers are also a favorite for bees. Plant bulbs in a sunny area.

Checkered lily (Fritillaria meleagris.), also called Snake’s head fritillary, have unusual checkerboard patterns on their purple blooms. Plant bulbs in a part-shade areas that benefits from reliable moisture.

Many hybridized bulbs do not benefit pollinators, but heirloom or species varieties will be appreciated. Plant bulb up until the ground freezes in late November. Then look for amazing blooms and visiting pollinators next spring.

MJ Frogge

Snowdrops

Crocus

Glory of the snow

Scilla

Grape hyacinth

Checkered lily

Striped squill

Asters

Asters are hardy perennials that bloom late summer until the first hard frost. Many asters are native to Nebraska and a late-season source of pollen for migrating monarchs, other butterflies, moths, bumblebees, solitary bees, honey bees and soldier beetles.

Asters are easy to grow and look great in a mass planting. They can be planted with other native plants like purple coneflower, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan and native grasses.

The main plant disease is powdery mildew. It causes a whitish growth that appears on leaves. To reduce the chance of this disease, grow asters in full sun and space the plants, so they are not crowded.

Heath aster – Symphyotrichum ericoides, 2-3 feet tall with white flowers.

Fendler’s aster-Symphyotrichum fendleri, 6-16 inches tall, white flowers, low growing.

‘My Antonia’ white flowers, 12 inches tall.

Smooth aster – Symphyotrichum leave, 2-4 feet tall with purple flowers.

‘Bluebird’ violet-blue flowers, 3-4 feet tall.

Calico aster- Symphyotrichum lateriflorum, 2-3 feet tall, small flower heads of white or pale purple flowers with reddish-rose centers.

‘Lady in Black’ white flowers with raspberry centers, purplish-black leaves, 3-4 feet tall.

New England aster – Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, 3-5 feet tall with pink, red-violet, purple or blue flowers.

‘Andenken an Alma Pötschke’ is a fast growing, upright, compact plant that grows 30-42 inches tall. It has masses of flowers, 2″ across, with rose pink petals which bloom for 6 weeks or longer in late summer.

Kickin’ series of bushy and compact asters, 2 ft. tall and wide, late summer to fall-blooming with semi-double flowers. Comes in seven different cultivars: ‘Carmine Red,’ ‘Lilac Blue,’ ‘Lavender,’ ‘Pink Chiffon,’ ‘Silver Pink,’ ‘Mauve,’ and ‘Purple.’

New York aster-Aster novi-belgii, 3-4 feet tall, purple, dark pink, white flowers.

‘Alert’ purplish-red flowers, 1.5-2 feet tall.

Aromatic Aster– Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, 1-4 feet tall with pink, lavender-blue, purple flowers.

‘Dream Beauty’ pink flowers with orange centers, 1 foot tall.

‘Fanny’ purple-blue flowers, 2-3 feet tall.

‘Raydon’s Favorite’ violet blue flowers, 2-3 feet tall.

‘October Skies’ sky-blue flowers, 1-2 feet.

Sky Blue aster-Symphyotrichum oolentangiense, 3 feet tall with light blue flowers.

Silky aster– Symphyotrichum sericeus, 1-2 feet, one inch purple flowers, branching stems with leaves covered silvery hairs, blooms in August.

Prairie aster – Symphyotrichum turbinellum, 3-4 feet tall with lavender flowers.

MJ Frogge

New England Aster
smooth aster
calico aster

10 Years!

The Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat is 10 years old! In the fall of 2012, Soni and I attended “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” weekend in Halsey, Nebraska sponsored by Nebraska Game and Parks. One of the sessions focused on the challenges of increasing our native pollinator population. We left the session with a handmade native bee nest box, information and motivation to spread the message about the importance of encouraging native pollinators in our community.

In the spring of 2013, we asked our then unit leader if we could transform the underutilized space behind the Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County office into a native pollinator/wildlife habitat. The journey began and it is amazing to see how much we have accomplished during this time. We started with a neglected lawn area behind our office and turned it into a thriving habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

A few of our accomplishments include: two educational signs, one solitary bee house, one insect hotel, three water stations, over 40 native plants with name labels, over 200 stems of common milkweed for monarchs & other beneficial insects and became a Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification Program site.

The habitat is a great place to teach youth, adults, Master Gardeners and even our own staff about the importance of pollinators. Every time I visit the habitat I see or learn something new.

It has been a rewarding and educational experience for me. I hope it has been that way for you as well.

MJ Frogge

  • The Buzz Project at Cherrycreek Road

Praying Mantis

We have praying mantis in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. There are two kinds of mantis in Nebraska, the Chinese mantis and the Carolina mantis. The larger, Chinese mantis, have a body length of 3 to 4.25 inches. I mainly see the Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis). They are quite numerous and I often disrupt them when I walk through or water plants in the habitat. They are predators and do eat beneficial insects as well as insect pests. They are fun to watch and it can be challenging to get good photos of them.

MJ Frogge

Baby mantis from earlier this summer
Adult Chinese mantis

Leaf Cutter Bees

In May, I replace a row of nesting blocks in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat solitary bee house. I checked the blocks the end of July to look for nesting activity. The leaf cutter bees have been very active! Leafcutter bees will snip discs of leaf material, about a quarter inch, from ash trees or roses. They take the leaf discs and fold them to construct small tube shaped nests inside pieces of wood or holes in trees. Inside of each cell an egg is placed with some pollen.

To make a solitary bee house, read this NebGuide ‘Creating a Solitary Bee House’: https://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2256.pdf

To learn more about leaf cutter bees, visit this site: https://byf.unl.edu/topics/leaf-cutter-bees

MJ Frogge

Teaching Youth About Pollinators

Happy Pollinator Week! This week our office is hosting 4-H Clover College. Twelve youth signed up for my session called Pollinator Party. We discussed what crops need pollinators. They looked at the list and circled foods they eat. I then asked them to highlighted a favorite food. I asked how they would feel if they could never have that food again. The shocked look on their faces was clear. They are starting to understand the importance of pollinators.

It was a beautiful day to be out in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. They notice the native flowers that were blooming. Many were fascinated by the solitary bee house and watching the leaf cutter bees fill the holes that were drilled in the wood blocks. They planted dill and zinnia seeds to benefit caterpillars and butterflies.

After exploring the habitat, each youth made a solitary bee tube house to take home and place in their landscape. It was a fun morning and by the end of the session, the kids had a better understanding of our native pollinators and how their habitat is important to protect. 

MJ Frogge

It’s May!

The Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat has received much needed rain. It is raining right now! Plants have grown well and the habitat has greened up. Common milkweed, Joe-Pye weed, hoary vervain, bee balm, tall thistle, common yarrow, aster, penstemon, purple coneflower, goldenrod and cup plant are found in the in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. Master Gardener volunteers helped cut back dead plants, weed trees and spread mulch earlier this month. I added new blocks to the solitary bee house. We should be seeing leaf cutter bees soon. Spring is here.

MJ Frogge

Blocks with drilled holes and paper straws for solitary bees.
Common milkweed.
Joe-Pye weed.

Spring Blooming Plants

Many great pollinator plants are blooming now.  It can be hard to find a good collection of spring blooming plants to add to your pollinator habitat. Here are a few to try.

Trees: Eastern redbud, cherry, apple, crab apple, wild plum, pear, willow, maple and Shadblow serviceberry.

Perennials: pasque flower, Dutchman’s breeches, white trout lily, Virginia bluebells and spring beauty.

Spring blooming flower bulbs: snowdrops, Siberian squill, grape hyacinth, crocus, striped squill and glory-of-the-snow.

MJ Frogge