Fall Habitat Day

This morning Nebraska Extension Lancaster County Master Gardeners volunteered and helped me in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. We had plenty of wonderful rain this year. So the Habitat got a bit over grown. We found the path, bench and picnic table, they were all over grown with native plants and a few weeds. We took out the weeds, cut back a few native grasses, but left everything else. It is important to leave plant material in pollinator habitats for overwintering insects and praying mantis egg cases. Many wildflowers like milkweed and Rudbeckia are dropping seeds now for plants next year. Birds like, American goldfinch, are seed eaters. Leaving the native tall thistle is an important food source for them. I hope we have many more beautiful fall days like today.

MJ Frogge

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Butterflies!

We are finding many butterflies and skippers in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. Swallowtails and monarch butterflies numbers have increased this month. It is important to have a variety of annuals, perennials and native flowers blooming now through our first frost for our pollinators. Late summer and fall blooming plants include sunflowers, tall thistle, swamp milkweed, goldenrod and asters.

MJ Frogge

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Monarchs!

Monarch butterflies and caterpillars have been spotted in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. Our habitat has over 300 stems of common, butterfly, swamp and whorled milkweed for monarchs and other beneficial insects. Please consider planting more milkweed and other native plants in your landscape to benefit pollinators.

MJ Frogge

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June: Leaf Cutter Bees & Flowers

Lots of activity in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat this month. Soni added new blocks to the solitary bee house. It did not take long for solitary leaf cutter bees to start filling them up.

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There is also many flowers blooming this month. Common milkweed, butterfly milkweed, purple poppy mallow and yellow sweet clover.

MJ Frogge

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August Blooming Plants

There are many wonderful native plants blooming in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat this month.  The butterflies and bees are in large numbers and it is great to be in the habitat watching all the activity.  Purple coneflower, tall thistle, Joe pye weed, pitcher sage, swamp milkweed, Rudbeckia and whorled milkweed are all blooming now.

MJ Frogge

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Monarch Eggs

So I was curious. With all the reports of monarchs already seen in Nebraska, I went out to the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat this morning to look for eggs. It did not take long for me to find one on a common milkweed. Wow, its May 5th!  I checked other plants and found one more. Keep in mind that these eggs were probably laid by a monarch butterfly that got blown 1500 miles from Mexico. After all those miles it still was able to find a milkweed and lay its eggs. It should have only had to travel as far as Texas and lay its eggs there. Then the butterflies from those eggs would have traveled north to Nebraska later this month. Nature is beyond amazing.

MJ Frogge

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Monarch butterfly egg on common milkweed, May 5!

Milkweed and Monarchs

Milkweed plants

Milkweed plants in the Cherry Creek Habitat.

Milkweed and Monarchs are in the news today.  The Lincoln Journal has a nice article on the Monarch Plan that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and other groups, including Nebraska Extension, started last year during the Monarch Summit.  Planting milkweed is a priority.  Read more:

http://journalstar.com/news/local/milkweed-by-the-masses-nebraska-eyes-new-habitat-goal-for/article_dd05728c-c304-597f-a500-778c3e2f4d18.html

Monarchs have also been sighted in Nebraska!  They are very early and there is concern for them due to April’s inconsistent weather. Read more:

Not Yet, Monarchs, Not Yet!

The common milkweed is up in the Cherry Creek Habitat and in my habitat at home as well. Consider planting more milkweed in your habitat this year. There are several different ones to plant. The flowers are unique and beautiful.

MJ Frogge

If you are interested in keeping track of the Monarch Migration, you can do that with Monarch Watch. http://www.monarchwatch.org/tagmig/index.htm

Want to become a citizen scientist? Learn more about Milkweed Watch. http://milkweedwatch.unl.edu/

Perennial Plant of the Year-It’s a Native!

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Butterfly milkweed

Every year the Perennial Plant Association designates a “Perennial Plant of the Year.” This announcement is well know among gardeners and horticulturists like me.  I usually have it as a featured article in the Horticulture section of our county newsletter the Nebline. The 2017’s selection made me jump with joy! It is an important native pollinator plant, butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).  This plant will be recognized and promoted extensively this year.  I am hopeful many gardeners will plant it and continue to add native plants to their landscape. It is beneficial to Monarchs and other native pollinators.

MJ Frogge

New Year Resolution-Help Pollinators

Happy New Year!


Here are a few ways you can help pollinators this year. This is a resolution that will be fun and easy to keep.
Offer a Drink
Bees need water to drink. Create a water feature with rocks for insects to land. Be sure to keep birdbaths clean and change the water three times per week when mosquitoes are breeding.
Plant Native
Plant native plants in your landscape. There are so many amazing plants to choose from. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: plains coreopsis, pasque flower, pitcher sage, purple coneflower, smooth aster and rough gayfeather.
Bloom all Season
It is important to have native flowers blooming the whole growing season. Pollinators need plants blooming March through November.
Plant Milkweed
Monarchs need our help. Provide food for monarch butterfly caterpillars. There are several milkweeds to choose from: butterfly milkweed, common milkweed, whorled milkweed and swamp milkweed.
No Chemicals
Protect pollinators by eliminating pesticides from your landscape. Plant native plants that have few pest or disease issues. Maintain a healthy soil by composting. Healthy soils produce healthy plants.
“Bee” Involved
Learn more about organizations that support pollinators such as Pollinator Partnership. You can participate in citizen scientist programs for pollinators such as Bumble Boosters-University of Nebraska, Bumble Bee Watch-Xerces Society, The Great Sunflower Project-San Francisco State University and the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project-Monarch Watch.

MJ

Monarch Caterpillars

In the pollinator habitat today I notice a Monarch caterpillar feeding on a swamp milkweed flower. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs only on milkweed plants.  Swamp milkweed is blooming now and the pink flowers are very attractive. We also have butterfly, common and whorled milkweeds growing in the habitat. Consider adding milkweeds to your perennial flower beds.

Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed.

Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed.

The federal government in February, pledged $3.2 million to help save the monarch butterfly.  In recent years, the species has experienced a 90 percent decline in population, with the lowest recorded population occurring in 2013-2014.

About $2 million will restore more than 200,000 acres of habitat from California to the mid-west, including approximately 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens. The rest will be used to start a conservation fund, the first dedicated solely to monarchs, that will provide grants to farmers and other landowners to conserve habitat.

This is exciting news. These gardens will benefit all pollinators and help raise awareness of habitat protection.

MJ