Joe-Pye Weed can grow to great heights and is a favorite of butterflies and other pollinators.
Carol Lampe shared these pictures and write up of her wondrous yard and the pollinator action on Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum). This is a particularly valuable fast food stop for migrating butterflies as it lasts into autumn. We have found it a bit difficult to start and then it takes off! Give it plenty of space and enjoy the butterflies.
“Here is a butterfly twofer from my flower bed. In the forefront you can see the female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) sitting on a Joe-Pye Weed. There were several Swallowtails out there that day.
“Joe-Pye Weed is an herb and the butterflies really seem to like it. Native Americans, and later, white settlers, made much use of Joe-Pye Weed. Teas of the roots or tops were used as a diuretic, as well as for rheumatism, gout, fevers, diarrhea, respiratory disorders, and even impotence. Modern science has not confirmed their efficacy.
Sipping nectar on Joe-Pye Weed.
“Tucked toward the back is a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). The males are territorial and many times can be found in the same location day to day.”
Thanks, Carol, for sharing your wondrous yard with Winding Pathways.
Here is a story fro Gordon and Nancy Bena about their interest in Monarchs, their chrysalis find and how they began to tend their property differently to encourage insects.
Adult butterflies need nectar to sip and plants to rest on.
“We went to the presentation given at the library that told us the fate of the Monarch. With that we were very careful not to mow down any Milkweed plant that we saw in the yard. We also planted Butterfly Weed and I did not mow any of the clover down this year.
“This particular plant where we found the chrysalis was kind of blown over from one of the wind storms and we put a tomato cage around it to hold it up so the caterpillars would have something to munch on. When I went down to get the mail the other day, I stopped to check that the plant was still standing. This is when I found the chrysalis. I went around to the other plants but I’m afraid that this is the only success story I found so far.”
Thanks, Gordon and Nancy!
Yellow Jackets often create a nest in the ground under bark.
As Marion was looking out the window recently she saw Rich abandon the lawn mower and race across the yard swatting and jumping as he ran. What was going on?
He’d pushed the mower up close to wood mulch around a tree and disturbed a Yellow Jacket nest. They boiled out of their underground home and attacked. Rich was stung five times as they chased him across the yard.
Many people have unpleasant encounters with this aggressive insect every year, especially in late summer. Their stings are painful and it’s a rare and fortunate person who only gets stung once. Multiple stings are normal. First, get away from the nest and alert everyone else around about the nest. Then, put ice on the stings to keep swelling down. Watch for and treat more serious allergic reactions.
The life history of Yellow Jackets is interesting. Many species live in the United States. Some, like the German yellow jacket, are exotic while others are native. Most have the familiar yellow and black pattern, although a few species may be black and white. Only the queen overwinters, and in spring she makes a nest that’s usually underground but can be found in other locations. She’s an egg laying machine. By late summer the colony can have thousands of members.
This insect is generally beneficial. Adults eat a wide array of fruits, meat, sweets and insects but normally they feed their larvae insect parts. Although they consume pesky insects, they often forage in trash cans and they love picnics. A definite problem because there is nothing beneficial about being stung many times. The experience can be traumatic to a child.
Yellow jackets don’t go out of their way to sting, but they do readily attack anything they believe threatens their home. Generally they won’t attack a person walking quietly in the area. But anyone who disturbs the leaves or sticks near their entry hole will be chased by dozens of yellow jackets as they boil out of their nest and attack.
If the nest is in a place with much human traffic, it is prudent to destroy it. That requires pinpointing the entry. To find it, carefully approach the area where the nest is suspected. Look for a small hole, often under a piece of wood, with insects coming and going. Avoid making noise or disturbing leaves, mulch, or wood. A pair of close focusing binoculars can aid in the search. Once the entry is located follow these steps:
- Wait until after dark when all insects are down in the nest.
- Approach the entry hole with a flashlight, a spray can of wasp killer, and a piece of carpet.
- Spray the poison down the hole and cover it with the carpet to keep fumes and insects inside.
Remember to only destroy a nest if the insects pose a stinging threat. Otherwise leave it alone for these beneficial, although cranky insects to live.
A side note is that several colleges and universities like Georgia Tech and Black Hills State University sport the Yellow Jackets as their mascot. Appropriate Buzz and Sting!
Soft and fragrant underfoot, clovers naturally fix nitrogen in our lawns.
A man whom Rich hadn’t seen for years recently approached him in a parking lot. “You once wrote a newspaper column suggesting that people not spray their yards for insects or weeds. We took your advice and magic happened,” he said.
He explained that a couple of years after he stopped spraying, white clover appeared in the yard and fireflies graced the evening darkness. “We’re enjoying both,” he added.
A major problem with poison sprays is that they aren’t usually selective. Often people spray to rid their lawn of grubs without realizing they also are killing fireflies, pollinators, and a host of other interesting and beneficial insects and the animals that dine on them. If you poison dandelions, you also kill clover that fixes nitrogen naturally and a wide range of other flowering plants that add diversity to the lawn and buffer it from unusual growing conditions.
What child has not delighted in chasing fireflies on a warm summer evening and, perhaps, catching a few to watch light up the inside of a glass jar? In fact, an adult friend who grew up on the eastern plains of Colorado was enchanted with them when she visited Iowa one summer. Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are common across much of the Eastern United States. Some blink yellow while others green, but whichever color they blink it is probably an effort to seek a mate. Some firefly species live in the West, they just don’t glow! The larvae, sometimes called glow worms often live in rotting wood where they seek insect prey.
To enjoy an evening firefly display leave edges and corners of your yards unmowed. Perhaps position some wood there to gradually rot and provide homes for their larvae. Certainly avoid insecticide spray!
Many species of clover are common across much of North America but the one most often found in unsprayed yards is the White Clover. It can be planted but usually just avoiding herbicides for a few years will encourage it to move in on its own. Clover blooms provide wonderful pollinator food while sprinkling a lawn with attractive white flowers. The plant is a legume, meaning that it is able to fix nitrogen and improve soil health – naturally! Why anyone would want to kill such a valuable and beautiful plant is beyond us.
Sometimes the very best lawn and yard management is simply leaving it alone. Stop spraying and the result is likely…….beauty.
We are proud of and fortunate that our yard is home to a wide array of fascinating plants and wildlife.
Only a good friend would know that we want pictures of creepy crawlies and save them for us for our blog!
But, last year Rich encountered a wild animal that he wishes he’d avoided. A deer tick found and bit him, although he never saw the tiny eight legged creature. A classic symptom of Lyme Disease is a red rash shaped like a bull’s eye. But Rich never had one. Instead he became overwhelmed with lethargy.
“I never felt sick, just tired, and kept thinking I’d be fine in a day or two,” he said.
But the fatigue dragged on for months, so he called our family physician who urged him to come right in. She gave him a thorough check over, and prescribed a chest X Ray and a Lyme Disease blood test.
Rich did both that afternoon. Within hours the doctor called to say the X ray revealed pneumonia and prescribed an antibiotic. Four days later the Lyme test came back positive and she prescribed a 21 day regime of amoxicillin, a different antibiotic.
“In just a few days the medicine worked and I felt better. Within a month the fatigue evaporated and the only lingering symptom was mild knee pain that may or may not have been caused by Lyme. I’m 66 and have a bit of osteo arthritis,” he said.
Rich was lucky. A year after the Lyme diagnosis he’s doing fine. Fortunately, his doctor prescribed the correct tests and medication and caught the disease early. Many people are less fortunate and suffer long term pain, fatigue and other symptoms.
Ticks measured against eighth inch markings.
Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick, a tiny eight legged animal that is increasingly common. Ticks live in tall grass and brushy areas, and our yard at Winding Pathways has both. We walk through other places where a tick could have found Rich. Ticks usually crawl around on a person for several hours before digging through the skin and feeding on blood. A wandering tick that has not penetrated the skin cannot transmit disease. Pluck it off and flush it down the toilet or drop it into soapy water.
It’s easy to be scared by negative publicity about Lyme Disease and stay inside. While the disease is serious and is not to be taken lightly, advice to avoid brushy and grassy places must be put into context. These places are beautiful and are homes to interesting wildlife and plants. They are places to get exercise. Even after contracting Lyme we spend part of our time in tick habitat, but we are cautious.
Gaiters fit snugly over boots and pants to deter ticks.
Here’s what we now do:
- Spray our clothes, ankles, and wrists with insect repellent containing DEET.
- When outside for a while we don special tick resistant gaiters (sometimes called spats) that make it hard for a tick to get under pants legs. We bought them from Forestry Suppliers for $13.
Permethrin-based spray can be bought at most stores that sell insect repellent.
We spray the gaiters with special repellent containing Permethrin that both repels and kills ticks Apply this to clothing, not skin. It is effective for at least two weeks so we don’t launder the gaiters but reapply the spray a couple of times a month.
- Change and launder clothes and shower when we’re done outside. Tiny deer ticks are tough to spot, but we do a body tick check as part of showering.
- Pay attention to our bodies. If we spot a dug-in tick or bulls-eye rash or experience lethargy or joint pain we’ll get to our doctor right away. No procrastination.
Rich emerged from Lyme Disease cautious and smarter but not afraid of being outside in beautiful and interesting places.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Internet has great information on ticks and Lyme Disease.
Two of our favorite information sites are:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
WebMD type in the search bar Lyme Disease.
We ordered our tick and chigger gaiters from Forestry Suppliers.
Permethrin based spray can usually be purchased in stores that sell insect repellent. Be sure to read the label.
Bees forage on many plants. Create pollinator pockets to help them out. Then harvest the honey from your hives.
Interest in beekeeping is heading toward the stratosphere. Although the number of bee colonies may be declining more and more are showing up in suburban and urban yards.
We kept bees for years and enjoyed watching them visit garden flowers. Their honey was delicious. We didn’t stop beekeeping from lack of interest. It simply became a time priority. Bee colonies need attention in May and June, just when we like to wander off camping, go fishing, canoe the river, or work in our garden. Something had to go, and for us it was the bees. But, we still miss them and beekeeping may be your perfect hobby.
Here are beekeeping aspects to consider
- It is fascinating. Tend a hive and you may kindle a lifelong hobby.
- It’s complex. Keeping bees requires knowledge, time and strength. Having a mentor is the best way to learn, but many organizations now sponsor classes, and books, websites, and YouTube videos abound to help with the learning curve. University of Minnesota’s Extension Office has an excellent site on beekeeping basics.
- It can be costly. You’ll need hives, coveralls, veils, smokers, hive tools, a honey extractor and bees. Bees and equipment can be mail ordered and some stores sell them.
- Honey is heavy. Plan on hefty lifting.
- With the relatively recent arrival of several new parasites, diseases, and the still somewhat mysterious colony collapse syndrome, it’s getting harder to keep colonies alive and productive. Colony death is common.
- Home produced honey is delicious.
- Bees are outstanding pollinators and may make a garden more productive.
- Beekeeping is not allowed in some towns. Check local ordinances before jumping in.
A great way to start a bee hobby is to find an established beekeeper and volunteer to help. Working with a mentor is an opportunity to decide whether beekeeping is for you before investing in equipment and bees.
An Internet search will help locate a beekeeping class in your area. Simply type “beekeeping class in (your state)” into the search engine and chances are good you’ll find a class nearby. YouTube Videos aren’t as hands on as taking a class or working with a mentor but they are helpful. One of our favorites is a 25 part series on YouTube done by Dr. Keith Delaplane of the University of Georgia. We found it at FarmUS12 on YouTube.