There are about 250 species of butterflies in Colorado, but I see more Two-Tailed Swallowtails than any other kind.
This has been a good year for spotting butterflies in my yard, especially the beautiful Two-Tailed Swallowtails.
The ones that I’ve seen sailing through my backyard are particularly fond of landing on the roses and gathering pollen as they carefully tiptoe around each flower on their long, thin legs.
I’m not sure most people realize that butterflies aren’t only lovely to watch as they glide through the air, but they’re pollinators, too. They’re an important part of the ecosystem and when we don’t see many in the landscape it’s a signal that something may be wrong in the environment.
To make your yard more attractive to butterflies, create a landscape with food plants for both caterpillars and adult butterflies. Provide shelter from wind, like trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses and even fences.
It’s time to celebrate National Pollinator Week, June 21-27, with a WesternGardeners.com salute to pollinators. Today we proudly salute bees!
Thanks to the efforts of the Pollinator Partnership, pollinators are being celebrated across the country this week. As part of its mission, the Pollinator Partnership works to protect pollinators–like bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles–through conservation, education and research.
Today we salute the little workhorses of the garden, bees. Gardeners already know that to have a beautiful, productive garden, bees have to like to hang out in it. Especially honey bees.
Honey bees are the best of the insect pollinators and hundreds of fruits and vegetables would disappear if we lost all of our honey bees. But, as many of you already know, our bee populations are in serious trouble. Loss of habitat and use of pesticides are two key reasons why bees are being threatened. Honey bees are also suffering from a mysterious disease called Colony Collapse Disorder. Just this week, researchers identified imported, disease-carrying honeybees as a possible cause of colony collapse.
The Great Sunflower Project needs gardeners to plant sunflower seeds and to spend a few minutes of time observing bee activity in their gardens.
This simple act will help honeybees in two ways: it will provide an important food source and it will help collect information about bee populations across the country.
I wrote about The Great Sunflower Project last year after reading about it in Sunset Magazine. Gretchen LeBuhn, AKA The Queen Bee, is an associate professor of biology at San Francisco State University and the founder of this national effort to get home gardeners to help track bee activity in their backyards.
Honey bees are happy to find my Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa) is now in full bloom.
Today the shrub is in full bloom, loaded with lovely pinkish-white blossoms that cover every dark brown branch from top to bottom. It’s always the first shrub to bloom in my yard, well before I’ve had a chance to tidy up the perennial garden. Dark green leaves will follow shortly.
It’s always a nice surprise to look out my office window and see these flowers burst open in April looking a little like a popcorn bush, while many other trees and shrubs are just starting to think about spring.
Spiders are an important part of our ecosystem, but some people find it difficult to get past their creepy appearance to fully appreciate them.
Colorado is home to hundreds of species of spiders, but only one is considered potentially dangerous—the western widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus).
In spite of this, many have a fear of spiders that ranges from the “eeek” factor to petrifying arachnophobia. This aversion may come from spiders’ daunting looks, stories about their poisonous bites, or images lingering from movies about eight-legged radioactive monsters.
Despite their reputation as loathsome creatures, spiders are one of the landscape’s best friends. We might be up to our knees in pests if it weren’t for our eight-legged helpers.
Gardeners can encourage spiders to live in their yards by planting a layered landscape that offers many different attachment points for webs, adding mulch for hiding places and by refraining from indiscriminate use of toxic chemical pesticides with integrated pest management methods.
Fall fell with a “thud” this weekend after two nights of subfreezing temperatures.
The green ash tree in my front yard went from fully leafed to fully bare branches seemingly overnight due to two days of unseasonably cold temperatures.
On Friday morning, after the first night of subfreezing temperatures, I went outside and leaves were falling like rain from many of the uppermost branches and the lawn was covered with a thick layer of green leaves.
On Saturday morning, after the second night of subfreezing temps, the tree had but a few leaves on its lower branches. All of the other leaves had landed beneath the tree in a perfect circle just outside the outer edge of its canopy.
Of course I was immediately concerned with the health of this 25-year-old tree, especially after reading recent reports of a looming ash tree crisis.
Clearing out all vegetable garden debris is the first step toward next summer’s healthy plants.
You think I’d be glad to pull up the dead summer squash foliage after the ups and downs of growing it this year.
Early on I complained about the fruit not setting and having to pollinate the squash by hand.
Then I complained because I had so much yellow squash I had to find new ways to use it in the kitchen.
Now that it’s all gone, I’m a little wistful.
I loved looking out my office window and seeing a green and growing garden, that was alive with butterflies, bees and birds. Around here the time to enjoy it is so short compared to the amount of time the garden is empty of plants and pollinators.
But there’s still plenty to do in the garden now and it starts with raking up every bit of garden debris to put the vegetable garden to bed.
This migrating monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) stopped just long enough to make my heart soar.
Many butterflies have enjoyed the nectar from my butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), but this was the first time I’ve seen a monarch drop by for a snack. Even though this is one of the best-known and most recognized butterflies in North America, I’d never seen one in my backyard.
Sure, I might have caught a glimpse of one as it sailed through the yard. But I was never sure that’s what I saw. It could always be another member of the family with the distinctive deep orange, black and white coloring.
Reading up on these beautiful insects, I learned that when migrating, they can be anywhere from the Midwest to the coast of California. They like open fields, roadsides, canyons and even suburban areas like my backyard.
They migrate from September through October in huge numbers on their way to the mountains in Mexico where they prefer to spend their winters.
Can you identify this dragonfly?
Yesterday morning was picture perfect in the garden.
The cloudless sky was brilliant blue, the sun was just warming and even though it seemed calm, there was plenty of activity.
I stood quietly and watched bees of all sizes buzzing around the bright purple Bergamot, heard the squirrels running along the fence and caught a glimpse of a dragonfly perched motionless on a dried sunflower stem.
I watched that dragonfly for many minutes and it never moved. The sunflower swayed gently in the breeze, but its wings never flapped, its legs never changed position.
I admired its translucent wings and how they changed color depending on the light. I watched it for many minutes before I moved on, but it lingered still.
Later I consulted my Field Guide to Insects & Spiders and learned a bit more about dragonflies and damselflies (Order Odonata). Because my garden friend’s wings were held outstretched during rest, I think it was a dragonfly. Damselflies extend theirs vertically to the rear.