Thriving Pollinators

The August yard
Cardinal flowers pop-up everywhere in my yard!

What joy to look out the window and see monarch butterflies and ruby throated hummingbirds enjoying the plants in my yard. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds thrive on native plants. Hummingbirds are especially crazy about the cardinal flowers, and because cardinal flowers are a pop-up flower* and I am a pop-up gardener they are everywhere one looks in our yard. Where ever you look you see a hummingbird enjoying a native plant. Native plants are now at their peak and bees and butterflies are happy. Because the rainfall has been so heavy this year, many plants are taller with more blossoms than usual. Thriving plants attract thriving pollinators.

Plant and they will come!

Loving monarch butterflies
A monarch on swamp milkweed
Every yard should have purple cone flowers
Many pollinators like purple cone flowers.

 

 

hummingbirds love cardinal flowers
Cardinal flowers pop-up everywhere.

*pop-up flower -You never know where they will re-seed and pop-up.  I let them grow where they are happy!

 

Suggestions for easy to raise native plants: 1. Never use chemicals, native plants like compost, but not chemicals. 2. Strive to have plants that bloom in different seasons. 3. Work for plant diversity, and you get a variety of happy pollinators. 4. Native plants are very easy to grow if you put them in a place that meets their needs for sun and moisture. There are natives that will thrive in almost every condition. 5. Native plants are a process, we weren’t born knowing this, it takes time, and you will be surprised by their energy and persistence. 6. Whatever you do to add plants to your yard, be sure to add some milkweed.

https://health4earth.com/add-fun-pollinators-to-your-yard/

National Pollinator Week

What can you do to help our birds, bees and butterflies?  Can you plant some milkweed or other native plants? Can you become aware and reduce the chemicals you use? Can you learn about neonicotinoids and be sure you never purchase plants that have been treated with them? For your information, neonicotinoids have recently been banned from use by the European Union.

Yesterday I had a mourning cloak, a painted lady, a red admiral, hummingbirds, and monarch caterpillars in my yard.  Milkweed and native plants make a big difference for pollinators. I am not a fan of lists because experience is better, but here are some native plant lists to get you started: https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder/About  and from Audubon

Planting purple cone flowers, bee balm, black-eyed Susan and milkweed are easy ways to get started. After years of trying to get milkweed to grow, I now have swamp milkweed everywhere. It has reseeded itself and thrives in my yard. Also, common milkweed and butterfly weed have sprouted up, but only a few monarch butterflies. The few monarch butterflies have a big job ahead of them, and I am still hopeful we can get their numbers to improve! If everyone does a small part, it can make a big difference!

Below is a video from PBS about monarch caterpillars, enjoy!

 

Getting Ready for a Long Journey

A new monarch on blazing star

This is an exciting time for my yard!  At this time of year my yard is overrun by monarch butterflies and hummingbirds.   Total enjoyment!

The hummingbirds are gorging on the nectar feeder and on the cardinal flowers, and monarchs are obsessed with the blazing star flowers.

Then just like, that they are gone on a perilous journey, migrating to warmer climes. First the hummingbirds are gone, then a week or so later, no monarchs! I hope they aren’t caught in storms, or hit by cars, and that they all arrive in Mexico or Central America safely.

Cardinal flowers

 

Female ruby-throat hummingbird

How can you have monarchs and hummingbirds in your yard? First, never use chemicals. Second, plant lots of milkweed, cardinal flowers and blazing star. Good Luck!

September 2. is National Hummingbird Day! A day to celebrate these amazing birds.

 

Life and Death on Lake Superior

August 2017

Many bees on the native plants.

I had just seen a hawk fly along Lake Superior, but was surprised when two large birds came crashing into a window where was sitting. This created a 45 minute ordeal below my window. The flicker cried, fought and cried some more, but the talons of the hawk had a firm grip. Blue jays and crows came to watch the commotion. The persistence of the hawk ruled and she was too strong and determined for the flicker. An unusual number of hawks in our neighborhood this August have changed the lives of chipmunks, squirrels, and the birds.

On a happier note, A a fresh bright monarch was drying her wings after emerging from her cocoon, and a monarch caterpillar was weaving herself into a cocoon and will hopefully evolve into a new monarch in two weeks.

The great south migration has started with groups of night-hawks and yellow-rump warblers migrating through, and in another week the hummingbirds will be gone, also.  Harbingers of fall.

Common Wood-nymph

The flowers are at their peak and the bees are crazy for bee balm and anise hyssop. The wood-nymph butterflies have been plentiul, but they too are at the end of their life cycle to be replaced by white admirals, cabbage whites, and fritillaries.

Plant For Clean Water

I am at the Minnesota State Fair talking to individuals about rain gardens and native deep-rooted plants. Native plants help absorb pollutants, keep rain water in our yards, save on watering, and are loved by bees, butterflies and birds.

Plant deep-rooted plants for pollinators and clean water.

prairie-grasses
Deep rooted plants absorb run-off

Avocados Deforest Monarch Winter Grounds!

The stickers on avocados say where they are grown. Say "No" to Mexican avocados!
The stickers on avocados say where they are grown. Say “No” to Mexican avocados!

I embarrassed to admit I have Mexican avocados in my refrigerator. NEVER again. According to this article monarch wintering forests are being removed to grow avocados.
Education is a good thing, and new information arrives daily. Please take this new information seriously and purchase avocados from California. Read the little sticker on the avocado to find out where they are grown. Yes, you might have to pay higher prices, but this is important to help save the monarch butterfly!

Also, inform the produce people at your local grocery that you will purchase only avocados from butterfly safe areas, which Mexico is not.

Smart consumerism may help the monarch!
Smart consumerism may help the monarch!

Please comment with any new information you learn on monarch wintering grounds and other products we shouldn’t purchase??

An update to this post.  First, I have been able to purchase avocados raised in California this past week. Second, this link about the monarch winter grounds is more hopeful.  I hope you will choose only California grown avocados until we know the monarch winter grounds are safe! Thank you.

Butterflies are Vanishing Around The World

“Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the people of the earth.” Chief Seattle

If Everyone Does a Little It Can Add up to A Lot!

Fritillary on bee balm
Fritillary on bee balm

Have you noticed how few butterflies are flittering around this summer? Researchers find that butterfly species throughout the world are disappearing because of pollution, pesticides, and habitat loss.  A newly released study says many butterflies are vanishing.

The author suggests we remove some of our lawn, and plant more flowers.  Yes, we should plant more flowers, but beside planting more flowers we need to reduce the use of the chemicals we put on our lawns, in our gardens and on our agricultural fields.

Reducing chemicals and planting host plants for butterflies can make a big difference.  Many of us are actively working on planting milkweed for monarchs, but there are many other butterfly species.  Besides milkweed I have pearly everlasting for the American painted lady, turtlehead for the checkerspot butterfly, and golden Alexander for the black swallow-tail. Violets are great for the fritillary butterflies.  This is one of the best charts I have seen on plants for butterflies from Bringing Nature Home   And some ideas from the University of Minnesota for plants that are favored for butterflies an moths. Please let me know what your best plants for butterflies are?

An American painted lady
An American painted lady

More information of pollinators: http://www.xerces.org/

Write a letter to your local officials

Our elegant monarch butterfly needs some help!
Our elegant monarch butterfly needs some help!

 

Butterfly Weed is blooming along some interstate highways.
Butterfly Weed is blooming along some interstate highways.

When I see the mowing down native plants pollinators I get angry. My husband and I have just completed a driving loop from Minneapolis to Chicago and back through Iowa. We have traveled Interstate East 94, West Interstate 80 and Interstate 35 North. The entire road trip I surveyed the status of mowing and blooming plants. The shoulders of most of the interstates are not over-mowed, but they are mowing the center median which doesn’t make sense? The best plants can grow in the median if allowed to survive. Some farmers are mowing along the interstates and they do get a little extreme with their mowers. Educating, educating and educating is what we need to continue to do, and it does make a difference. Below is a sample letter I sent to my rural town road crew. I hope you can modify it and send to your local and state government.

Dear local government road crew,
Pollinators, (bees, butterflies and birds) are in trouble in the United States. They have faced serious habitat loss. Last year and the past few years their numbers seemed smaller compared to the years before. Bees and butterflies need the nectar and pollen from flowers for their survival. The Obama Administration is working to plant pollinator plants along our interstate highways to improve bird, bee and butterfly habitat. The plants along the roadways in our town are a natural habitat for birds, butterflies and bees. Now as the daisies, lupine and other wild plants bloom we have beautiful roadways for residents and food for butterflies and bees.
I am writing to ask you to not mow the entire right-a-way along our town roads until maybe late August or even better would be September. I know you need to mow for safety, and that is important. Could you please not mow every flower down until early fall? Maybe mow just a strip along the roads leaving plant food for our pollinators. The bees, butterflies, birds and humans would thank you for the needed nectar, and fabulous summer beauty.
If I can get a commitment from you to mow a little later, I will spread milkweed seeds along the town roads creating more butterfly and bee habitat.
Thank you,

Your name

Wisconsin energy co-ops to create monarch butterfly habitat 

Searching for milkweed along our interstate highways!
Searching for milkweed along our roads and highways!

http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2016/05/26/i-35-bees-butterfly/

 

An Amazing Story of Migration

Monarchs love liatitis (blazing star)
Monarchs love Liatris (blazing star). They need nectar sources as they migrate
Monarch eggs hatch into caterpillars
Monarch eggs hatch into caterpillars, then into a chrysalis. 3 or 4 times in a summer this happens!
chrysallis turns into a monarch
chrysalis turns into a monarch butterfly. 3 or 4 times as they come north.

When I learned about native plants and pollinators my gardening focus completely changed. By planting milkweed, liatris, purple cone flowers and many others, the butterflies, and other pollinators come to my yard giving us enormous enjoyment, but now in September these incredible monarchs start their journey to Mexico. These butterflies are the 4th generation of the monarchs(Their great-grand parents) that traveled south last fall.
Fascinating things I have just learned about monarch butterflies:
** These August/September monarchs are the longest lived, Maybe living 6 to 9 months. They do not lay eggs until early next spring when they have returned to Texas from Mexico
** They can fly 265 miles a day to their resting winter ground in Mexico, about 2500 miles.
** After resting for a few months they head back from Mexico to Texas where they finally lay their eggs on milkweed, and the next generation begins. Each new crop of monarchs lays eggs and continues the migration back to Missouri/Minnesota/Wisconsin/Iowa and Canada.

All the chemicals we use have destroyed monarch habitat! What are you doing to make sure they survive?

http://features.newsy.com/saving-the-migration/watch/

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/index.html

http://www.cablemuseum.org