Friday, October 9, 2020
Ant Chat with Alex Wild
Back in 2016 when I attended Bugshot, Texas where I met Alex Wild for the first time. He gave a basic class on ants without talking down to the audience or over generalizing things the way lots of documentaries do. I recorded it with his permission and hopefully it's still okay for me to publish it four years later. If not I'm more than happy to take it down. For now though, enjoy!
Saturday, September 26, 2020
Jewelweed Setting Seed
They produce air roots too which pull nutrients from the air.
Sunday, August 23, 2020
White House Rose Garden
This is such a non-issue, I'm sorry to even be writing about it. I'm only doing so because I feel like no one reporting on it is a gardener.
I've been seeing articles saying things like "Melania Trump RIPS OUT historic trees," and now the White House Rose Garden looks like a graveyard symbolizing how her husband had killed America.
I don't mean for this to be a political post so I'm focusing on what was done to the garden aspect here.
First off I will say, given her choice of shoes, Melania probably doesn't garden regularly. (Added: There are images of her wearing sneakers while gardening but she does not look natural in them. So I'm still thinking she doesn't do a whole lot of gardening.) I question how much of the changes can really be attributed to her and not the White House Landscapers and members of the Historical Society who would be taking care of anything worth protecting.
The main cause of the controversy is how 10 Crab Apple trees were moved. These trees were originally planted by Jackie Kennedy so there is some historic value to be had. But lots of news outlets are saying they were "Ripped Out" or "Cut Down," and sometimes both; ripped out first and cut down later just to spite them. They have, in fact, been taken to an off site location and will be replanted elsewhere on the White House grounds.
Lots of people are reporting with pictures of the trees in Spring, when they're flowering and looking pretty. There are also lots of colorful varieties of tulips adding to their glamour. So it's not fair to compare that to how the garden looks in Summer.
Crab Apples, when not in flower don't always look pretty, especially when they're 50 years old and have been pruned to hell over the years. Part of the reason they were removed was to allow additional space for cameras to be for member of the press to do their job. Holding press meetings outside, where there's better air flow, and sunshine, reduces the risk of Covid transferring from person to person.
People are now saying the garden looks like a cemetery... Personally I blame that mausoleum-like white house in the background. That's just my opinion.
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Ant Chat: Stealing Nectar from Milkweed
Sullivan's Milkweed doesn't do that. So you get a plant that looks fairly similar but isn't anywhere near as aggressive in a garden setting. My one complaint with it might be that it's too slow growing. Last year I only got one flower, one single flower, on the whole plant all because Monarchs had laid eggs on it and it the caterpillars ate them.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Bloopers in Beekeeping
Thursday, May 7, 2020
Murder Hornets!!! Old News Goes Viral
So here's the issue, lots of these articles are titled something like Asian Murder Hornets Discovered In US For First Time. They are all published within the past week or so but also quote a few people who encountered them last year... So this is actually old news that no one really cared about ~8 months ago. Then they usually play up how just how dangerous these Asian MURDER Hornets are, OMG!!! And there's this implication that they're going to be everywhere by the end of the year.
What's lacking though is anything current. Their hives are annual, growing to a great size by the autumn months and dying out completely from lack of food. It's only through a new generation of queens that survive the winter that they species survives each year. So if they are in the U.S. and Canada still, their hives currently aren't that big. And even if surveys don't come up with anything this year, no one can really say with confidence that they're not here until about 5 years of no sightings. They might be establishing someplace outside of where the surveys are taking place, they might not be doing that great here, they might be able to make it out of the traps being setup, lots of issues could be going on.
Articles from colleges and scientific outlets are adding damage control to the theme. The U.S. and Canada already several native Hornets, Yellow Jackets, European Hornets (which are a problem in themselves), Cicada Killers, and even Bumblebees that the general public is more than likely going to assume are Asian Murder Hornets thanks to sensationalist articles.
Again this is all because a total of ~4 hives were found in 2 locations. I actually couldn't find a good source on this because one article included someone finding all of their honeybees dead and just assumed it was them. There was no information given as to what destroyed this hive or even what condition it was in.
Assuming they are found and do establish, it will be quite a few years before they make it to the east coast. The new queens each year are only going to fly X amount of miles each year so their range is going to slowly expand unless they tuck themselves away in fire wood or something that's being transported, for example.
Some people have contacted me saying they're are worried about what they can do to help Beekeepers defend against them. Honestly we're not quite there yet. But their fear mostly comes from a clip from a National Geographic documentary that's often linked with these articles. It shows these hornets destroying a hive of Honeybees.
Well here's the thing with that; throughout Europe and Asia, there are Beekeepers. And there are hives of Honeybees that are bred to have a defense against these hornets. They actually ball up around the scout hornet marking their nest and cook it with heat generated from their wing muscles until it's dead. Alternatively a small strip of metal screen the hornets can't fit through stapled over the entrance also works. It's like a $5 fix. Somehow that didn't make it into the documentary though.
As for the threat of a hornet nest (Asian, European, or Native) posing a threat to people... there is a whole industry of exterminators and several well stocked shelves of pesticides at your local hardware, garden center, and in most grocery stores that can take care of that.
Thursday, April 9, 2020
Winter Ant Queen on Trillium
Friday, March 27, 2020
Some Early Bloomers
The late winter days when they flower are often met with seasonal winds that topple other flowers that might be blooming. We have crocuses in our lawn for example and the wins flattened the flowering stems to several patches thus the flowers were destroyed. With Bloodroot though the first leaf forms gripping hold of the flower stem for added support, making wind damage less likely to happen. Eventually the flower fades and a seed pod forms which becomes heavy and falls out of the way for the leaf to take center stage. The seed pod lays on the ground or pretty close to it by the time the seeds are mature. Elaiosome on the seeds entices ants to carry them off and start new colonies of bloodroot elsewhere.
Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla, is another late winter/early spring bloomer. However it seems to embrace the fact that it's flowering at a horrible time of year. Blooms last anywhere from 8 hours to 4 good day and often the petals fall off simply by touching it.
By good days I mean it's warm enough for them to have opened. On bad days they have enough sense to close up so those days don't seem to count with their internal counter.
The name Twinleaf comes from their leaf formation which look like a set of elephant ears.
Later on the flowers turn into acorn-shaped structures that are supposed to spill open but more commonly break open and allow ants access before they get to that point. I often see ants going in and removing the elaiosome packets from the seeds without ever moving them.
The population I have going all have narrow grass-like leaves, and white flowers with pink vanes that slowly darken up to magenta as time goes on. And this is fairly typical for this species. There is a form in NJ that has yellow flowers though.
This is another one with lots of mutations in the wild that aren't offered commercially. Some only have pink flowers, only white flowers, some hue purple or various shades of light blue; all of which have been photographed by random hikers on the internet but have yet to fall in the hands of a grower to propagate them for commercial sale. This is partly why I'm hoping my plants reseed and chance upon a prized mutation to disperse to friends or put in the hands of growers.
Thursday, March 26, 2020
Ant Chat: 2020 Winter Ant Flight
Prenolepis imparis, The Winter Ant, was flying here last week. This was the first main flight for the species in my area. This wasn't as nice a video as it could have been partly because I'm getting over Bronchitis and with the current COVID-19 pandemic going on it's not a good thing to be sick in general. Thankfully the ants were good enough to hold a flight in my yard so I didn't need to venture off to a park to find them.
The next thing to look for are trees, or large wooden structures. The days when this species flies tend to be windy and they need to forage on aphids and scale insects that feed on trees so plants are kind of important with this species. Swarms of males will gather around the trunks of large trees and tall shrubs which is easily seen when looking up towards the sun. Their wings glitter and reflect the sun's rays. I say "wooden structures" because friends in Philadelphia, PA. once reported finding a swarm along a tall wooden fence near one of the many parks they have there in the city. So even in an urban setting you can find this ant.
Once a swarm has been located you want to hang out a few minutes. Males greatly out number the queens of this species a good 200 to 1 or so. Often there will be several trees near one another so spend a few moment casually walking around the trunk to each and repeat. If there's leaf litter by the trees you may want to kick it away as the queens tend to blend in with it almost perfectly.
Wildflowers Coming Soon
Fernleaf Phacelia, Phacelia bipinnatifida. I have finally gotten this god dam plant somewhat established in my yard! This is a biannual that only flowers on it's second (and last) year of life! Also they have to cross pollinate from a plant that wasn't related to their parent. Between driving to Delaware each spring and dealing with what has to be one of the worst online nurseries on the internet I'm glad to see these coming up on their own.
Giant Waterleaf, Hydrophyllum appendiculatum. This plant lived up to its name the first year I planted it growing a good 3' tall and wind. Subsequent generations though have either been annual or biannual growing only a few inches tall, flowering and then death. They keep coming back though.
Hydrophyllum virginianum, more of a late spring bloomer. It's just a little tuft of leaves now but the patch quickly expands to fill up the garden.
Golden Alexander, Zizia aurea. This is a native carrot though I don't think the roots are meant to be eaten. I think it's a biannual too but I'm not certain. Some years the patch is lush and full with plants but others there are bare spots. This is a host plant to the Black Swallowtail but I've found they only lay eggs on the flowers in the spring time, and plants are largely ignored over the summer in favor for non-native like Parsley and Queen Anna's Lace.
Jacob's Ladder, Polemonium reptans. This plant is semi-evergreen, maintaining a rosette of leaves all winter. Light blue is more true to their normal bloom color.
Roundleaf Ragwort, Packera obovata. This plant suffers from having one of the worst common names ever. It's actually one of the more striking yellow flowering plants of spring.
Wild Hyacinth, Camassia quamash, a native bulb that should be planted along side Easter Flowers.
Woodland Phlox, Phlox divaricata. I think this is a cultivar with thicker petals called 'Blue Moon' but I'm not certain anymore. Patches of this plant only come back when there's no mulch or barely any leaf litter. Originally the plant was fragrant but for the past few years I haven't noticed any fragrance, making me think the original plant has died out and these are all seedlings.
Saturday, February 1, 2020
Witch Hazel Flowering
Amethyst" and hues more on the purple/red side of the spectrum.
Regardless of the cultivar, because they flower int he late fall mid winter range they're almost exclusively pollinated by flies. There are reports of honeybees working them too and I'm sure dozens of other little insects that over winter in the adult stage. These insects all require warm days above 45F in order to function, that's also when Witch Hazel plants produce a faint fragrance to attract them.
I'll be keeping my eyes out for any pollinators on our shrub. It's still fairly little though so I'm not expecting to get much.
Hope your winter is going well.