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Category: Wildlife

  • Free Pollinator Plants Info

    February 16, 2015

    (Update 2/23/2015: Get our FREE Pollinator Plants & Favorite Things guide to download & print here!)

    Looking for pollinator plants and other ideas for your garden to bring bees, birds, butterflies and other beneficial fauna to your garden? Curious about what it takes to be a pollinator? Just want to create a gorgeous, year ’round interest garden that might just include pollinator plants?

    Pollinator plants like erigeron attract sweat bees

    Pollinator plants like this pollen-rich fleabane attract wild Agapostemon sweat bees.

    We’ve got a number of ideas for you, and Robin will be sharing them in person on Saturday, February 21, 2015 at Seedy Saturday Victoria. And in her talk, get ready to learn about creating beautiful, functional gardens with color and interest throughout the year. Sure, she’ll talk about why and how to lure fauna to pollinate plants you eat, but she’ll also discuss great pollinator plants and other design elements that go beyond the vegetable garden.

    Can’t make it to BC for the seminar?  Pick up one of these books or DIY pollinator habitats for your garden and get started with more than just pollinator plants in your garden.

    (You can support this blog by buying through our links. Purchases made through the affiliate links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors. Thank you for buying and helping support us!)

    And, be sure to read up on our most popular posts about promoting pollinators, watch video of a corpse lily being pollinated in summer and throw the bees a lifeline by adding Bee Preserver garden art to your outdoor spaces.

  • Asian Longhorn Beetle, or Not

    October 03, 2014

    During a recent camping trip, I saw my first Asian longhorn beetle. Or at least I thought I did.

    We had driven through Idaho’s Clearwater National Forest on Highway 12, and along the way we passed stand after stand of dying conifers, swaths of past forest fires, and miles of smolder floating over the river and through otherwise green forest.

    Dying trees & Smolder in Clearwater Forest

    Smolder rising from a swath of dying, damaged Clearwater National Forest

    The cycle of beetle-then-burn is well known among forest lovers. The beetles infest and damage the trees, leaving stands of tinder-ready snags ripe for ignition in the heat of summer when lightening strikes or irresponsible humans introduce burning materials. Or, it goes the other way ’round: fire happens, followed by insects. It’s a vicious cycle, and one beetle that gets much of media spotlight for decimating trees: the Non-native Asian longhorn beetle. (more…)

  • Asparagus Beetle ID & Control

    July 02, 2014

    If you have an asparagus patch, keep an eye out for the highly destructive asparagus beetle starting early in summer (if not sooner). Now that we have a thriving asparagus patch, our garden has exactly what this annoying pest most desires. The seed pods are beginning to ripen on the tall, feathery plant fronds. And, that’s exactly where these beetles prefer to lay their eggs.

    Adult Spotted Asparagus Beetle on Asparagus Frond

    Adult Spotted Asparagus Beetles are orange-red with black spots.
    They appear around the time asparagus seed pods begin to ripen.

    Fortunately, we haven’t had many of these pest insects yet this season. Still, we’re checking the plants carefully each day and squishing any adults chewing stems and looking for lovers. They’re tiny, but it’s hard to miss those bright orange-red forms against the green of the stems. They’ll be a little harder to spot when the seed pods ripen to orange-red, so watching early is key.

    If you’re on squishing patrol, take care to put one hand under the beetle and use the other one to squish with a quick pinch. Otherwise, these little critters will sense you coming, scurry to the underside of the branch, and then drop to the ground where you’ll never find them. If your hand is underneath, you’ll catch them before they fall.

    Adult Asparagus Beetle

    Adult Asparagus Beetle (Crioceris duodecimpunctata) chew on plant stems while they hang out looking for a mate. After mating, they will deposit eggs on or near Asparagus seed pods.

    Be sure you know what to look for. The Spotted Asparagus Beetle, which is what we have and is shown above, looks a lot like the beneficial Lady Beetle (aka LadyBug), which is shown below. How to tell them apart? The Lady Beetle is dome shaped and usually a deep, blood red. The Spotted Asparagus Beetle is more elongated than dome shaped, has a distinct set of dark antennae, and they’re more orange-red than blood red.

    Beneficial Lady Beetle

    The blood-red, dome-shaped Lady Beetle is a beneficial insect that will prey on Asparagus Beetle for you. Take care not to mistake them for the pests.

    We’ve noticed the Lady Beetles and their larvae are spending a lot of time cruising through the asparagus fronds as well. They’re known predators of this pest, so we’re hoping they’re getting a belly full and keeping our patch free and clear of any eggs the adults may lay. If the Lady Beetles and our squishing isn’t enough, hopefully the hovering parasitic wasps will inject their predatory eggs into any newly laid eggs Asparagus Beetle eggs that the rest of us miss. And, of course, our resident fledgling wrens and chickadees are also on patrol — hopefully eating more Asparagus Beetles than Lady Beetles!

    Lady Beetle Aphid Lions

    Beneficial Lady Beetle Larvae, known as “Aphid Lions”, scurry among plants eating up unwanted pest insects like Asparagus Beetle. These “lions” may look scary, but don’t kill them. They’re good for your garden!

    No need for a spray bottle when your habitat is well balanced! Of course, we will be cleaning up the fronds and seeds at the end of the season just in case they harbor any eggs and larvae that slipped past our various Asparagus Beetle predators during the growing season.

    For more information on cultivating an asparagus patch of your own, ready our guide.

    Keep a gardening library? These titles are great garden insect reference manuals.

    For further reading on Asparagus Beetle check Mother Earth News here. They cover more than the Spotted Asparagus Beetle we’re battling.

  • Wrens in the Garden

    April 05, 2014

    We love attracting wrens to garden with us!

    I love snuggling up in a cozy chair by our picture window to watch wild birds like these wrens in the garden. When I first settled down with my weekend latte, a Red Flicker was pecking away at suet. Juncos were foraging below, and squirrels were quarreling with crows. Then, I noticed small, fluttering movements near one of our birdhouses — the birdhouse in which our adopted bumblebees came last spring.

    Nesting Wren in the Garden

    Nesting Wren in the Garden Checking Out the View from Their New Front Door

    A pair of wrens, Bewicks wren (I believe), are nesting in that house. Right now!

    They live here year ’round. We’ve heard them called the “Seattle Wren”. And, we love them. These two and their brood will devour pest insects like leaf hoppers and aphids to keep our garden healthy all season long.

    Nesting Beckwick Wren

    Bewick Wren Bringing in Nesting Materials Foraged from the Garden

    Learn to attract birds like these beneficial songbirds to your garden. You might even try planting a seed to grow into a birdhouse for next season.

    And, that’s enough said. I’d rather go back to my cozy chair, latte, and view of the happy couple than write anything more.

    (Check back later. I’ll upload some video of their antics after I enjoy watching them live.)

  • Stray Songbirds in Seattle at our Feeder

    January 06, 2014

    Songbirds in Seattle (especially at the DIY feeders in our garden) offer endless entertainment. The usual suspects around here: Chickadees, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Sparrows, Wrens, Finches, Juncos, and Bushtits. But, this winter a flash of yellow caught my eye. It appears we have a stray Townsend’s Warbler.

    Towsend's Warbler

    Townsend’s Warbler guarding his favorite feeder in the Vine Maple

    According to Birdweb, they’re not common in our area in winter. But, this little guy has joined up with flocks of Juncos and Chickadees to winter at our feeders. And, when he’s at the feeder, it’s a fight for even the most defensive Chickadee to get near any seed or suet. He’s a brave little guy, and he’s bossy too. Here’s hoping the suet and seed get him through the winter, and he sticks around, lures a mate, and devours aphids, cabbage caterpillars, and other pesky insects when spring comes into bloom — gotta love those songbirds as beneficials in the garden! Perhaps we’ll even grow a few more birdhouse gourds just for him this summer, too.

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