Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pollinator of the Week: Flower Flies by Donna Duffy

Tachinid fly, photo courtesy of Beatriz Moisset
The two-winged insects (flies, gnats, mosquitos) is a very large and varied group. Many of them specifically visit flowers, such as the Syrphid flies or flower flies. They are not as hairy as bees nor as efficient at carrying pollen, but some are still good pollinators. The USDA Forest Service provides the following information about Fly Pollination.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memorial Day and Poppies by Carol King

Photo by Tina Negus
The Memorial Day Organization tells us that Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.  Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No.11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields", Moina Michael conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Thus a tradition was born.

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Why not plant a poppy bed in honor of Memorial Day?     Poppies are easy to grow in Colorado.  They are drought and pest resistant.  Many varieties grow easily from seed.

Here's an article that will help you have success with your planting. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Adding Flowers To Your Vegetable Garden By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo courtesy veggiegardeningtips.com
The spring temperatures will soon be settled and it will be safe to plant your summer garden. If you have focused mostly on growing tomatoes, peppers and other favorite vegetables, consider adding some flowers to your garden. Not only will flowers add a splash of color and interest, but they can serve a significant role in providing nectar and pollen for pollinating insects, and attracting these insects will in turn help to pollinate your vegetables.

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.