This is a big shout-out to Sherrie Pelsma, the face behind Portland's Pollinator Parkways (also seen on my Biodiversity page). Sherrie has created a Do-it-Yourself Manual for home-owners who would like to "Flip their Strip", i.e. convert their turf-grass parking strip into a pollinator habitat. This is an excellent resource that will guide you through all the steps of transforming your "hell-strip". The manual is packed with clear instructions, shady/sunny plant lists and planting guides, and photos. You can also follow Pollinator Parkways on Facebook for updates and to share your photos. I have included Sherrie's manual as a pdf download. Have fun with your strip!
Pollinator Parkways has created over 6000 square feet of pollinator habitat. Thank you Sherrie, for your community spirit and inspiration!
Pollinator Parkway's Do-it-Yourself Manual:
It's October, and that means it is time to get your backyard ready for winter here in the NW.
I am attaching a pdf of my Urban Birds mandala for you to print and enjoy.
Shine on Harvest Moon!
Next Monday, on August 21st, 2017, fourteen states in the continental U.S. will experience a Total Solar Eclipse. This is the first solar eclipse to track across the U.S. since 1979. The landfall in the U.S. is the Oregon coast.
Oregon is expecting a population increase of 25%, with over a million visitors arriving to view the totality. If you are planning to travel to Oregon, be aware of the traffic jams (a projected influx of 100,000-500,000 vehicles), wildfires (currently four burning in the 60-mile path), and projected gas, food, and water shortages as hoards of visitors flood Oregon's tiny towns.
Me? I am very excited to have this Solar Eclipse coming to my neighborhood! I plan to enjoy a partial eclipse in the comfort of my backyard in Seattle. We are about 175 miles north of the path of totality and will experience 94% coverage (photo below from Pacific Science Center). I am equipped with my approved Eclipse glasses (provided by Seattle Public Library) and have downloaded a couple apps to keep me updated. So far, the weather report looks perfect for a good Seattle show.
Enjoy the Eclipse
Art credit: New Yorker magazine cover, March 2010
The insidiousness of systemic pesticides is that the pesticide is absorbed into the tissues of the plant, which causes it to poison any insect or mammal that eats its leaves or fruit or harvests its nectar and pollen. In addition, these chemicals leach into the soil and groundwater where they mix with other pesticides and herbicides to create a toxic cocktail and become pervasive in both farmed and wild habitats. Kind of makes me worried for all the things that could go wrong...
A 2016 study, Increasing neonicotinoid use and the declining butterfly fauna of lowland California and a similar study in the UK, Are neonicotinoid insecticides driving declines of widespread butterflies? show that our butterfly and honeybee populations are in peril along with other non-target insect species and small mammals. No surprise here.
Are we prepared for a world without pollinators? The need for hand-pollination by humans? What will the birds and fish and frogs eat? It truly is time to put a stop to this madness.
Learn more from the Bee Protective campaign at Center for Food Safety.
Download full-size PDF at Center for Food Safety
Bombus mixtus enjoying the sage blossoms and snowberry in our front yard
Honeybee collecting nectar=Sage Honey this fall
©Tracey Byrne 2017
Did you know that almost 90% of all flowering plants rely on animals, rather than the wind, for pollination? Over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. The vast majority of animal pollinators are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies and moths; of these, bees pollinate the largest number of plant species. About 1,000 species of pollinators are hummingbirds, bats and other small mammals (Pollinator Partnership, 2017).
Visit Pollinator Partnership and bee inspired with ways to support all our pollinators
This lovely watershed map was hanging at Seward Park;
here are some Seattle Public Utilities links to our watersheds and watershed projects.
This winter Seattle broke its rainfall record with 44.7 inches of rain (that is almost 4 feet!) between October and April, making it our wettest winter since 1895. We also had our coldest winter since 1985, which means that even if you are a winter person at heart, you too are ready to sit on your patio with an umbrella drink (and complain about the heat :^)
Sunday stroll around Seward Park
Wondering what to feed the birds in your neighborhood? We provide black sunflower seeds and two suet holders, which attracts 25 different species of urban dinosaur!
Project FeederWatch has a plethora of resources to peruse, with common feeder birds and their preferences, Tricky Bird IDs, and FeederWatch cams. Some of our regulars below: Stellar Jay, Northern Flicker, Black-capped Chickadee, and Spotted Towhee.
Want to know more? Check out these fantastic fact-filled sites:
Audubon Guide to North American Birds
Cornell Lab All About Birds
Yardmap's Habitat Network
100 common birds food & feeder reference=Project Feederwatch
..........Very large break .........go to XKCD.com to see the full timeline
A timeline from Randall Munroe, creator of XKCD.com
Mystery bug #1 Mystery Bug #2
What's that bug?
Have you ever found a cool bug in your backyard, tried to I.D. it, and been frustrated because you could not find it in any of your field guides, in a google image search, or even in BugGuide.net?
Do not despair, as you are not alone! As you may know, insects are the most numerous animal life form on the planet, comprising about 85% of terrestrial animals. Not only that, insects come in all shapes and sizes, and do magic called metamorphosis after being nymphs or molting their hard exoskeletons as they move through instars on their way to sexual maturity.
"Arthropods (Arthropoda) are a highly-successful group of invertebrate animals that includes insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, mites, horseshoe crabs, scorpions, and crustaceans. In terms of species diversity, arthropods are second to none. That there are in excess of one million arthropods species that have been identified by scientists and there are estimated to be many millions that have not yet been identified. Scientists estimate there may be a staggering 30 million species of arthropods alive today, the vast majority of which are insects."
The insect world is currently divided into 32 orders. The largest order, the beetles (Coleoptera), contains more than 370,000 species. Other major orders are moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera, 150,000 species), bees, wasps, and ants (Hymenoptera, 120,000 species), flies (Diptera, 100,000 species), and bugs (Hemiptera, 80,000 species).
To make mystery bug I.D. even harder, remember that all insects go through metamorphosis-which means that most of them look completely different from adults when they are in their immature stages as larvae and instars-making it quite a puzzle to identify them, since field guides and websites often only show images of the adult stages of many insects.
For example, take mystery bug #1, found by my friend Lorene in her West Seattle garden:
after three fails (which included an image search, googling "green ladybug", and BugGuide.net), I googled "Seattle pest insects" and found a P-Patch reference document from the Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods, that told me all about the invasive Green Stinkbug, which were first reported in Seattle in 2014.
Bingo! Lorene's bug turned out to be the 5th instar stage of the Southern Green Stinkbug Nezara Viridula. She found this insect alongside lots of little tiny black bugs (2nd/3rd instar) on a Dalia leaf, never before seen in her garden.
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus Philenor) life cycle stages
The thing to remember, when taking care of your backyard, is that often times immature stages of beneficial insects look very different from the adults. Be sure to be gentle when you are weeding and tidying up your garden for the winter, as many caterpillars overwinter in the grasses, leaves, shrubs, and woodpiles. These are your butterfly nurseries. If you do find a "pest" insect, such as the Green Stinkbug, please contact the Garden Hotline: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-633-0224.
Guest Post by Sam = Organic Lesson
In the past decade, the plight of the honey bees has become a very important issue, and rightly so, as they play an essential part in the growth of crops and produce. Many do not realize that bees aren't just there to produce honey. They also play an important part in pollinating surrounding crops. One way in which we are detrimentally affecting the bee population is through the use of chemical pesticide. As tempting as it is to use such a method to eradicate pests in your backyard, it should be noted that not only is pesticide harmful to the bees, they are also harmful to you as well. If you are a gardener who wants to use a natural control method instead then consider the use of beneficial insects.
As the name implies, beneficial insects are bugs that can help eradicate common garden pests without doing any damage to your garden produce. Not all insects are bad. There are many such as the examples listed in the infographic that can be very effective at getting rid of common pests like aphids, caterpillars, and spider mites. Who knew the beautiful ladybug could be so effective at getting rid of aphid infestations in the garden? Other than the benefit of keeping things organic, using these insects can also be a great way to save money. Chemical pesticide is only going to get more expensive moving forward so why not use a method that takes advantage of the natural resource around you? If you are lucky then some of the beneficial insects could be native to the area you live in so all you have to do is to make your garden an attractive area for them to roam. One last thing to keep in mind is that there really isn't a way for pests to resist these bugs. According to the Pesticide Action Network, more and more insects and weed species are developing resistance against pesticide. With beneficial insects, however, the pests are being eaten so they really have nowhere to go.
If you are a gardener with a backyard then start taking action now. Help sustain the local population of bees in your area by sticking to a natural pest control method.
Sam Choan is a gardening enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experience on gardening and sustainability at his personal blog Organic Lesson. During his spare time, Sam grows a number of herbs in his indoor garden and finds ways to promote green living.