Spring Flowering Bulbs

One of my favorite plants is blooming now, Snowdrops! This stunning and tough little flower benefits pollinators. If the temperature is above 4o degrees F when it is blooming, you will find honey bees visiting these delightful flowers.

Other spring flowering bulbs that benefit pollinators include Glory-of-the-Snow and Crocus. Consider planting these bulbs this fall in your pollinator habitat.

MJ Frogge

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Snowdrops blooming in February. Can you find the honeybee?

Tracks in the Snow

After a fresh snow fall, I like to visit the pollinator habitat to see who has been visiting. It is often obvious when you view the tracks from the night before. I found many bird tracks around the feeders. At least one rabbit had passed through. The deer tracks were interesting to look at.  I could see where it was entering and exiting the habitat. I also added my own tracks.

MJ Frogge

It is Official! Certified Habitat

This week we received our Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification for the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat.  Our habitat earned a certificate and we also have an attractive sign to proudly display.

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Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification sign for the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat.

So what does this mean to have a Habitat Certification?

We have made the commitment to protect pollinators by:

Providing a diversity of plant material essential to providing both nectar and pollen to support a healthy ecosystem. We use plants that provide pollen and nectar sources from early spring to late fall, provide a diversity of plants, flower shapes and flower sizes, choose older cultivars and  heirloom varieties of annuals and limit newer introductions, incorporate pollinator friendly native plants into the garden and place plants in masses (three or more) to attract pollinators.

Provide water, shelter and nesting areas for pollinators.

Practice conservation practices to protect and support pollinators by reducing lawn areas, maintain a layer of organic mulch over tree roots, shrubs and plant beds, plant groundcovers or use mulch on thinly vegetated areas to decrease erosion, avoid chemical pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides where possible, use a rain barrel or other means of capturing/utilizing rainwater to irrigate plants and water plants only when necessary.

If you are interested in certifying your garden or want to learn the requirements, please visit the Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification site to see the application.

http://go.unl.edu/pollinatorhabitat

MJ Frogge

Monarch Migration

The monarch migration has begun! We are seeing so many monarchs in the Cherry Creek habitat this week. This is really good news.  Thousands of monarchs died in Mexico due to a surprise snow storm, in March, before they started their migration this spring. The fact that there are so many this fall is a good sign.  We will remain hopeful that the population will rebound.

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Monarch on zinnia in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat in September.

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Several monarchs on the zinnias in the pollinator habitat during fall migration.

To continue helping monarchs and other pollinators in the fall it is important to have fall blooming perennial plants like asters and tall sedum.  Also consider annual flowers such as zinnias and sunflowers in the landscape too.

Enjoy the great fall weather!

MJ

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

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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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

Summer Blooming Plants for Pollinators

To celebrate pollinator week consider certifying your landscape in the Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification program. Summer flowering plants that bloom in June and July are an important section of the application.  Your pollinator habitat must have plant diversity and long blooming plants are necessary for every pollinator habitat. To see the application, visit this web site: http://entomology.unl.edu/pollinator-habitat-certification

MJ Frogge

June and July Blooming Plants

Allium cernuum – Nodding Onion
Amorpha canescens – Leadplant
Aruncus dioicus – Goat’s Beard
Asclepias sp. – Milkweed
 Cepholanthus occidentalis – Buttonbush
Coreopsis lanceolata – Tickseed
Coreopsis tinctoria – Plains Coreopsis
Dalea purpurea – Purple Prairie Clover
Echinacea angustifolia – Narrowleaf Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower
Gaillardia sp. – Blanketflower
Liatris sp. – Gayfeather
Monarda sp. – Bee Balm
Packera plattensis – Prairie Groundsel
Oenothera sp.  – Evening Primrose
Penstemon cobaea – Prairie Penstemon
Penstemon digitalis – Beardtongue
Penstemon grandiflorus – Large Beardtongue
Rosa arkansana – Prairie Rose
Rosa blanda – Smooth Rose
Rosa carolina – Carolina Rose
Ruellia humilis – Wild Petunia
Silphium perfoliatum
Tilia sp. – Linden
Tradescantia sp. – Spiderwort
Verbenena canadensis – Rose Vervain
Veronicastrum virginicum – Culver’s Root
Arenaria hookeri – Hooker’s Sandwort
Callirhoe involucrata – Purple Poppymallow
Calylophus serrulatus – Yellow Sundrops
Erigeron sp. – Fleabane

 

Build a Solitary Bee Nest Using Recycled Materials

Native bees are important pollinators. Some native bees, like leaf cutter bees and mason bees, nest in hollow plant stems.  You can help native solitary bees by providing a man-made bee nest. The kids that attended my Clover College workshop last week made these bee nests. They had a fun time and this would be easy for your family to make for Pollinator Week.

Supplies

1 ¾ inch plastic lid from juice container

Paper towel tube cut to 7 inches in length (we use the tube from automated paper towel dispensers) If you use a regular sized paper towel tube, the plastic juice container lid will need to be 1 ½ inches.

Paper drinking straws cut to 6 inches in length

Mason bee tubes (optional)

Duct tape

Zip ties or twine

supplies

Bee Nest supplies: paper towel tube, plastic lid, paper straws and duct tape.

Instructions

Push the juice container lid into the cut end of the paper towel tube.  It should fit snuggly. The nesting tube needs to have one end closed off or the bees will not be able to nest in the tube.

Place the paper straws and/or mason bee tubes in the paper towel tube and push them back so they are snug against the juice lid. Place enough paper straws inside until they are snug and will not fall out.

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Paper straws inserted into paper towel tube and pushed snug to the back.

Cover the outside of the paper towel tube with duct tape.  This will help keep the bee nest water proof and last longer.

Place your bee nest outside in your landscape with the nest positioned horizontally.  The opening should face south or southeast. Put the nest approximately 2-4 feet above the ground. Use two zip ties or twine to attach the bee nest to a post or fence. You could also attach it to a building, tree or large shrub. Wherever you place the bee nest, make sure it is securely attached and level.

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Place your bee nest outside in your landscape with the nest positioned horizontally. The opening should face south or southeast.

Female native solitary bees will nest in the bee tube during the spring and summer.  The immature bees will over winter in the tube and emerge as adults next spring. Leave the bee nest in place for approximately two years.  Replace the bee nest when all the bees have emerged.

MJ Frogge

Youth Discover Habitat

Yesterday I taught 4-H youth about pollinators in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. All week our office is hosting Clover College. For my Habitat Discovery session, youth learned about native pollinators,  explored the pollinator habitat, made a solitary bee nest out of recycled materials to take home, did nature journaling and planted sunflower seeds in the habitat. At the end of the session the youth made nature journals to take on their next nature adventure. What a great day spending time educating youth about pollinators.

MJ

CCgirls

Habitat discovery at Clover College.