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

Hummingbirds: Feathered Pollinators

Home Wise! Family Smart!

HummingbirdSheri1In the continental United States, hummingbirds are key in wildflower pollination. Source: USDA Forest Service

Late this afternoon, I caught a glimpse of a tiny hummingbird dodging rain and fighting wind to check out my feeder – no nectar! I rushed in the kitchen and made a batch of nectar (the nectar recipe is below). Once the nectar was cool, I put on a poncho, rain boots and headed out to fill the feeder. Thankfully, she came back.

Hummingbirds are fascinating! Enlist the help of the entire family to attract these tiny birds to your landscape.

Spring migration occurs from mid-April through May. This time of year, hummingbirds move through the area pretty quickly so visits to your feeders may be brief. We’re lucky in eastern Nebraska because some folks have Ruby-throated hummingbirds all summer long.

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Programs for Pollinator Conservation in Rural Areas

More than 30 percent of our food relies on insect pollination, which is overwhelmingly provided by bees. Recent research has shown that wild native bees, which number more than 4,000 species in North America, contribute substantially to crop pollination on farms where their habitat needs are met. –Using 2014 Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Conservation

Penstemon in Bloom

Penstemon is one of the many native flowers blooming on Spring Creek Prairie in June. Beautiful!

Rural residents play an important role in protecting pollinator habitats. Using 2014 Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Conservation provides information on how you can encourage pollinator habitat in rural areas.  Congress recognizes pollinators are a crucial part of healthy agricultural and natural landscapes and the 2014 Farm Bill reflects the importance of pollinators.

For assistance with your farm or acreage pollinator program and more, contact:

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

Check Out Photos from the Live Camera

One of the regulars in the Cherry Creek Habitat: a skunk

About this photo: One of the skunks we see regularly in habitat photos captured with the live cam.
This photo was taken March 28, 2015 at 1 a.m. CT

Last fall, a Web camera was mounted so everyone could watch a live stream view of the Cherry Creek Habitat 24/7. In addition to the change in seasons, viewers have also enjoyed wildlife using this educational area.

A couple weeks ago, I went through the camera still shots and pulled together some of the highlights from January-April 2015. Vicki in our office posted the photos to Flickr. The list of wildlife includes: two different skunks, two raccoons, two cats, a small herd of deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds and a wild turkey. There is a description with the date/time of day each still photo was taken.

Cherry Creek Habitat Web Cam Still Photos 2015 – more photos will be added each month. Enjoy!

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

Are You Working on Your Native Bee Nest Boxes?

Bee Nest Box Structure - Bee Hotel

Bee Nest Box for the Cherry Creek Habitat

Now’s a great time to be working on your native bee nesting blocks and insect hotels. Make your structures simple or complex, basic or creative. The native bees won’t care – you’ll just want to provide a variety of hole sizes in the blocks or tubes you provide.

Check out Attracting Pollinators to Your Landscape. This resource also includes directions on how to make native bee nesting blocks. Once you’ve made your nesting blocks/structures, you can set those out in your landscape this spring.

Speaking of spring…It won’t be long and we’ll start to see “spring” in the Cherry Creek Habitat. You can enjoy the seasons with us on the live cam. The native bee nesting box structure and insect hotel are on the north side of the habitat – near the back of the camera view. Enjoy – watch live here.

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

‘Lone Wolf’ Sawtooth

Sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek Habitat

At 9 feet, this perennial sawtooth sunflower is standing tall in the Cherry Creek Habitat

My, my, my… how one of our perennial sunflowers has grown!

We have a sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus) in the Cherry Creek Habitat. When grown in tight colonies the sunflowers reach 3-5 feet tall. However, when you plant one by itself (described as a ‘lone wolf’) it can reach up to 12 ft tall. This afternoon, we went out and measured the sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek habitat and it is 9 ft tall. It is glorious! Unfortunately, it is too tall for the space (and could be aggressive),  so we’ll have to move it later. There are plenty of pollinators on the sunflower now and it certainly is a standout in the habitat.

Other habitat news:

  • Excited! Jim in our office is busy adding a camera out back so we can view the habitat on the web and share video. We should even have “night vision”.
  • We’ve also been doing some nitty gritty work with weeding and adding more rock to keep working on the erosion issues with the space.
  • The activity at the bee nesting structure has really slowed down, although I did see one leaf cutter bee busy at work. Bumble bees have certainly not slowed down their activity – they are still as busy as “bees”.
  • Today, we saw a lot of monarchs moving south on their migration while working in the habitat.
  • As we move into fall, it will be time to harvest seed and plant more plants.
  • Speaking of sunflowers, the Lemon Queen sunflowers may not look as pretty now that the flowers are gone, but they are providing food for birds. This afternoon, a female cardinal and three of her young were busy feeding on the seeds.

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I “See” You!

We rarely go out into the Cherry Creek Habitat without a camera of some sort. You never know what you might see. When I’m strolling around, I try to have at least my cell phone with me! Today was one of those days when I could’ve missed documenting something special – – –

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

Common Yarrow in the Habitat

The yarrow has been a great addition to the Cherry Creek Habitat. It also makes a super hiding place. Do you see it?

Baby bullsnake in the yarrow

If you look close at the first photo, here’s the baby bullsnake who found a great hiding place right in the center of the yarrow. Very cool

 

When a thistle makes you smile…

Native thistles like this tall thistle, are important to our pollinators. Remember, not all thistles are bad. It didn’t take long for the bumble bees and skipper to find this beautiful thistle flower. The tall thistles are just starting to bloom in the Cherry Creek Habitat. We can’t wait!!

Native thistles are both beautiful and important to our pollinators.


Enjoy “A Pasture Poem” by Richard Wilbur featuring the “thistle”
– also set to music (full text of the poem follows)

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