Sunday, April 28, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Rufous Hummingbird

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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.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Lily Lore and Care by Carol King

Photo Tufts University
It’s Easter time and the ubiquitous Easter Lily is every where.  Did you ever wonder why we purchase these flowers at Easter time?  Historically speaking Easter lilies don’t have much to do with the Easter holiday.  They are not native to the Holy Land.  In Biblical lore, however, the lily is mentioned numerous times. One of the most famous Biblical references is in the Sermon on the Mount: Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matt. 6:28-29). Often called the "white-robed apostles of hope," lilies were found growing in the Garden of Gethsemane after Christ's agony. Tradition has it that the beautiful white lilies sprung up where drops of Christ's sweat fell to the ground in his final hours of sorrow and deep distress.

Pollinator of the Week: The Colorado State Insect!

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.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Pollinator of the Week: Hawk (Sphinx) Moth

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.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Get A Head Start on Yellowjacket Control by Carol King

Yellowjacket photo by Whitney Cranshaw
I noticed wasps are waking up from their winter naps, which made me think of that old meanie, the yellowjacket.  Yellowjackets can be controlled to some extent if we start early, rather than waiting until they are buzzing around our barbecues. The traps will catch the queens before they can find a place to nest.

Whitney Cranshaw, Entomology Professor and Extension Specialist from CSU tells us that the western yellowjacket (V. pensylvanica) is, by far, the most important stinging insect in Colorado. Late in the season, when colonies may include up to 200 individuals, they become serious nuisance pests around outdoor sources of food or garbage. The western yellowjacket is estimated to cause at least 90 percent of the “bee stings” in the state. Yellowjackets (Vespula spp.) are banded yellow or orange and black and are commonly mistaken for honey bees, but they lack the hairy body and are more intensely colored. Yellowjackets typically nest underground using existing hollows. Occasionally nests can be found in dark, enclosed areas of a building, such as crawl spaces or wall voids.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Japanese Beetles in Colorado by Joyce D'Agostino

Photo courtesy colorado.gov
As gardeners, we often struggle with the unwelcome visitors to our garden, whether it be a disease, an invasive plant or an insect pest that causes damage. The Japanese Beetle is now present in Colorado and can do significant damage to landscapes and lawns. This insect is not native to the US and came to the East Coast about 1912. Because it is not a native species, it has no natural predators that help control it.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Coffee Grounds and Gardening



Coffee grounds are a great addition to the garden and compost pile. Help to recycle this great organic resource and reduce the amount of organics going to the landfill! Thanks to our colleagues at Oregon State University Extension for the following information.

Some information about coffee grounds:
  • Coffee grounds are about 2% nitrogen by volume.
  • Grounds are not acidic; the acid in coffee is water-soluble so the acid is mostly in the coffee.
  • Coffee grounds are close to pH neutral (between 6.5 - 6.8 pH).
  • Coffee grounds improve soil tilth or structure.
  • Coffee grounds are an excellent nitrogen source for composting. They have a C/N ratio of 20/1. In informal trials with OSU/Lane County Extension Service, Compost Specialists sustained temperatures of 140 O-160 OF have been recorded for up to two weeks (when coffee grounds were 25% of the material in the compost pile by volume).
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests coffee grounds repel slugs and snails in the garden.

Monday, April 1, 2019

April Fools’ Day Garden Hoaxes

Photo courtesy hoaxes.org
From the early 1900s to the present, gardeners have swapped April Fools hoaxes and photos. It just goes to show that we DO have a sense of humor about this serious subject of gardening. Even Denver made the list in 1958 when an unknown prankster transformed stop signs into giant flowers. It was suspected to be the work of "a recent arrival from neighboring Kansas, the sunflower state." [Spokane Daily Chronicle - Apr 2, 1958]

Check out some of the best gardening hoaxes in the last 100 years or so!