"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin

Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.

"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oh, My Bugs!

bug, bee and amphibian accommodations

I went to the River Bend Nature Center for the "Pollinator Workshop", presented by Penny Miller, (It was free!) because I wanted to get some input on why my bees don't get water anymore from my bird baths and fountain like they've done for the past twenty or so years.  No help there. "They must have found another water source." I don't buy that, but whatever. The hive is active and seems to be in good shape so I'll not spend any more time on it, just pleased that I don't have to worry about drowning them when I add water to the bird baths.

I had decided early yesterday that I need to forget about how my job ended and enjoy the results of not having it.  In looking for something else, I found a quote from Abraham that said, "If conditions have to change for you to be happy, you're screwed." The next one said, "If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was on the way?"

Sitting in that seminar, hearing about things that fascinate me,  I felt more alive and interested than I have in months. I was already planning to bring Seth to see and walk the trails and I realized, this is what I need to blog about!

we could do something similar to this with the
walnut tree stump
There was so much said in this seminar, I'd never be able to cover it all, but here are some highlights.

The reason for the workshop was to pass along information to homeowners about how to help our pollinators who are in trouble due to many things.  I hadn't really thought about it, but honey bees are not our only pollinators -- and they certainly are not the most important ones.

Of the estimated 20,000 species of bees, the honey bees are just a fraction.  Did you know that honey bees are not native to the Americas?  They weren't here until the Europeans introduced them -- and the flowers, fruits and crops flourished without them.

I asked about the quote "If the bees die, we all die", but Penny Miller said, "We'd get real hungry."

Unfortunately, the honey bees aren't the only pollinators in trouble.

There is a very proficient pollinator, called a "solitary bee"? Solitary bees don't build big colonies.  Since they don't have a hive or nest to protect, they rarely sting. Penny said many solitary bees are so small we might not realize they are bees.  I think I've seen some around so I'm hoping to see more!

Ronnie and I had an on-going disagreement about the yard, so he manicured the front and I let the back yard turn into a bit of a wildlife sanctuary. He applied commercial fertilizers and pre-emergent, where I went to using dried molasses to fertilize the grass- and get rid of fire ants.  I refused to put pre-emergent on the back lawn.  If it's green, it's welcome is my philosophy. Weeds keep dog paws out of mud just like grass does.

At the Pollinator's Workshop, I got some validation for my preferences in the back yard.  There are lots of untidy places but as it turns out, I made the right decisions for many species of pollinators. There is a stand of bamboo, which I curse all the time when it sprouts in the grassy areas, but underneath this bamboo is a perfect area for insects to burrow.

The red wasps and yellow jackets have found well concealed homes all over the yard.  They freak Deidre out because she's been stung so many times, but I don't have a problem with them.  As far as I'm concerned they can stay, but she lives here too, so they'll have to learn to communicate with her better or they'll be "shot" on sight.

There were many suggestions on how we can help the pollinators, number one is stop killing every bug we see. And stop using general purpose insecticides that kill every bug close to where it's sprayed. Use native plants in your landscape because we have a native insect population. They thrive more on what Mother Nature intended to be their diet. Build a "bug house". 

Ronnie originally built this bird house for some fancy pigeons, but that didn't work out very well.  Eventually squirrels claimed it.  This year it seems to be vacant. The metal poles it sits on are in concrete, so there's no removing it without a lot of work, so I decided to put my "insect habitat a.k.a. bug house" under it.
beginning the bug house

As soon as I say I want something, Deidre and Andy get started. I'd shown them all the neat bug houses on the internet, and since junk is one of Andy's many interests, he was right on it.

getting started

They had already gathered some free wood pallets for other  projects, so they used them to build a bug hotel.

And we ended up with this. There are still lots of spaces to put stuff in.  This took care of a lot of bamboo stalks we had bundled and standing around thinking they have to be good for something. It'll also be a good place to shove those small bamboo twigs and starts that come up under the deck.  We used a lot of pecan trigs that I had gathered for kindling, but since we are in a burn ban, those have really accumulated. We added bits of interest, like the red railroad lantern and an old broken Roy Rogers toy lantern, a rusted half Texas truck 1950 license plate. Old glass drink bottles laying down fit perfectly. So did some glass electric insulators. Bricks with holes make good hiding places.  So does a piece of rolled up turf.  The deer horns on top will provide calcium for the squirrels.  As they chew, they'll drop bits that the birds will enjoy.  I intend to put a water source near by.

Some more interesting bits of information from the workshop.  Purple Martins don't eat mosquitoes -- at least not very many.  Martins feed during the day, mosquitoes come out at night.  Bats are our best natural mosquito controllers. So instead of buying Purple Martin houses, invest in bat houses! Wild Birds Unlimited has some awesome ones. They looked kind of complicated to DIY.

Did you know that the main pollinators of strawberries, onions and carrots are flies? Yep That kinda grossed me out, but there are many different species of flies, too, other than horse flies and house flies.

Hummingbirds are the primary pollinators of wildflowers.

There is also a mammal pollinator, the mouse lemur of Madagascar.

As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop.  Thanks to River Bend Nature Center for hosting the seminar, and to Penny Miller for all the interesting information. And thanks to Andy Pruett and Deidre for always being willing to help.

Check out all the neat bee and bug hotels here http://www.inspirationgreen.com/insect-habitats.html
They have an awesome green website!