It rained!

Wetlands

Cherry Creek habitat – last year’s cattail stalks in a marshy area. April 2013

It rained last night. Most of Nebraska is still in a drought – every drop of rain helps! I hope when we get back to the office on Monday the berm we started is still intact and held the runoff from the office roof. If not, that’s OK. The berm is a work in progress – we’ll shore it up.

I’m sure the plants/wildlife at the neighboring saline wetlands appreciate the rain. You know, we haven’t talked about our neighbors. Just to the north of our Cherry Creek site, is an amazing resource few people know about. It is the Lincoln Saline Wetlands Nature Center, 92 acres of unique habitat. Map

What’s a Saline Wetlands? From the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District who manages the sites in our area: “When the ground water rises to the surface a wetland is created. When that water passes through salt deposits on its way up, a saline wetlands is created. Lincoln, Nebraska is one of the very few places on earth where that happens…. ” Continue reading

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Runoff to rain garden

One of the features in our habitat plan is to include a rain garden and berm. This should help eliminate some of the runoff from the roof of our building. The runoff is causing some erosion problems and could carry pollutants to the small wetlands area on the northern edge of the habitat.

What’s a rain garden? A rain garden is a small area designed to temporarily hold and allow water to soak in to the soil. It isn’t a pond or wetlands. In fact, most of the time it is dry. Rain gardens can be both beautiful and functional.  A mix of perennial flowers, ornamental grasses and woody shrubs adapted to both wet and dry conditions can be used in a rain garden. We intend to use plants that will also benefit wildlife/pollinators.

About 4-5 years ago, rain gardens created quite a “buzz” around our community. I’ve got a couple spots around my own home where I should seriously consider a rain garden. Add that to my “to do” list!

Our local government has a resource page to help people create their own rain gardens. Check it out:

https://www.lincoln.ne.gov/city/pworks/watrshed/educate/garden/

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

Nasty weed’s one good use

phragmites bundles

We will be using these stems for solitary bee nesting sites.

Phragmites is a nasty weed that is clogging Nebraska’s water ways.  We have found a use for it.  The hollow stems make a perfect nesting site for solitary bees. One of our co-workers, Vicki, collected stems during the winter for us to use.  I have cut them 6 inches long and bundled them together.  We will add them to the insect hotel we will be building.

MJ

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

Bringing in Top Soil

Adding Top Soil

Filling in erosion and building a berm

This is haul dirt day! Of course, we picked the hottest day yet this year to haul and move dirt. The past couple of weeks we’ve had snow, sleet and now record-breaking temperatures. We already have temps in the area at or near 100 deg F. Whew! We’ll be adding more top soil on Friday (hopefully the temps will be better!). I think we missed Spring??

Thanks to Gary, Dave and Chris for helping MJ and myself haul in top soil. We used the pulverized top soil to fill in some areas where runoff from the building roof has caused erosion. We also started the berm today. The berm should help hold back some of the runoff – with some help with the planned rain garden landscaping and plants.

We’re posting photos on Flickr

On our “to-do” list for the next couple weeks:

  • adding more topsoil (we’ll probably end up needing two more pickup loads)
  • picking up compost and woodchips (we need lots of woodchips)
  • stabilize the drain hose from the building by setting into the soil
  • adding a gutter to the shed and attaching the rain barrel
  • leveling the area for the insect hotel and pollinator features
  • clean up trash in the creek and banks
  • …. oh, I know there is more – we’ll keep adding to the list.

MJ has some butterfly milkweed started and they look great. Hopefully, we’ll get to the point where we can begin adding plants to the habitat. We were also able to pick up some nice pallets being discarded at a dumpster near our office. We’ll put the pallets to good use when building our insect/pollinator habitat.

Did I tell you we had raccoon scat by our shed today? Sorry, no photos to share… this time!

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

Sedum and Serviceberry

Serviceberry

Serviceberry is identified as an important plant for pollinators and wildlife.

These are two of the plants in our landscape plan for the Cherry Creek habitat. Both plants will benefit pollinators, wildlife and visitors to the habitat.

Sedum in Bloom

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

What’s filling that hole?

OK – so you probably know the photo at the top of this blog is of a bee nest box, but it is a little different. Most of the solitary bees aren’t going to be stuffing long blades of grass in the hole. We had an unexpected visitor to the bee nest box – an unusual insect few people get to see – a “grass-carrier” wasp of the genus Isodontia. This wasp hasn’t been recorded in Nebraska since 1920. The wasp gets its name because of its odd nesting habits. The female wasp fills nest cavities with grasses and other plants, and tree crickets which are food for its young. For more info, read the article at http://lancaster.unl.edu/NEBLINE/2009/july09/page07.pdf

When we have diverse, healthy landscapes, we encourage amazing wildlife no matter where we live! You can watch this amazing wasp filling the hole in the photo…. Enjoy!

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

Blue Orchard Mason Bees

Blue Orchard Mason Bees

Blue Orchard Mason Bees

Last week, one of our local pest control operators came in with a sample of dead bees. The bees were found in a gap around a window and a small hole. The homeowner was concerned they were a wood-destroying insect. Not to worry…

I took a photo and sent the image to Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomology. Jim gave us more information:

“These are Orchard-Mason Bees, specifically the Blue Orchard Bee, Osmia lignaria. If the specimens have yellowish hair on the faces, they are males. Males usually emerge before the females so that they can compete to mate with them. We have had blue orchard bees in Nebraska for perhaps 5 years. They are becoming more and more common due to people purchasing them and using them to pollinate their orchards and gardens. They are artificially raised in cardboard tubes much like leafcutter bees and tubes can be purchased from suppliers in the northwestern US. They emerge much earlier than leafcutter bees, and have the benefit of helping to pollinate fruit orchards.”

Thanks Jim! No need for the homeowner to use any controls for these wayward bees. She can caulk the openings around the window and that will solve the issue.

Washington State Extension describes these bees as “The orchard mason bee (Osmia lignaria) is a gentle beneficial insect that has potential as a pollinator of apples, cherries, and other tree fruits. It is found throughout most of North America, particularly in wooded areas but often around homes in towns and cities.”

So although these bees aren’t native to our area, you may still find them in bee nest boxes and other suitable locations.

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