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.

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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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When the honey bees swarm…

Honey bees swarming July 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by Barb Ogg, Exxtension Educator

Honey bees swarming July 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo by Barb Ogg, Extension Educator

A co-worker in our office captured an exciting event on her backyard fence last night – a honey bee swarm.  Sometimes honey bee colonies send off swarms with one queen and several thousand workers. This a natural event for honey bees. Typically bee colonies trigger a swarm when the colony is overcrowded, usually in early summer. This swarm is moving to a new site a little later in the season.

During the move to a new site, the queen bee will select a place to rest while scouts look for a new home. She’ll choose a fence, tree branch or even a spot on the ground. While the queen rests, the worker bees cluster around her.  The swarm stays clustered around the queen until scout bees chose a permanent site for their colony. This may take a a few hours or a couple of days. Once the site is chosen, the swarm quickly breaks apart and leaves. (This is a good time to remind everyone to make sure your home doesn’t have any gaps or cracks where the scout bees could move the colony. Seal and caulk these openings immediately.) Continue reading

The Redbud and the Bees

Redbud and leaf-cutter bee signs

Leaf-cutter bees are using this redbud to help line their nesting cells.

I’ve been carefully tending two Eastern redbud seedlings in my garden at home. The little tree seedlings have survived two major hail storms this past month and yet, they are growing nice and straight. This week while the temperatures are cool, I’ll carefully pot them up so we can transplant them into the Cherry Creek Habitat this fall.

The Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), is native to the eastern US, including eastern Nebraska. It grows in the wild on moist soils in valleys or bottomlands, as an understory tree in open woods. At maturity, the redbud is 15 to 30 feet tall.— Acreage Insights Plant of the Month

When I went out to check on the redbuds this morning, it looks like one of our native bees has also found the seedlings. The circular cuts in the leaves are one of the clues to leafcutter bees – one of our important native pollinators. Pretty excited to see they are in my yard! Although soon, the bees will have to use leaves from my mature redbuds for their nesting cells. Check out this information about leafcutter bees from UNL Extension’s Backyard Farmer series.

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

First Inventory of Wild Bees is Under Way

Bees are in the News! From National Geographic  —

Sam Droege, head of the Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program at the U.S. Geological Survey, is undertaking the monumental task of creating a national inventory of indigenous wild bees.

“The biggest problem is telling the bees apart. Bees are often difficult to differentiate, and about 400 species—ten percent of North America’s bees—lack names. (Compare that to the 1,000 ant species that have been named.)”

Bumble Bee

Could wild bees be the key to saving U.S. crops?

There’s a lot of work to do as scientists try to beat the clock. If honeybee populations continue to decline, scientists believe wild bees could potentially save our crops.

Take a moment to view the video and read more at National Geographic News – As Honeybees Die Off, First Inventory of Wild Bees Is Under Way. Could wild bees be the key to saving U.S. crops? by Sasha Ingber for National Geographic.

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

We are in business!

Bee Hotel

Looking west – Native Bee Nest Box is finally outside

The native bee nest box structure that has graced our office lobby this winter has been moved outdoors into the Cherry Creek Habitat. We did as much as we could to make the structure weather sturdy. The bookshelf/roof and table were treated to be water resistant. The back was covered with a special material and today, I finished up the structure with some caulking. The nesting blocks were put in place and now we wait… OK – honestly, it looks terrific!

We keep adding to the pollinator area with natives, herbs, fruiting shrubs and grasses. Oregano, serviceberry, penstemon, blue vervain were planted this morning. We have native chokecherry and wild plum waiting for their turn. MJ bought some prairie plants at the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum sale on Friday. She also planted a row of special sunflowers with her daughter over the weekend.

As for wildlife, a pair of red-winged blackbirds have a nest in the cattails behind the native bee nest box structure. They didn’t scold me quite as much today when I was outside working in the habitat. On Friday, there were several Baltimore Orioles in the Cottonwood tree. Grackles have been busy robbing the insect hotel of anything they can make nests out of and of course, we are finding deer tracks in the habitat after it rains.

One of our biggest challenges may be educating our own staff that not all thistles are bad. We have a beautiful second year tall thistle in the habitat. We decided it needed a special sign so it wouldn’t get dug up from helpful folks thinking it is a  noxious weed (it isn’t noxious by the way)… more on that another time 🙂

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

Bumble Bee Domicile House Plans!

UNL’s Bumble Boosters have put their bumble bee domicile house plans on-line. Now you an make a bumble bee house fit for a queen. Of course, you need to work quickly. The bumble bee domiciles should be heading outdoors now. The queens are emerging from hibernation and will be seeking out suitable homes.

A link to the directions! http://bumbleboosters.unl.edu/?q=domiciledesign

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

Clean Up Day!

Clean Up Day at Cherry Creek

MJ picking up trash along the creek. Great to get it cleaned up!

Today was clean up day out at the Cherry Creek habitat. Wow! Beautiful weather… finally!!

We picked up a lot of trash from the creek and cut out a mess of wild grape vines that were entangling the cattails. The grape vines were added to a new wildlife brush pile. In addition to finding some nice raccoon scat, MJ found a $5 bill down in the creek! Who says it doesn’t pay to do a clean up!

To see more photos of the Cherry Creek Habitat, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/unlextlanco/collections/72157633474612381/

So what’s new at the habitat? We have plants coming up (exciting!) and apparently, the habitat was a “stomping ground” for several deer recently. Good thing most of our plants aren’t up yet or they would’ve been salad for the deer! The native bee habitat will be moved outside soon after we add a small roof.

I hope you are all gathering up your scrap lumber, planning your insect/wildlife structures and thinking about plants and practices to benefit our native pollinators!

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