Squash Bee

Peponapis: A Squash Lovin’ BeeSquash Bee

Jul 19, 2016 04:54 pm | thebeeswaggle

by Jessica Goldstrohm

Did you know some bees are very dependent on particular species of flowers?

This lovely bee is the squash bee, and I was fortunate enough to discover her, along with may others nestled inside squash flowers of a good friend’s garden! This was a very healthy and thriving collection of squash bees, and they are very specific to squash plant reproduction.

Squash bees are quite predictable in the flower preference they have; squash flowers, any type of squash flower, but it must be a squash flower.  They fly very early in the morning, sometimes before dawn seeking the opening squash flowers.  The females will spend much of the morning nestled inside squash flowers, circling the stamen of the flower, collecting nectar and pollen for their nests.  In fact, you will often find groups of squash bees within each squash bloom, absent of any conflict among them.

07.29.16 SquashBee2

Squash Bee

My photos too!

Squash bees are solitary nesters, meaning they work independently to build her nest, lay eggs, and collect all resources for the eggs they lay.  However, they may nest in aggregations of hundreds, kind of like apartment buildings are to humans. We live next to each other, but we all lead separate lives.

Squash bees prefer to nest VERY close to their favorite flowering plants, so you will most often find their nesting holes in the ground under squash plants.  Females will retreat to he nest come rundown, while males find a nice squash flower to sleep in until morning.

This activity continues throughout the summer, and partway into fall, then all the existing bees die, leaving behind the next season’s generation nestled all in a row of egg cells containing adult bees.  This new generation of bees will hibernate until the following spring or early summer when the squash plants are flowering.  Squash bees are so particular about the flowers they feed on, that their lifecycle revolves around squash plants!

I’m sure you may have already arrived at the question of what does that mean for them when we go to clear the dead squash plants at the end of the season?  Well, too much deep tilling can lead to complete destruction of a mother bee’s hard work.  Squash bees nest approximately 1.5 feet straight down into the ground, so only rigorous tilling harms nests. Leaving some of the plant behind can serve as insulation to the hibernating bees through the winter.

Next time you see a squash plant, take a peek inside to see a group of squash bees, and look under the squash plant for any holes in the ground that might be a squash bee’s nest.

There you have it! Another native bee we depend on to get resources we all enjoy in the fall!  I can’t wait to have some zucchini from my plants, and pumpkin too!  So many things occurring right beneath our noses, and we miss them when we don’t stop and observe.

Cheers to joining the movement to save our bees!

 

Keep Your Sunflowers Blooming

Keep Your Sunflowers BloomingSunflowers

by Sandy Swegel

Sunflowers inspire a primordial joy in us.  We may be rosarians, orchid specialists, rock plant lovers or even urban folk who barely see the outdoors, but sunflowers against a blue sky spark an inner gasp of delight.  Sunflowers often plant themselves on their own and can manage to grow without any attention from us, but if we have a nice little patch of sunflowers, we can nurture them so they last and last for weeks longer than their normal bloom.

Sunflowers

Wild Sunflowers

What to do to get the most of your sunflowers?

 

Keep them deadheaded until the end of the season.

If you deadhead your sunflowers, they will keep pumping out new blossoms in their will to create seeds and more sunflowers.  Don’t cut the stalk way back, the next sunflower often forms just inches from the  place you deadheaded.

 

Leave the very last batch of spent flowers for the birds and for next year’s flowers.

When it seems like the sunflowers are slowing down, do leave the last set on flower heads on the plant for the birds.  Even if its a little ugly going into Fall, birds like the seed heads right on the plant.  Little finches especially like to sit on top of the old brown seed head and bend over and pluck seeds out.

Goldfinch on Sunflowers

Give the sunflowers a splash of water

If your sunflowers have self-seeded into a dry back alley or someplace in hot sun, throw them a bucket of water once in a while during hot spells.  They’ll survive without the extra water, but thrive with it…and make more sunflowers just for you.

 

Photo credit:

www.pinterest.com/dreamwild/birds-bugs-butterflies-flowers-to-paint/

https://kanesonbikes.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/p9020895.jpg

http://www.lovethispic.com/uploaded_images/33858-Sunflower-Farm.jpg

 

Moth Night

Moth Night Hummingbird Moth

I love the things humans find to celebrate. Partying really is in our DNA. It turns out that nature lovers in East Brunswick, New Jersey actually celebrate moths for an entire WEEK and have proclaimed July 23-31 National Moth Week. At first I thought this was quirky group of nature lovers reliving childhood adventures of going out at night with flashlights, but Moth Nights are an international event (US, UK, Europe, Asia, Africa)! The UK has celebrated Moth Night for hundreds of years. Switzerland and Hungary have European Moth nights and I’ll bet if your town doesn’t have Moth Night now, park services will be sponsoring them soon. It’s fun (all you need are bedsheets and flashlights, maybe some blacklights), environmentally conscious (moth counts and keeping track of endanger species) and a great family event.

Moths

Why moths? This is what the National Moth Week people promote:

* Moths are among the most diverse and successful organisms on earth.

* Scientists estimate there are 150,000 to more than 500,000 moth species.

* Their colors and patterns are either dazzling or so cryptic that they define camouflage. Shapes and sizes span the gamut from as small as a pinhead to as large as an adult’s hand.

* Most moths are nocturnal, and need to be sought at night to be seen – others fly like butterflies during the day.

* Finding moths can be as simple as leaving a porch light on and checking it after dark. Serious moth aficionados use special lights and baits to attract them.

And here at BBB Seed we add one very important reason to celebrate moths: they are POLLINATORS for night-opening flowers!

Moth catcher

Take a look at moths this week. In my garden this week there is the ubiquitous pretty but destructive cabbage moth and the amazing hummingbird hawkmoth, both visible in the daylight. You can have your own “Moth Night” by hanging up a bed sheet on your clothesline and propping a UV black light behind it. Or just sit on the front porch with the light on!

 

 

 

Photocredits and more info
nationalmothweek.org/
twitter.com/mothnight
www.komar.org/faq/travel/hummingbirds/moth/
http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=18448

 

The Aster

The AsterBuckeye Butterfly on Aster

by Sandy Swegel

July is when the aster begins to shine in the garden.  We were walking around a hot drought xeric garden yesterday where many flowering plants were going to seed (ah, flax and larkspur we miss your blues already) or had complete browned and been cut back (goodbye poppies).  Amid the browning foliage, there were splashes of color we forget about each year like the amazing zinnia grandiflora, a very short aster, native to plains and foothills, that thrives along hot concrete walkways.

Sulphur Butterfly on Aster

Standing near this tiny aster, we could look up to the back of the garden where there was a bit of shade and moisture and see tall asters in full bud.  In the sunny grassy open space nearby, purple asters had already bloomed and were feeding pollinators and butterflies. We looked to a neighbor’s irrigated garden and saw a splendid patch of Michaelmas daisies ready to bloom with hundreds of flowers.  Aster may have small individual flowers, but they cram dozens of flowers onto each flower stalk.

Wild Aster

Asters aren’t very picky about location and in cities you’ll see they seed themselves into alleys and  sometimes into your flower beds.  In fields the purple asters often grow one plant here and one there out among uncut grasses.Aster Branching

 

Zinnia Aster

Zinnia grandiflora

The very best thing about asters:  butterflies love them.  And we definitely want to keep the butterflies happy.

 

 

 

 

http://swbiodiversity.org/seinet/taxa/index.php?taxon=1961

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/

http://gaiagarden.blogspot.com/2011_10_01_archive.html

https://photoflurries.wordpress.com/2010/09/

 

Two Tough flowers of Summer

Two Tough flowers of Summer

by Sandy Swegel

Salvia coccinea

Salvia coccinea

The humans are drooping in the summer heat, but if you look at gardens and containers you’ll see that some flowers are absolutely thriving in July. Take a walk around your neighborhood one cool evening to see what is vigorously growing and that you have to try growing yourself.

Salvias
Salvias are real winners now. Tall spikes of flowers rise above the garden attracting our attention and lots of hummingbirds. Now that it is warm, salvia have grown tall and strong. Some deadheading and they’ll still be blooming at frost. Two favorites are the Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea), most often seen with hummingbirds, and black and blue Sage Salvia guaranitica also known as hummingbird plant.

Black and Blue Salvia

Black and Blue Salvia

 

 

 

Rudbeckia
The other big happy flowers in the heat are Rudbeckia of many varieties. Stands of Black-eyed Susans thrill us, reminding us of childhood summers. In meadows and wilder backyards, you’ll find the Rudbeckia hirta that is the Black-eyed Susan we grew up with. Most urban landscapes have the sturdy Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ that looks like the hirta but is very well-behaved.

Rudbeckia triloba

Rudbeckia triloba

Other dazzling rudbeckia are the green-headed, often very tall, Rudbeckia laciniata.

Rudbeckia laciniata

Rudbeckia laciniata

And there is the “Brown-eyed Susan” Rudbeckia triloba that is short lived but self sows itself in the same spot every year.

If you want a stunning summer garden that looks great in the heat, are somewhat drought tolerant, and provides lots of food for hummingbirds and bees and other pollinators, be sure to include Salvia and Rudbeckia.

Rudbeckia hirta

Rudbeckia hirta

 

Redbeckia fulgida

Redbeckia fulgida

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.gardenerdirect.com
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudbeckia_laciniata
https://www.gardenia.net/plant/rudbeckia-hirta-prairie-sun
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/514817801129456934/
https://www.anniesannuals.com/plants/view/?id=901

 

Tomatoes in the Heat

Tomatoes in the heatTomatoes in the heat

by Sandy Swegel

My neighbor is panicking and frantically watering all her plants and trees that have droopy wilting leaves. The leaves weren’t getting any better and she feared there was some horrid disease killing everything. But there isn’t some disease…the plants are just stressed by our heat wave with temperatures in the 90s and above. One way plants cope with heat is to let their leaves droop or fold so that they aren’t losing so much water from the leaf surface.

Sunburned tomatoes

Still, plants coping or not, a heat wave means you are getting few tomatoes. Plants quit setting fruit when the temps are above 92 or so no matter how many pollinators you have. So what can you do? When temperatures are a little lower, July is the time when I usually recommend a good fertilizing to keep the tomatoes at production. But in the heat, tomatoes are just struggling to live and fertilizing may just add to the stress.

What can you do for your heat-stressed plants?

Make sure you keep your watering consistent. You don’t need to drown the plants. No amount of water is going to compensate for temperature.

Mulch any exposed soil exposed to direct sun. Some tomato plants have already shaded the entire surface with leaves, but if there is garden soil getting hit by full sun, put some mulch or grass clippings or old leaves over the soil to keep it from baking in the sun.

07.11.16 tomatoshade

Shade cloth for tomatoes

If it looks like the heat wave will last quite a while, try to shade your tomatoes. The most effective shading blocks the hot afternoon sun. You can try hoops with shade cloth or throw some row cover over the plants. One frugal local farmer stretches old bedsheets on T-posts on the western side of the plants. Any protection helps until the temperatures lower again. The shade also will help protect the fruit from sunburn.

Shade for garden

 

 

 

 

 
http://reaganite71.blogspot.com/2013/07/helping-your-tomatoes-survive-brutal.html
http://www.organicswgardening.com/article4.html
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t3224-watering-during-a-heat-wave
http://www.ipt.us.com/produce-inspection-resources/inspectors-blog/defect-identification/tomatoes-sunburn

 

Time to Reboot the Veggie Garden

Time to Reboot the Veggie Garden07.08.16 rapini

 

by Sandy Swegel

We ate the last of the Spring Peas this week. They were gnarly and kinda tough, but I savored the sweet Spring memories. Even though the peas were planted in a little shade and watered regularly, a pea plant can only take so many blistering hot days. Pooped-out peas are a sure sign that it’s time to start thinking about the Fall Garden. It seems slightly absurd since we still don’t have a single red tomato here in zone 5, but if I want a lush fall and winter garden, the time to reboot the spent Spring garden is now.

But it is July and it’s hot, so let’s start the fall garden in nice easy baby steps. These week’s plan is simple:

1. Pull out the finished pea plants. Pull out the weeds. Scratch in some fresh compost and keep the area watered for a few days as the soil settles down.
2. Plant some seeds. Keep the patch well moistened (or throw some row cover over to keep the water from evaporating so fast.
3. Have something cold to drink and flip through your seed cache or favorite seed website to plan something new and different the next time a little patch of soil is ready for replanting.

07.08.16 Carrots
Some excellent July planting choices:

Leafy greens: arugula, asian greens, collards, more kale or chard
Cool season herbs like cilantro and dill
Root crops you want to enjoy after frost like carrots and beets
Rapini (Broccoli raab)

Don’t stress yourself in the heat….just plant that one little patch that’s just growing weeds now and reap the rewards in September.

Photocredits
http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Healthy-Recipes-Winter-Vegetables-Fruits-21357784#photo-21357809

 

Gaillardia aristata, Blanket Flower

by Sandy SwegelGaillardia in mountain park

Gaillardia is my favorite flower this week!

Gaillardia aristata or blanket flower is already a favorite of xeric gardeners. It doesn’t require much water. It comes in beautiful orange and red and yellow colors. It blooms a long time. It is one tough little plant. I had one re-seed in the cracked hard dry clay of my driveway once. It’s intriguing…some gaillardia have petals that are double at the edges giving it an interesting alien look.

But this week I fell in love with Gaillardia all over again because I met the Gaillardia Flower Moth (Schinia masoni). This is a little moth that mimics the coloration of the Gaillardia so well, I could barely get a picture that shows it. This flower moth basically lounges on the Gaillardia flowers all day and does its pollination, as moths do, at night. The exclusive food of the larvae of moth is the Gaillardia!

Gaillardai with Schinia masoni

 

 

 

 

 

While the moth relies only on this species for its life cycle, it species feeds many different insects and pollinators. Here are some of the primary visitors to Gaillardia:

Butterflies
Edwards fritillaryGaillardia with Fritillary
Dakota skipper

Bees:
Honey Bees (Gaillardia is heavily visited by honeybees
Leaf Cutter

Beetles
Flower Beetles (Listrus senilis)

Gaillardia

Pests
I haven’t often seen pests on Gaillardia but researches say they are visited by aphids, caterpillars, slugs, thrips, spider midges and leafhoppers. I don’t like pests but they are food for the beneficial pollinators.

I have one of those “Isn’t Nature Amazing!”moments when I see Gaillardia. One beautiful flower and so many beneficiaries.

 

 

 

 

Photocredit
Sandy Swegel; Charles S. Lewallen; alamy.com; commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/