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

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

The August 2016 Issue of the NEBLINE is on-line!

The August NEBLINE Newsletter is now online. This is a free resource from our office and this month you’ll find information on making the recycled bee nesting tubes and creating healthy habitats for beneficial insects. Enjoy and Here’s to Sharing the “Buzz” – Soni

Home Wise! Family Smart!

The NEBLINE Newsletter

The August issue of the free NEBLINE newsletter is now on-line. Visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/nebline and click on the link to the August 2016 NEBLINE!

Here are some of the articles featured in this issue – – – –

  • 4-H Clover College 20th Anniversary
  • Cool Summer Salads – You can make salads in a jar & Two Ingredient Vinaigrette Recipe for Salads
  • Using La Niña to Forecast the Weather
  • Inheriting a Farm, Seminar Aug. 17 (Local program)
  • Don’t Banish the Booster Until Children Are 57″ Tall
  • All Ears for Earwigs
  • Diversity is the Key to Attracting Wildlife
  • Choosing a Birdbath
  • Helping Pollinators: Build a Solitary Bee Nest Using Recycled Materials
  • August Garden Guide
  • Grow Your Own Pest Control: Creating Habitat for Beneficial Insects
  • Lincoln Center Kiwanis Receives the August Heart of 4-H Award
  • 4-H’ers Test Family and Consumer Science, Entrepreneurship Skills at Life Challenge & Animal Science Skills at PASE
  • Emerald Ash Borer Seminars Offered…

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She’s a Killer, a Cicada Killer

You may see one of these amazing wasp on one of the flowering plants in your garden. Learn more about Nebraska’s largest wasp.

Home Wise! Family Smart!

The annual or dog-day cicadas are back for their free daily concerts which I call, “The Sound of Summer”. Anyone who isn’t familiar with the cicada sounds, can look and listen to this video that I took of a cicada over the long weekend.

This post isn’t about the cicada, but a predator of the cicada called the cicada killer wasp. They are out and about right now, scaring homeowners who are concerned about being stung by these huge wasps.

Cicada killer wasp is a large wasp on sedum Cicada killer wasp is a large (up to 2″ long), black wasp with bright yellow markings on the abdomen. Adult wasps feed on nectar and larvae feed on cicadas.

The cicada killer is the largest species of wasp in Nebraska. They are sometimes mistaken for killer bees, yellow jackets or hornets but they are a type of solitary wasp. Solitary wasps do not live in large colonies with multiple individuals…

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The Story of What You See: Nature Journaling

Home Wise! Family Smart!

Nature JournalLooking for special way to document your outdoor adventures? Try nature journaling! Nature journals can be enjoyed by young and the young-at-heart, used at home or on vacation. There’s no right or wrong way to use a nature journal.

You can purchase journals or make your own. Once you have your journal, go outside to your backyard, neighborhood park or a scenic location while you are traveling on vacation. Sit down and look around. What do you see? What do you hear? Make a list or draw a picture of what you see. Write down your feelings and your thoughts. Create a poem. Collect fallen leaves to press in your journal.

Supplies:

  • Notebook or heavy paper
  • pencil or color pencils

Optional supplies:

  • markers
  • watercolor paint and brushes
  • tape
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • magnifying glass
  • bird, plant, wildlife field guides
  • camera
  • tote bag to carry supplies

Source: Nature Journaling. Youth Gardening Activities – Nebraska Extension…

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STEM’ing in the Habitat

STEM is an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. We took time out yesterday to integrate more STEM opportunities into the Cherry Creek Habitat. Urban entomologist, Jody Green and myself set out traps to monitor for Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and the Aedes mosquitoes that can carry Zika virus.

The trap for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was placed 3 feet above plants so we attached it to the pole in the middle of the habitat. On the livestream view of the habitat – you can just see the green trap on the blue pole under the bee nesting tubes. The Stink Bug trap will be checked every Monday and results documented. Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs are an invasive species and are a pest of plants including fruit trees, ornamentals and some crops. (more from USDA).

The mosquito trap was anchored behind the bee nesting structure. This trap has to be checked every five days. We placed a wooden tongue depressor in a cup with two inches of water. Since Aedes mosquitoes lay their single eggs on a dry surface, we’ll remove the stick after 5 days and send to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to have it checked for eggs. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are more likely to spread viruses like Zika, dengue, chikungunya and other viruses. Aedes aegypti has not been found in Nebraska yet, but it is very close (range map – Center for Disease Control & Prevention).

In addition to helping get our traps set, Jody enjoyed taking some photos and a little video of the action in the habitat.

For more information on topics mentioned in this post:

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

All Bees – All the Time!

It’s hard to believe that on June 3, I posted photos of the brand new nesting blocks going into our native bee nesting structure in the Cherry Creek Habitat. We’ve been watching the leafcutter bees and they are quickly filling up all the blocks. Mary Jane had some some tubes in her office so she brought those out and we added them to the structure and to the insect hotel. The little bees are sure fun to watch as they carry their leaves into the holes.

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

Doing a little Bee Nest Box Upkeep

 

morewood

A few of the new blocks for the Bee Nesting Structure in the Cherry Creek Habitat

Today was a little upkeep and renovation to the bee nesting box structure in the Cherry Creek Habitat. I spent a few days drilling various-sized holes in scrap lumber to replace some of the older nesting blocks. I carefully examined the current nesting blocks and if they were in good shape, never used or had bees already nesting in them, left them in the habitat. Some of the wood I had used before just wasn’t the best and the holes had swelled nearly shut. If there was anything that looked like it was too wet, moldy or decaying, it was removed. I did the same for the bamboo and phragmites stems.

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

As I cleaned up the structure, I found all sorts of other critters living in the habitat. Yellowjacket workers who huddled together at the end of their lives. Dermestid beetle larvae feeding on the dead yellowjackets. A bold jumping spider made me “jump” but by the time I got the camera out to photograph his magnificent face, he had scooted off – the same for the Parsons spider. I wasn’t quick enough with the camera. I also upset a very large colony of acrobat ants. Little did I know that they have a very painful bite and they let me know by attacking my hands and arms. I did find a phragmites stem that was split and you could see the neat nest made by a leafcutter bee. It is the featured photo on this post.

acrobatants

Acrobat ants live in the same conditions as carpenter ants, where wood has gotten damp and started to rot. These were living under one of the bee nesting blocks.

As for the acrobat ants, I’m hoping they moved on to new living quarters.

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