Monday, May 22, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Squash Bees by Donna Duffy

Squash bee, photo courtesy Holly Prendeville, University of Nebraska

This article is reprinted  from “Squash Bees” by Jim Cane, USDA ARS, Bee Biology and Systematics Lab, Logan, Utah. 

Got squash? If so, you have the chance to see the most important floral specialists in agriculture, native solitary bees of two genera, Peponapis and Xenoglossa, the so-called “squash bees”. Look at your squash’s flowers during the first few hours after sunrise. Male squash bees will be darting between flowers, searching for mates. By noon, they will be fast asleep in the withered flowers.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Transplanting Tomato Seedlings by Donna Duffy

Tomato seedling, photo courtesy Modern Farmer

With spring marching along, it’s almost time to plant your tomato seedlings. It’s always a challenge to figure out exactly when to put them in the ground - Colorado weather is fickle this time of year. Last week’s hail storm wiped out many early planted annuals and seedlings. Once you’ve decided to proceed, follow the steps outlined in “How to Grow Your Own Tomatoes, Part 2: Transplanting, by Brian Barth, Modern Farmer. You can access the article here. Be sure to check out the links to other articles on growing tomatoes.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Leaf Cutting Bees by Donna Duffy

A female leafcutter bee collecting pollen. Image courtesy of Jim McCulloch.
This article is excerpted from Leaf Cutting Bees (Megachile spp.) by Beatriz Moisset, USDA Forest Service.
There are about 242 species of Megachile bees or leaf cutting bees in North America. They belong to a larger group that includes also other leaf cutting as well as mason bees; these are all very good pollinators with very interesting habits.
Megachile bees are black and furry. They vary in size, on average about the same size as a honeybee. Most bees carry pollen in baskets on their legs. However, Megachile is different; the underside of the female’s abdomen is particularly furry and is used for this purpose. If you see a black bee, about the size of a honeybee, with a yellow belly, you probably saw a Megachile.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dealing with Hail By Joyce D’Agostino


Hail on May 8th, photo by Joyce D'Agostino

For many of us, having to deal with hailstorms is a reality. In this area of Colorado, we are in a hail zone meaning that we can experience more than the average hail events, and some of them can wipe out your garden in minutes.

In 2009, the Denver area had a very devastating hailstorm that included powerful winds. This occurred in late July, after about 9 PM and my mature garden was shredded. Not only was this very upsetting, but it told me that in order to try to successfully garden here, that weather protection, especially from hail is a must. Just recently we had a very powerful hailstorm in this area that including very large hail so there was not only damage to cars, roofs and siding but also damaged anything that was unprotected in gardens and landscapes. Hail can happen in any season so finding some permanent solutions that can stay up year-round will help.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Rufous Hummingbird by Donna Duffy

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Rufous Hummingbird, photo courtesy Pollinator Partnership

This article is excerpted from The Rufous Hummingbird: Small But Feisty Long-distance Migrant by Stephen Buchmann, Pollinator Partnership. 

 Many western and southwestern gardeners know the Rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) as a delightful often-unexpected visitor to colorful garden wildflowers or hummingbird feeders. These amazing small but feisty birds (only 3” long) weigh merely three or four grams; for comparison, a United States penny weighs about 2.5 grams. These birds are amazing aerialists, darting in and out, and can be relentless attackers of other birds and insects at feeders and flowers. They have long slender nearly straight bills. Their wings are relatively short and do not reach the end of the tail when the birds are perched on a feeder or nearby branches. They are also one of the few North American hummingbirds to migrate long distances. Rufous hummingbirds are a western species, rarely straying into the eastern United States.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Gardening Power to the People (Video): Insect Puddles

Did you know that insects need water to drink? An easy way for you to encourage pollinators in your garden is to make an "Insect Puddle." In this video, Colorado Master Gardener, Cathy Jo shows you just how to do it.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

It's Time to Arm Yourself Against Yellow Jackets by Joyce D'Agostino

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Yellow Jacket in trap, photo by Joyce D'Agostino

Anyone who has tried to have a picnic, work in their yard or go camping has likely encountered the Yellow Jacket. Here in Colorado, we encounter the Western Yellow Jacket, Vespula pennsylvanica, most often. Because they are yellow and black in color, people often mistake them for honeybees, but the Yellow Jacket is much larger and from the wasp family, and can make multiple painful stings when they attack.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: The Colorado State Insect! by Donna Duffy

Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly, photo courtesy statesymbolsusa.org

Did you know that Colorado has a state insect? The Colorado Hairstreak butterfly (Hypaurotis crysalus) was designated the official state insect  in 1996 due to the steady lobbying of 4th graders from Wheeling Elementary in Aurora, Colorado (led by teacher Melinda Terry).

The Colorado Hairstreak is a small to medium sized butterfly with a wingspan of about 1.25-1.5 inches. The upperside of the wings is purple, with a darker border; coloration is brighter in the males. Small orange spots mark the lower outside edge of each wing. The underside of the wings is light blue with faint dark bands and orange spots at the base of the hind wing. Typical of other hairstreak butterflies, a delicate “tail” protrudes from the hind wings.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Providing Water for Pollinators by Donna Duffy

Swallowtail drinking from a mud puddle, photo courtesy offset.com
Creating a pollinator-friendly garden goes beyond providing pollinator-friendly plants. Pollinators need sources of water for many purposes, including drinking and reproduction.  Butterflies, for example, will gather and sip at shallow pools, mud puddles or even birdbaths.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Hawk (Sphinx) Moth by Donna Duffy

A giant hawk moth (Eumorpha typhon) adult. Image by Alfred University artist Joseph Scheer.

This information is excerpted from an article by Steve Buchman, The Bee Works. You can read the entire article here.

Moths live in a wide variety of habitats around the world. They usually go unnoticed, except when flying erratically around your porch light, a streetlight, or other light source in the darkness of night. Most moths work the night shift, unlike their “respectable cousins” the butterflies. Moths represent a biological storehouse of interesting, dramatic, and unusual behaviors, some with roles as pollinators, others as food sources.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

On Earth Day, Commit to Protect Pollinators by Donna Duffy


Wool Carder Bee, photo courtesy Whitney Crenshaw
Imagine living in a world without flowers, fruit, coffee or even chocolate for that matter. Thanks to the work of pollinators, much of the food we eat and flowers and plants we enjoy are possible. And it’s not just bees that are doing all the work. Butterflies, birds, beetles, bats, wasps and even flies are important in the pollination process. Worldwide, there is an alarming decline in pollinator populations. Excessive use of pesticides and an ever-expanding conversion of landscapes to human use are the biggest culprits.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Halictid Bees by Donna Duffy

Sweat bee on wild rose,  photo courtesy LuRay Parker, Wyoming Wildlife

In honor of the upcoming National Pollinator Week (June 19-25), we are highlighting a different pollinator every week. This week's pollinator is the Halictid bee, commonly known as sweat bees.  Thanks to Vince Tepidino, USDA ARS, Bee Biology and Systematics Lab in Logan Utah for the following information.

Pollinators have distinct foraging characteristics – some are specialists that collect pollen from flowers of just a few kinds of plants. Others, like the Halictidae (sweat bees), seem to be "anti-specialists". To paraphrase the early 20th century humorist Will Rogers, they have never met a flower they did not like, and they rarely find one whose pollen or nectar is unyielding. Such generalists visit a wide variety of flowers and often seem to do so indiscriminately. Variety seems to be the spice of their foraging lives.