Friday, August 31, 2018


All we are saying, is give Bees a chance!
- with apologies to John Lennon

Pretty much anyone with an interest in the natural world is aware that bees, both native and honey, are in decline.* Unlike many of our current environmental problems, this is one for which just about everyone can easily do something meaningful toward a solution. At a minimum, just plant some native flowers. And who doesn't like flowers?

Creating a garden of native plants will add beauty to a yard while supporting many species of pollinators, bees included. Followers of this blog know of our "War on Lawn", a multi-year effort to replace grass with gardens, providing habit for many species of wildlife, a key part of which is not using chemicals, especially pesticides.

Last year we decided to try our hand at beekeeping. Sadly, like many first time bee keepers, we were not successful. Honey Bees, while very important agricultural pollinators, have also been found to compete with native bees (although it is far from clear as to the impact of such competition). Thus, after some serious deliberation, we decided not to try again this year (but see below for a surprise ending).

Another way to support native bees is to install bee houses about one's yard. You may recall the one above from this Yard Critter of the Week post. Below is another store bought bee house.

You can easily create your own bee houses. Here are some Patty made this summer.

When were first moved here we had a number of trees removed, and for some we asked that the stumps be left standing. If you look closely at this stump, or at the close up image below, you'll notice holes. Lots of holes. Patty drilled these, using several different sized bits, creating an "apartment tower" for bees, wasps, and other insects.

Another option, should you not have any stumps available, is to drill holes in logs, as shown below.

Of course, you don't need a stump to hold them, a wooden frame or even just a simple log pile work just as well. As we live in a wooded area we have plenty of small logs, but if you don't you can use hollow plant stems, as Patty did to fill the bottom of the "V" in the stump, as you can see below.

Hollow stems can also be used to make a bee house similar to the teardrop shaped one in the second image in this post. Our stems are from the plants in our garden. Just leaving the dead stems up through the fall and winter into spring, instead of removing them at the end of the growing season, will provide greatly needed breeding spaces.

As noted above, almost anyone can add plants and bee houses, even if it is just some potted plants on a deck or balcony and a small bee house mounted on a fence post or tree (there are even table top models).


Above I mentioned a surprise ending to our Honey Bee endeavors. A couple of years ago, when we discovered that we had Flying Squirrels in our woods, we built and installed a Flying Squirrel house.

While doing some recent tree trimming, Patty noticed bees buzzing about her. And she followed them back to the Flying Squirrel house.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
It seems that the Honey Bees had taken up residence. At first, I thought they were just using the box as a temporary way station as the swarm searched for a new permanent home. It seems I was incorrect in that assumption ...

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
... if you look closely you can see honey comb inside the box. It seems these bees are here to stay.

And it seems the workers are busy in the garden.


* If you're not aware or want to read more you can look here, here, and here.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Rainy Day Racoon

We've had a lot of rain of late.

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
And this Northern Raccoon has had enough already!

Image courtesy Patty Rehn
You can almost hear it crying, "What's with all this rain!"


The raccoon is noshing on some old bird food we had dumped in the yard. Turkeys enjoyed it too.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Chinese Mantid

Chinese Mantid.

This native of China (hence the name) is an insect killing machine. So much so that gardeners up and down the east coast of the United States would purchase egg cases to put in their yards for insect control. And now this species of praying mantis is well established throughout the country.

They will kill anything they can catch, up to and including small birds, to satisfy their voracious appetites. We had one hanging out on one of our hummingbird feeders. It was relocated to a far corner of the yard.


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

It's A Big World Out There

Especially if you're a baby Northern Gray Tree Frog.

Good luck little guy.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Future Is Now

Monarch Madness Continued

After being in their chrysalis for almost two weeks, the butterflies have started emerging.

I can tell when this is about to happen because the chrysalis will begin to change color. One day it will be light green.

Then it will begin to get darker.

And then a little translucent.

Finally, when it looks like this the butterfly's metamorphosis is complete and it is ready to break out of its now thin shell.

The chrysalis above looked like this a 8:00 am.

By 9:00 am the butterfly had emerged and was unfolding, drying and pumping up its wings. At noon I released it into our garden.

Coincidentally, moth chrysalises that Steve and I have raised emerged in the late afternoon in order to be ready to fly at night.

You can determine whether a Monarch is a boy or a girl.

Look at the two above photos. Each is a different sex. Can you see the difference and guess the boy and girl?

The dots on the wings are diagnostic that this is male.

So far 15 butterflies have emerged. Twelve males and three females. Fifteen more chrysalises are left. Four have started to turn darker.

I wonder what their future will be?


Thanks to guest blogger Patty Rehn. The words and images are hers.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Bog Post

Once upon a time there was nothing but lawn in the side yard.

So Steve dug a hole.

This post is about what we filled it with.

The Bog, all filled up with bog plants.

Arrow-Head, Sagittarius engelmanniana, leaf ...

... and flower.


Marsh St. John's-Wort, Hypericum virginicum.

Spatulate-Leaf Sundew, Drosera intermedia.

Meadow Beauty, Rhexia virginica.

Pitcher Plant, Sarraenia purpurea.

Carolina Yellow-Eyed Grass, Xyris caroliniana.

Threadleaf Sundew, Drosera filiformis.

Sphagnum moss.

Orange Milkwort, Polygaia lutea.

Rhynchrospora sp.

Coppery St. John's-Wort, Hypericum denticulatum.

This is just a sampling of the plants in the bog. And both we, and mother nature, will be adding more. It really is a nice addition to our gardens.


Thanks to guest blogger Patty Rehn. The words and images are hers.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Mason Wasp

Euodynerus megaera, the Mason Wasp.

Several Months ago, Steve put up this bee house for the native bees and wasps in our yard. Many of these critters are solitary and nest in dead plant stalks or in cavities created by woodpeckers. This bee house has both nesting type cavities for the discerning bee or wasp.

Mason bees and wasps will lay an egg with food and make a wall to create a chamber. They will fill the hollow cavity with larval chambers.

The Mason Bees will put pollen cakes in the chamber for the larvae to eat. You can see the yellow pollen on the hairs of this bee.

This is not a bee. There are two easy ways to determine if you are looking at a bee or a wasp. Wasps, unlike bees, have thin waists and little to no hair.

Unlike Mason Bees, Mason Wasps larvae consume living but paralyzed caterpillars. The female Mason Wasp lays her egg in the chamber. She then hunts for caterpillars and uses a potent venom to paralyze her prey. When the larvae hatch they feed on the living albeit paralyzed caterpillar. Due to the shorter developmental time of the male larvae, male eggs are usually placed near the opening of the cavity and female eggs are placed deeper within; therefore the female wasp is able control the gender of her offspring. Mason Wasps are considered beneficial because the caterpillars they collect are often pest species.


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Thanks to guest blogger Patty Rehn. The words and images are hers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Future Butterflies

Monarch Madness, continued ...

It's been over a week and the kids are growing fast! Currently I have 27 chrysalises and a handful of caterpillars.

Many of the caterpillars have already climb to the top of the aquarium or are preparing to.

When the caterpillar decides it is ready, it climbs to the top of the aquarium and uses its silk to hang upside down like a letter "J". It will rest as a "J" for six to ten hours. Then it wakes up and starts to move.

It will begin to slough off its outside skin while replacing it with a new covering.

It wiggles while it does this moving the old skin up and off.

The old skin moves up to where the caterpillar attached itself to hang and will drop off.

The process takes about five minutes, click here to see a short video.

In another five minutes the bejeweled chrysalis is created. It is all so fast! I suppose the caterpillars want some privacy as they change from earthbound eating machines to Kings and Queens of the garden. They are Monarchs after all.

The previous Monarch Madness post can be found here.

πŸ› πŸ¦‹ πŸ›

Thanks to guest blogger Patty Rehn. The words and images are hers.