Oh those Mason Bees….

Blue Orchard Mason Bee - Look at all the pollen!

Blue Orchard Mason Bee – Look at all the pollen!

This past week, Blue Orchard Mason Bees showed up in the Cherry Creek Habitat. We wondered if they would make an appearance. These robust bees are not native to Nebraska, but are important pollinators in other parts of the United States. We posted information about them May 2013 – Blue Orchard Mason Bees.

If you discover these bees in your garden, take a few moments to enjoy them. They are a little tricky to photograph as they move quickly from flower to flower, but they are fun to watch as they roll around in the flowers collecting pollen.

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

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Planning Your Garden & Pollinator-friendly Habitat

Rain barrel donated to our habitat project.

Rain barrel donated to our habitat project.

Some resources you may enjoy as you plan for spring! Be sure to include pollinator-friendly practices and habitats in your landscape plan:

What you can do right now! Now’s the time to start planning your insect and native bee habitat and nesting structures. We have some photos on the blog to help give you some ideas. From the February 2013 NEBLINE Newsletter (free) Attracting Pollinators to Your Landscape (includes directions to make a native bee nesting block) and Biology of Native Bee Pollinators. Grab those scrap pieces of lumber and start drilling!

Are your seeds OK? Have you been saving seeds for your garden? There’s a simple experiment to see if your seeds are still good.  http://lancaster.unl.edu/hort/articles/2004/seedsaving.shtml

Need inspiration? Take a look at these photos from Benjamin Vogt. Vogt lives in Lincoln and has a 2,000 sq ft native prairie garden. It is absolutely beautiful. Here he documents his prairie garden through the year (with some other photos thrown in!) Enjoy The| Deep| Middle – Living and Writing in the Prairie Echo

Reading suggestions to help get you through this cold winter – from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum’s blog “Beneficial Landscapes: the plants, wildlife, soil and water for our gardens” http://beneficiallandscapes.blogspot.com/

Add a Rain barrel – Try Harvesting Rainwater: We have a rain barrel for the Cherry Creek Habitat. Of course, it isn’t big enough to catch all the water run off – but it has been handy when we want to water specific plants. Consider adding a rain barrel and try other rainwater harvesting techniques this year! To help – UNL Extension has a brand new NebGuide. It provides information on how to use, install and collect rainwater. Rain barrels can be purchased or made. This publication is on-line and you can access it free! http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/pages/publicationD.jsp?publicationId=1612

Just announced! 2014 Artistic Rain Barrel Program: Prairie Theme! The Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center and the City of Lincoln Watershed Management Division are collaborating on a project to educate the community on the benefits of using rain barrels to reduce rainwater runoff and improve water quality. Local artists are invited to paint prairie themed designs on a rain barrel to celebrate the role prairies play in filtering stormwater runoff. The deadline to apply to participate is February 7, 2014http://lincoln.ne.gov/city/pworks/watrshed/educate/barrel/artist/

Landscape Sustainability:  Sustainable landscapes describes landscapes supporting environmental quality and conservation of natural resources. For many people, a sustainable landscape is hard to understand or visualize. Other terms such as xeriscape, native landscape, and environmentally friendly landscape have been used interchangeably to describe sustainable landscapes.A well-designed sustainable landscape reflects a high level of self-sufficiency. Once established, it should grow and mature virtually on its own — as if nature had planted it. This UNL Extension publication is available on-line free http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/pages/publicationD.jsp?publicationId=203

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

Enhancing Habitat & Drilling, Drilling, Drilling

The seeds we’ve collected from native plants have been planted so know we can focus on the insect habitats and bee nest box structure.

Chinese Mantid on a log

Chinese Mantid checking out the new insect habitat structure at Cherry Creek… and we’re just getting started

The first structure we’re building is made from pallets, pavers and a variety of natural materials.  MJ took several photos so we’ll see if we can get those posted. MJ and I filled the first layer with pine cones, goldenrod stems, dried milkweed pods, bark and cattails. The next layer has several logs with holes drilled in them, prairie hay, more pine cones, sticks and well… this is where we’ve quickly learned that we need to collect a lot more materials to fill such a grand structure. We hope to make it four pallets high before winter arrives.  So off to collect more materials. Funny, how you start eyeballing other people’s yard waste set out for curbside recycling.

houses for native bees

Some of the scrap lumber being cut & drilled to create native bee nesting blocks. We’re doing the same with logs

The Native Bee Nest Box structure is also a work in progress. We went to a surplus area and found a great table and bookcase made of solid wood. The wood will be treated with natural preservatives, but it is meant to be outdoors so that’s where it is headed. The bookshelf will be screwed into the top of the table. This is the housing for the bee nest boxes. I’ve been collecting scrap lumber and logs.  There has been a lot of sawing, drilling and sanding. Each piece of lumber has 1/4″, 3/18″ or 5/18″ holes drilled in it – varying from 3-6″ deep. The pvc pipe sections will hold phragmites and bamboo tubes. In addition to scrap lumber, natural logs will fill in the gaps.

Lots of work to do before winter sets in…

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!

Soni

First layer of insect hotel, filling pallet with pine cones and plant material.

First layer of insect hotel, filling pallet with pine cones and plant material.

Building insect hotel.  Filling layers as we add pallets.

Building insect hotel. Filling layers as we add pallets.

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

It is Pollinator Week!

Insect Hotel

Insect Hotel

To celebrate Pollinator Week, June 17-23, I would like to tell you about my insect hotel.  This is a fun and easy project that the whole family can be involved with.

An insect hotel is a manmade structure created from mainly natural materials. They can come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the specific purpose or insect it is built for. Most hotels consist of several different sections that provide insects with nesting areas, offering shelter or refuge for many types of beneficial insects.

I first saw this idea in a garden magazine earlier this year. I wanted to know more so I Google the concept and was amazed at what I found. Insect hotel are quite common in Europe and have been featured at the Chelsea Flower Show. I found a few site about them in the United States, but it is not a well known concept. I was also fascinated at how artistic the construction of them could be.
After much research, I knew I wanted to build one in my own yard. I planned my design to fit the chosen place in my landscape. I began my search for supplies. I visited my local Eco Store and found everything I needed. I purchased 7 boards, 42 bricks (whole and broken) and 2 large Spanish style roof tiles to construct my insect hotel. Total cost was $18. The dimensions of my insect hotel are: 42 in tall, 24 in wide and 14 in deep. My hotel is filled with twigs, small branches, logs, bark, dried leaves, hay and 6 inch long hollow phragmites stems.

The insect hotel has held up well with all the rain. I have many flowering plants in bloom now, plus my herb and vegetable gardens are nearby too. I am hoping that my insect hotel will be filled with beneficial insects soon.

MJ

One bite, two bites, three bites…

Did you know? One of every three bites of food is attributed to the work of bees and other pollinators.

From USDA-NRCS:

In other “buzz” news…

  • Our river rock erosion control is working!!! Now that we have one side of the erosion issue managed, we’ll work on the other water problem area.
  • We went to the EcoStore today and shopped around for some supplies for our insect hotel. We didn’t find what we needed today, but we’ll be back. We did find some paint suitable for covering up our old metal satellite dish post in the back. It is high quality enamel paint specifically for tractors/implements – Ford Blue. Blue isn’t our first choice, but this will be a base color – we have some artsy plans for the post.
  • MJ scored 500 free bricks for the base of our insect hotel. We’ll pick those up on Saturday.
  • The catalpa tree is blooming now – it is amazing. I posted a photo on our office Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/UNLExtensionLancasterCounty

On June 20, there is a Pollinator Habitat Workshop and Tour at Spring Creek Prairie south of Lincoln, NE. It is free and registration is required. For more information, visit http://nebraskapf.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Spring-Creek-Denton-Tour.pdf

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

Nasty weed’s one good use

phragmites bundles

We will be using these stems for solitary bee nesting sites.

Phragmites is a nasty weed that is clogging Nebraska’s water ways.  We have found a use for it.  The hollow stems make a perfect nesting site for solitary bees. One of our co-workers, Vicki, collected stems during the winter for us to use.  I have cut them 6 inches long and bundled them together.  We will add them to the insect hotel we will be building.

MJ

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

Blue Orchard Mason Bees

Blue Orchard Mason Bees

Blue Orchard Mason Bees

Last week, one of our local pest control operators came in with a sample of dead bees. The bees were found in a gap around a window and a small hole. The homeowner was concerned they were a wood-destroying insect. Not to worry…

I took a photo and sent the image to Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomology. Jim gave us more information:

“These are Orchard-Mason Bees, specifically the Blue Orchard Bee, Osmia lignaria. If the specimens have yellowish hair on the faces, they are males. Males usually emerge before the females so that they can compete to mate with them. We have had blue orchard bees in Nebraska for perhaps 5 years. They are becoming more and more common due to people purchasing them and using them to pollinate their orchards and gardens. They are artificially raised in cardboard tubes much like leafcutter bees and tubes can be purchased from suppliers in the northwestern US. They emerge much earlier than leafcutter bees, and have the benefit of helping to pollinate fruit orchards.”

Thanks Jim! No need for the homeowner to use any controls for these wayward bees. She can caulk the openings around the window and that will solve the issue.

Washington State Extension describes these bees as “The orchard mason bee (Osmia lignaria) is a gentle beneficial insect that has potential as a pollinator of apples, cherries, and other tree fruits. It is found throughout most of North America, particularly in wooded areas but often around homes in towns and cities.”

So although these bees aren’t native to our area, you may still find them in bee nest boxes and other suitable locations.

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