Pollinator Week

This week was Pollinator Week and I started thinking about all the different pollinators that visit my yard. Over the roughly seven years since we moved in, I’ve been continually adding new native plants and transforming a yard of grass to wildlife habitat. In the last couple of years I’ve focused on the backyard and creating more pollinator habitat. Flowers start blooming before winter is over and there is a constant bloom throughout the spring and summer and well into the autumn. I also leave things messy because old flower stems are used for bees to nest in. There are patches of bare soil for ground nesting bees to dig their holes and I never use pesticides.

As a result, I have been rewarded by dozens and dozens of different types of pollinators – from bumble bees and leaf-cutter bees to…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: Anatomy of a Dragon

There’s nothing that can humble an ‘observant’ naturalist more than nearly walking face-first into a resting darner dragonfly. A few days ago I was walking around the wildlife garden taking photos and I completely overlooked the large Blue-eyed Darner until it was just a few inches from my face. Luckily for me the dragon had no previous engagements and sat perched on the Fireweed for a few minutes. I was able to take photos at my leisure and I focused my lens on different parts of his body to study it in depth.

The Eye of a Dragon

Dragon eyes are perhaps the most conspicuous feature of a dragonfly. They comprise most of the head and are arguably the most important part of the body. Vision is the primary sense of dragonflies and is used…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: A New Discovery

Once in a while I encounter something in my yard that leaves me completely baffled. I may not be able to identify all the bees, flies or beetles I see, but I usually know that they are bees, flies or beetles. A few days ago, I noticed something that no matter what angle I looked at it from, I just couldn’t figure out even what type of insect it was.

At first glance it looked like a stick insect, but when I looked closer, I could see there were two, a pair mating back to back, attached together. They had long, sender bodies and even longer, more slender legs. Their antennae were also thin and terribly long, ending in little knobs, similar to that of butterflies. Their bodies were brown, but one had a thicker abdomen which had a green underside, and they…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: The Day of the Dragon

All week long, as I worked outside, I watched teneral dragonflies, those that had just made the transformation from larvae to adult, fly away from my wildlife pond. But I had yet to catch any in the act of emerging. Earlier last week I had agreed to take dragonfly larvae into my daughter’s school to share with the kids. No big deal I thought, I’d go scoop some out of the pond in the afternoon before heading to the school. I had been catching larvae with nearly every scoop of the net as I removed algae over the last couple of weeks, so it should be easy. But when I went out that day, I scooped and scooped and was starting to worry I would have nothing to show the kids. After a good twenty minutes I finally found one. I then changed my scooping methods and…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: Sawflies

Being a naturalist often illustrates an interesting phenomenon. When I first learn about something, likes slime molds for example, I suddenly start finding them everywhere. Although it feels like they suddenly started showing up all over, they have, of course, always been there. What’s changed is my observation skills. It’s simply mind-boggling to me how many things I’m sure I still overlook simply because I have not yet noticed, learned or otherwise discovered them.

My backyard presents a more complicated picture though. Because I’ve created habitat where there was once only grass and a deck, new things do arrive regularly. But is the first time I notice them the first time they showed up, or have they been visiting far longer than that? Case and point, this spring I have noticed many different sawflies in my wildlife garden.

Sawflies…

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Diary of an Urban Wild Garden: The Small Carpenter Bee

Some visitors come and go and you only catch snippets of their lives, while others hang around and you get to catch the full drama. This spring my small carpenter bees visitors have been the latter. Almost a month ago I watched tiny bees with shiny black bodies resting on broken stems of last year’s aster plants in my wildlife garden. They didn’t go in, they simply sat on the top. I took a few photos and moved on to watching other bees. Fast forward about three weeks and as I wandered around my wildlife garden watching insects, I noticed a small bee on the leaf of my new mock orange plant by the pond. I looked closer, and closer, until I saw it was on top of another bee. Despite my close proximity, the bees didn’t budge at all and I realized as I looked at…

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