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

print-friendly version

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

Advertisements

Spring Flowering Plants for Pollinators

Earlier this month I announced the Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification program. We hope that you will consider certifying your habitat or start the process of planning one in your landscape. One of the important sections of the application is plant selection.  Your pollinator habitat must have plant diversity and plants blooming during the spring, summer and fall months.

Spring Flowering plants that bloom in March, April and May are extremely important for early pollinators such as mason bees, honey bees and queen bumblebees.

MJ

Acer rubrum – Red Maple

Allium textile – Textile Onion

Aquilegia canadensis – Columbine

Baptisia australis – Blue False Indigo

Baptisia australis v. minor – Dwarf False Indigo

Ceanothus americanus – New Jersey Tea

Cercis canadensis – Redbud

Chionodoxa sp. – Glory-of-the-Snow

Cornus sp. – Dogwood

Erysimum asperum – Western Wallflower

Geranium maculatum – Wild Geranium

Leucocrinum montanum – Starlily

Lindera benzoin – Spicebush

Lithospermum incisum – Narrowleaf Stoneseed

Malus sp. – Apple, Crabapple

Phlox andicola – Prairie Phlox

Phlox bifida – Sand Phlox

Phlox divaricata – Blue Phlox

Phlox hoodii – Spiny Phlox

Prunus sp. – Pear, Plum

Prunus virginiana – Chokecherry

Pulsatilla patens – Pasqueflower

Rhus aromatica – Fragrant Sumac

Rhus trilobata – Skunkbush Sumac

Rubus sp. – Blackberry, Raspberry

Salix humilis – Prairie Willow

Sanguinaria canadensis – Bloodroot

Senecio plattensis – Prairie Ragwort

Sheperdia argentea – Buffaloberry

Thermopsis rhombifolia – Prairie Thermopsis

Viola pedatifida – Bird’s Foot Viola

Yucca glauca – Yucca, Soapweed

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

4-H Youth and Habitat Discovery

This morning Soni and I taught 4-H youth about pollinators in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. All week our office is hosting Clover College. For our Habitat Discovery session, youth did nature journaling, planted native plants in the habitat, planted sunflower seeds, installed a bee water source and made bee nesting tubes bundles for the bee nest box structure and insect hotel. At the end of the session the youth made nature journals and took home their own bee nest box to put in their landscape. Spending time educating youth about pollinators was a great way to finish Pollinator Week!

MJ

Youth journaling in habitat.

Youth journaling in habitat.

Boys on new bench in habitat.

Boys on new bench in habitat.

Nature journaling in habitat.

Nature journaling in habitat.

Youth with their new bee houses to take home.

Youth with their new bee houses to take home.

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

Butterfly Byway in Nebraska!

Butterfly Byway poster by Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition.

Butterfly Byway poster by Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition.

I received an early Christmas present from my husband.  I framed this fabulous poster and hung it in my office.  I love that our state is promoting the great assets we have here in Nebraska. Assets that have always been here and will continue to be here if we are good stewards. There are 12 posters in the collection.  Go to Visit The Prairie at http://visittheprairie.com/ to see the collection and order a poster or postcards.  My husband picked up my poster at Hardin Hall here in Lincoln (33rd & Holdrege). The Great Plains Ecotourism Coalition is committed to promoting environmental conservation and building thriving communities through nature-based tourism in the Great Plains. The Coalition includes both non-profit and for-profit members and is coordinated by staff at the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

MJ

Collecting Seeds

Common milkweed seeds ready to relocate by the wind.

Common milkweed seeds ready to relocate by the wind.

Another beautiful fall day!  It is a perfect day to collect seeds from native plants.  Our milkweeds are going to seed, so it is important to collect some before they all go poof in the wind.  After collecting the seeds, you can replant them in a new location as soon as possible. They will germinate next spring.  If you are saving the seeds, be sure to give them time to dry out completely before you store them.  They will rot if not dried properly.  Be sure to label the envelope or container you store them in.

Monarch Watch needs milkweed seed donations to continue their Monarch habitat restoration efforts. Monarch Watch is a nonprofit educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas. Visit their website at monarchwatch.org  to learn more about their efforts in saving monarch butterflies.

MJ

Swamp milkweed seeds.

Swamp milkweed seeds.

‘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.

Continue reading

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)

Continue reading