Blooming Catalpa

The catalpa tree is blooming in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat.  Northern Catalpa-Catalpa speciosa has big flowers, big stems, big pods and even bigger leaves. It is quite stunning when it is blooming. It is native to the United States and is a nice tree to have in the landscape if you have the room. There is a catalpa sphinx moth caterpillar that feeds on the leaves and bumble bees visit the flowers.

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

milkweed monarch egg

Monarch butterfly egg on common milkweed, May 5!

Teaching Youth about Pollinators

Last Thursday Soni and I spent the day teaching 4th and 5th graders about pollinators at the Outdoor Discovery Program held every year at Platte River State Park hosted by Nebraska Game and Parks. The day started out chilly, but by afternoon we were able to see many pollinators and the kids were able to stretch out in the grassy area and work in their field journals. We found out the attending youth knew what pollination means, what pollinators are and how they are important.  What we were able to add to their knowledge was very interesting to them.  We discussed native pollinators and showed them nesting bee blocks with the leaf cutter bees still in them ready to emerge. The importance of early blooming plants, like dandelions, which they considered weeds, was a surprise to them. The discussion turned to what food crops needed pollinators to produce, like tomatoes, apples and almonds. By the end of each session, the kids had a better understanding of our native pollinators and how their habitat is important to protect.  It was a very fun day for all of us and it is great to partner with Nebraska Game and Parks in youth outdoor education.

MJ Frogge

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from all of us here at Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County!

Today, we recycled the fall decorations from our office by placing them into the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. It will be fun to watch the wildlife on the live camera as they check out the pumpkins, squash and cornstalks. You can watch at http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/bees.shtml

While working around the insect hotel, I noticed an opossum has been raiding the black oil sunflower seeds, chewing the seeds up and then regurgitating almond-sized pellets or “nuggets”. People sometimes notice these same pellets around bird feeders and aren’t sure what they are! Now, you know!

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

“For the golden corn
and the apples on the tree,
For the golden butter
and honey for our tea;
For fruits and nuts and
berries, that grow
beside the way
For birds and bees and
flowers, we give thanks
every day”
–author unknown

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

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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

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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

Spring in the Pollinator Habitat

Spring is here at the pollinator habitat.  Many of our native plants have started to grow. Prairie ragwort, shell-leaf penstemon, bee balm and purple poppy mallow are all leafing out.  The wild plum is blooming! Approximately two weeks earlier than last year.

MJ

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

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.