Where have the butterflies gone?

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar in parsley. Photo by Jody Green

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar in parsley. Photo by Jody Green, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

As I drove home yesterday, a monarch butterfly flew very near my truck! I was relieved to have missed it (or it missed me!) Unlike other years, I just haven’t encountered a lot of butterflies in my pollinator garden at home or on the road.

Are you seeing butterflies and moths? Are you also wondering where the butterflies have gone? I’ve gotten several calls from people who grow host plants in their landscapes specifically for butterflies. Some call me every year to report what they are seeing. But, like my own garden, people are reporting very few butterflies or caterpillars. Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Summer Blooming Plants for Pollinators

To celebrate pollinator week consider certifying your landscape in the Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification program. Summer flowering plants that bloom in June and July are an important section of the application.  Your pollinator habitat must have plant diversity and long blooming plants are necessary for every pollinator habitat. To see the application, visit this web site: http://entomology.unl.edu/pollinator-habitat-certification

MJ Frogge

June and July Blooming Plants

Allium cernuum – Nodding Onion
Amorpha canescens – Leadplant
Aruncus dioicus – Goat’s Beard
Asclepias sp. – Milkweed
 Cepholanthus occidentalis – Buttonbush
Coreopsis lanceolata – Tickseed
Coreopsis tinctoria – Plains Coreopsis
Dalea purpurea – Purple Prairie Clover
Echinacea angustifolia – Narrowleaf Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower
Gaillardia sp. – Blanketflower
Liatris sp. – Gayfeather
Monarda sp. – Bee Balm
Packera plattensis – Prairie Groundsel
Oenothera sp.  – Evening Primrose
Penstemon cobaea – Prairie Penstemon
Penstemon digitalis – Beardtongue
Penstemon grandiflorus – Large Beardtongue
Rosa arkansana – Prairie Rose
Rosa blanda – Smooth Rose
Rosa carolina – Carolina Rose
Ruellia humilis – Wild Petunia
Silphium perfoliatum
Tilia sp. – Linden
Tradescantia sp. – Spiderwort
Verbenena canadensis – Rose Vervain
Veronicastrum virginicum – Culver’s Root
Arenaria hookeri – Hooker’s Sandwort
Callirhoe involucrata – Purple Poppymallow
Calylophus serrulatus – Yellow Sundrops
Erigeron sp. – Fleabane

 

Build a Solitary Bee Nest Using Recycled Materials

Native bees are important pollinators. Some native bees, like leaf cutter bees and mason bees, nest in hollow plant stems.  You can help native solitary bees by providing a man-made bee nest. The kids that attended my Clover College workshop last week made these bee nests. They had a fun time and this would be easy for your family to make for Pollinator Week.

Supplies

1 ¾ inch plastic lid from juice container

Paper towel tube cut to 7 inches in length (we use the tube from automated paper towel dispensers) If you use a regular sized paper towel tube, the plastic juice container lid will need to be 1 ½ inches.

Paper drinking straws cut to 6 inches in length

Mason bee tubes (optional)

Duct tape

Zip ties or twine

supplies

Bee Nest supplies: paper towel tube, plastic lid, paper straws and duct tape.

Instructions

Push the juice container lid into the cut end of the paper towel tube.  It should fit snuggly. The nesting tube needs to have one end closed off or the bees will not be able to nest in the tube.

Place the paper straws and/or mason bee tubes in the paper towel tube and push them back so they are snug against the juice lid. Place enough paper straws inside until they are snug and will not fall out.

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Paper straws inserted into paper towel tube and pushed snug to the back.

Cover the outside of the paper towel tube with duct tape.  This will help keep the bee nest water proof and last longer.

Place your bee nest outside in your landscape with the nest positioned horizontally.  The opening should face south or southeast. Put the nest approximately 2-4 feet above the ground. Use two zip ties or twine to attach the bee nest to a post or fence. You could also attach it to a building, tree or large shrub. Wherever you place the bee nest, make sure it is securely attached and level.

post

Place your bee nest outside in your landscape with the nest positioned horizontally. The opening should face south or southeast.

Female native solitary bees will nest in the bee tube during the spring and summer.  The immature bees will over winter in the tube and emerge as adults next spring. Leave the bee nest in place for approximately two years.  Replace the bee nest when all the bees have emerged.

MJ Frogge

It is Pollinator Week!

Happy National Pollinator Week!  There are many ways to celebrate pollinator week:

1. Plant Native Plants. Native plants provides native pollinators with food in the form of pollen and nectar. Select plants that have a long bloom time. Also grow a wide selection of plants so you have plants blooming April through October.
2. Let your yard get a little messy. Leave unhazardous snags for nesting places and stack tree limbs to create a brush pile, which is a great source of cover for pollinators. Build an insect hotel or bee house in your landscape.
3. Create or protect water sources. 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.
4. Limit or eliminate pesticide use. By using fewer or no chemicals in the landscape you will help keep pollinator populations healthy.
5. Identify non-native invasive plants. Work to remove them from your yard. Do not bring any new invasive plants into your habitat. Invasive plants do not provide as much quality food or habitat as native plants do and can threaten healthy ecosystems.

If you live in Lincoln, attend this event:

Pollinator Power Event

Tuesday, June 21st 2016 (5:30 – 7:30 PM)

At UNL East Campus, Lincoln NE

Entomology & Agronomy and Horticulture Departments’ Pollinator Garden

Directions: On UNL East Campus

Take Fair Street North of the College of Law Building.

Follow gravel road back towards 48th and Holdrege, park where directed.

Kids activities
Pollinator demonstration, garden tours
Learn about pollinator-friendly plants, honey bees, wild bees, Monarch butterflies and more…

MJ

 

Doing a little Bee Nest Box Upkeep

 

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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 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

Programs for Pollinator Conservation in Rural Areas

More than 30 percent of our food relies on insect pollination, which is overwhelmingly provided by bees. Recent research has shown that wild native bees, which number more than 4,000 species in North America, contribute substantially to crop pollination on farms where their habitat needs are met. –Using 2014 Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Conservation

Penstemon in Bloom

Penstemon is one of the many native flowers blooming on Spring Creek Prairie in June. Beautiful!

Rural residents play an important role in protecting pollinator habitats. Using 2014 Farm Bill Programs for Pollinator Conservation provides information on how you can encourage pollinator habitat in rural areas.  Congress recognizes pollinators are a crucial part of healthy agricultural and natural landscapes and the 2014 Farm Bill reflects the importance of pollinators.

For assistance with your farm or acreage pollinator program and more, contact:

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

Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification

I am so excited to make this announcement and proud to be part of this Pollinator Habitat Certification team. Here at our office, we plan to certify the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat and I want to also certify my home pollinator garden.

MJ

Do you love gardening and want to help pollinators?  Consider developing your landscape into a pollinator habitat. This month, a team of Nebraska Extension horticulture professionals, led by Extension Educator Natalia Bjorklund, launched a new program called Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification.  This program gives Nebraskans an opportunity to certify their garden and promote pollinators in their community.

To certify their habitat, gardeners need to provide spring, summer and fall blooming plants that support pollinator needs, a water source, shelter, nesting sites and restrict pesticide use. Gardeners will be asked to make a commitment to protect pollinators and provide a diverse plant community that will result in a pollinator habitat.

This program is open to Nebraska  homeowners, schools, businesses, parks,  homeowner associations, farmers, acreage owners and community gardens.

Please visit the Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification website to view the certification application. http://entomology.unl.edu/pollinator-habitat-certification

monarchcatpillar71315

Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed.

habitataster15

Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat Summer 2015