Tag: nature

Lightning Bugs or Fireflies ~ Lampyridae Species

lightning bug up closeFireflies produce cold light, meaning there is no heat produced as a by-product. Fireflies generate light by mixing a chemical (luciferin) with an enzyme (luciferase) and oxygen. Fireflies produce their light by controlling the oxygen supply to the light organs that contain the chemical reaction.  Fireflies use their light to attract each other, which is rare, as most insects use scent instead of sight.

As I again, feel like these little cuties are known the world round, I will launch into some fun stuff, like some Japanese folklore as to where they came from:

Once upon a time, a woodman and his wife lived on the edge of a beautiful forest beneath Mount Fujiyama in Japan. They had a cozy, little house and a beautiful garden, however they were not happy, because they wished for a child. One moonlit night, the wife slipped out of the house and laid herself down before the great mountain with its shining snowcap. She begged for Fujiyama to send her and her husband a child.
As she prayed, a tiny light appeared high upon the mountain and began to drift down toward the woman. When the light reached the branches of the bamboo, it stopped. The woman was overjoyed when she found it was a Moonchild, sent by the Lady in the Moon herself. She took the child home and her husband was overjoyed as well.
The Moonchild grew into a beautiful young lady, a Moon Princess, and was beloved by all who saw her. When the Emperor’s son saw her, he asked for her hand in marriage. However, she refused, saying that her mother, the Moon Lady, had bidden her to return home when she reached the age of twenty.
When the night came for her to leave, the woodman, his wife and the Emperor’s son were all there to say goodbye, and they were inconsolable. The Lady in the Moon sent down a silver moonbeam for her daughter, and the Princess floated up upon it. As she floated, the Princess cried silver tears for those she left behind. As they fell, they took wing and flew all over the land.
The Moon Princess’ tears can still be seen on moonlit nights. Some call them fireflies, but those who know the legend know that they are the Princess’ tears, searching for those she loved on Earth and had to leave behind.

This is a great video segment about the Fireflies in Tennessee, they are very unique.


© The Naturarian

Who’s Camping in my Tree? Eastern Tent Caterpillars

eastern tent catipillars in webbing like tentThese guys are often confused with fall webworms, and bag worms, although all three are quite different. Eastern Tent Caterpillars (ETC) nests are active early in the season while webworms are active late season. ETC like to make their tent nests in the forks of branches, while webworm nests are located at the tips of branches. Fall webworms also enclose foliage or leaves within these nests. Tent caterpillars do not. Bag worms are single worm homes made of the foliage from the tree it has decided to call home. They mostly evergreens like junipers or arborvitae. I like to remember the difference like this… A bag can hold one, but a tent can hold many.

eastern tent catipillars in webbing like tentETC like wild cherry, other ornamental fruit trees, ash, willow and maple trees. They tend to make their tents on the eastern side of the canopy to take advantage of the early sunlight to warm them and start their digestive systems. After a about five instar, they fall from the tent, make a cocoon and after two weeks, the moth emerges. Mating occurs and the female deposits her eggs on the tree bark. Soon the eggs change into larvae, without leaving the egg and overwinter this way. In the spring, they emerge from the egg.tent catapillar netting

Other than their webs making trees appear unsightly, ETC rarely cause major problems unless their numbers become high. They are easy to control by waiting until nightfall, when they tend to go back to the tent and pruning the branch off. It can be disposed of via the garbage or campfire. If pruning is not an option, maybe these are:

  • Scrape off, discard overwintering egg masses.
  • Tear the protective tents out by hand before the larvae start to feed.
  • Control caterpillar movement and restrict access to feeding areas with Sticky Tree Bands or Tanglefoot Pest Barrier.
  • Apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt-k) or Monterey Garden Insect Spray (Spinosad) to the leaves to kill feeding caterpillars.
  • If necessary, spot treat with plant-derived insecticides as a last resort. Spray must penetrate silken tents for effective control.

© The Naturarain

Four Letter Words For the Four-Lined Plant Bug (Poecilocapus lineatus)

four line plant bugs eating a leafThe four-lined plant bug (Poecilocapus lineatus) removes plant’s chlorophyll via their piercing-sucking mouthparts. They also secrete a toxin in their saliva that digests the components responsible for holding the plant cells together that leaves a hole in the plant’s epidermis. This feeding produces white, dark, or translucent spots the plant’s leaves, which can run together forming large blotches. Leaves can turn brown, curl-up and ultimately fall off. If feeding occurs on new growth, wilting may result.4 lines plant bug

Damage that the four-lined plant bug inflicts can be misidentified as a fungal disease spots because of the similar appearance and timing. Many times the bug isn’t seen during scouting, as when they are disturbed, the four-lined plant bug will drop to the ground or will hide on the other side of the stem. These are the same tactics asparagus beetles employ.

How to mitigate the damage:

These bugs do like a wide variety of plants, so be aware that the damage may look just a bit different on different plants. Unless the attacked plant is very small or having the new growth chewed, most plants will pull though with some damage. Scout the damaged plant at different times of the day. Sometimes bugs don’t wake up early in the morning!

four line plant bug damage

Have a cup of soapy water ready for when you do see one. They are easy to catch, place cup below them, wave your hand near them and they will cannonball into the soap water. No squishing required. Neem oil can also be used for bad cases.

During the fall, the banana shaped eggs are placed at right angles in vertical slits along the plant’s stem. The eggs will over winter and hatch in May to late-June. Therefore, removing the dead plant material at the end of the season will lower next season’s attacks.

© The Naturarian

Does My Elm Have Dutch Elm Disease?

A fungus called Ophiostoma ulmi that was introduced to the U.S. in the early 1930’s causes Dutch Elm Disease (DED). The American elm (Ulmus americana) is highly vulnerable and the disease has killed hundreds of thousands of elms across North America. All native elms are susceptible, as are European elms. However, the Asiatic elms, (U. parvifoli) and Siberian elm (U. pumila) are highly resistant to the disease.

The DED fungus is spread by two insect vectors: the native elm bark beetle (Hylurgopinus rufipes) and the European elm bark beetle (Scolytus multistriatus). The fungus is transported on the beetles from infected trees to healthy trees as they feed on twigs and upper branches. The beetles lay their eggs in the bark and wood of stressed trees along with elm firewood with the bark left on. Developing larvae form channels just under the bark and the fungus grows through the galleries until it reaches the tree’s water conducting cells, or xylem. Chemicals manufactured by the tree during its effort to fight the disease plug up the xylem, causing the tree to wilt.  In the Midwest, beetles typically have two generations per year.

DED is also transmitted through root grafts. A root graft happens when the roots of two trees intermingle and touch. Root grafts between trees are especially widespread in cramped urban street trees. Driveways and sidewalks are usually not effective in blocking root grafts, however, the disease usually does not spread in this manner beneath roads because road foundations are much deeper.

DIAGNOSIS:

elm branch showing the effects of dutch elm disease

During the early summer is when effected trees are the easiest to identify. Leaves on the upper branches will curl and turn a gray-green or yellow and finally, crunchy brown. This symptom is called “flagging”, although a flag alone is not complete assurance that the tree has DED. Another symptom is brown streaks in the sapwood beneath the bark of affected branches, which is the blocked xylem. However, only laboratory isolation and identification can positively confirm that the tree has DED. Check with your local extension or State University, usually they will perform this test for a nominal fee. Most arborists find these two symptoms are enough evidence to treat or remove an elm.

There are two other diseases that may look like DED, Elm Yellows and Bacterial Leaf Scorch. Below is a symptom checker:

Dutch Elm Disease Bacterial Leaf Scorch Elm Yellows
Caused by fungus Caused by bacteria Caused by phytoplasma
Affects individual branches first. Affects lower crown nearest root graft. Damage initially observed on single branches, and spreads to entire crown; oldest leaves affected first. Affects the entire crown at the same time.
Leaves wilt and turn yellow, then brown. Leaves brown along margin, with a yellow halo. Leaves turn yellow and may drop prematurely.
Symptoms often observed in early summer, however, could be anytime during the season. Symptoms appear in summer and early fall. Symptoms visible from July to September.
Brown streaking in sapwood. No discoloration in sapwood. No discoloration in sapwood.
No discoloration in inner bark. No discoloration of inner bark. Tan discoloration of inner bark.
No wintergreen odor. No wintergreen odor. Wintergreen odor in inner bark.

 

MANAGEMENT:

Elm tree with dutch elm disease

  • Branches infected with DED should be removed the same year the infection started. All infected branches should be pruned at least 5 feet, preferably 10 feet, below the last sign of streaking in the sapwood. Dip pruners often (best after each cut) in a solution of 10% bleach to prevent spreading the disease. Be sure to remove infected branches before the disease has moved into the main stem of the tree.
  • Trees with many branches infected with DED should be removed. There is no cure. The best thing to do to stop the spread of the disease is to promptly remove the tree.
  • Wood from DED infected elm trees need to be buried, burned, debarked, or chipped. When chipping and composting, temperatures must attain at least 120F. Cut logs from diseased trees should not be stored for firewood unless it has been debarked and there is no evidence of beetles.
  • Neighboring elm roots need to be severed with a vibratory plow or trencher before the infected tree is removed in order to prevent the movement through root graphs.
  • Choose cultivars that are resistant to Dutch elm disease. ‘Frontier’, ‘Homestead’, and ‘Valley Forge’ are a few that are offered in my area, but there are many more.
  • Healthy elms can be treated with a preventative fungicide injection to protect trees from infection by beetle feeding. Although, fungicide injections are not effective in averting infection through root grafts. Injections can only be done by a trained arborist and depending on the chosen fungicide, must be repeated on a 1-3 year cycle.
  • The consensus on treating the beetles with insecticide is not to. Contact insecticides require repeated applications during the growing season that may kill beneficial or harmless insects. Sanitation is by far the best way to control beetle populations.

Sadly, this is a prime example of what happens when we plant a monoculture of trees. Diversity is where it’s at!!

© The Naturarian

Salvias – Sage

These are very versatile plants. Members of the mint family, thus the interesting square stems. These have a long blooming time of May through October in shades of purple and pink. Salvia love sun and are fairly drought tolerant after about a year of establishment. The do like drained soils, so no wet sites. Mints tend to be deer resistant, for those who share their space with these guys. If cut back after flowering, a second flush of blooms will follow. Sweet!

salvia plant called sage

From Left to Right:

‘Marcus’ – short, compact plant with deep purple flowers ‘Sensation Rose’ – very short, dark rose florets with dark stems ‘Eveline’ – tall type with large, light pink florets, ‘Blue Hill’ – clear, lilac blue

salvia plant

From left to Right:

‘East Friesland’ – Stiff, upright wands of purple ‘May Night’ – Freer-form purple ‘Caradonna’ – Tall, stiff, darkest purple stems that stay showy even after blooming.

© The Naturarian

Happy Birthday Rachel Carson – Author of ‘Silent Spring’

Rachel Louise Carson, author of “Silent Spring” (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania and credits her mother for instilling her with a love for nature. In 1932, after many hard personal life problems, she graduated with a master’s degree in zoology. She taught for a few years, then in 1935, she obtained a part-time position with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries as a writer of the radio show, “Romance Under the Waters”. After being the first woman to take and pass the civil service test, she was promoted to full time with a title of junior aquatic biologist.

Her writing career started in 1951 with, “The Sea Around Us”. Followed by other books titled, ”The Edge of the Sea” & “Under the Sea Wind”. She wrote multitudes of articles on topics from pesticides to ecosystems. In 1958, her work started on the famous, “Silent Spring”, which basically implied if we continue with the pesticide use (DDT), it would cause the death of songbirds, hence no singing = silence. The book was released on September 27th, 1962 with much controversy.

In 1960, after some other health ailments, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This caused the delay in the publication of “Silent Spring”. After the book was released, many critics downed the book as being inconsistent & that research was not backed. This didn’t stop the government from banning DDT shortly after it’s release though. The pesticide industry took great measures to discredit her. Carson responded to these attacks by speaking to organizations, testifying at Congressional hearings, appearing on television, and conferring with President Kennedy and his Science Advisory Committee. In letters, she continued to defend her life’s work and urge that man use restraint and knowledge in his treatment of the environment.

Rachel Carson also started many influential, grassroots environmental movements, giving the start of the Environmental Protection Agency. She won many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her research was the vehicle for the banning of DDT worldwide, though again, is still debated today.

She died of breast cancer at the age of 56. Way too young for such a defender of the universe!!

© The Naturarian

 

Four-Spotted Sap Beetle ~ Glischrochilus quadrisignatus

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!! If you’re enjoying your libations during the weekend and notice you’re not drinking alone anymore… This guy may be your buddy!

Four-Spotted Sap Beetle (or picnic beetles, picnic bugs, or beer bugs) feed on sap from injured trees, decaying vegetables or fungal matter. They love ripened fruit, as well as beer, wine, fruit juice and fermented beverages. The beetles like to party in large numbers wblack sap beetlehen these beverages are present, often drowning while enjoying their libation. Then I get to enjoy protein in my wine =-P

They can be a nuisance to farmers, however they don’t generally bother crops until something else causes the crop to be damaged in some way. Once damage is done, like Japanese beetles nibbling on tomatoes do they come from miles around. They aren’t strong fliers, however scientists have tested marked beetles by placing a basket of rotten tomatoes 200 yards away, and the beetles found the prize in less than two hours.

Researchers have also found that their favorite food is beer mixed with bananas. Hmmm, I do peanut butter and bananas.. However, I wouldn’t think to down my meal with beer, yuk.

© The Naturarian

American Robins (Turdus migratorius) Nesting Outside My Door

robins nest in my flower pot attached to houseRobins are the largest North American thrushes. They are named after the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), however they aren’t in the same family.

Females have paler heads with a grayer back than the male.robin's nest with blue eggs

Robins are not cavity nesters and prefer to nest in evergreens and eaves. They also like to nest near humans. In the below photo, that is our main entrance in the background, with our driveway/parking to the right.

Robins build their nests with long coarse grass, twigs, paper, feathers and is fastened with mud. The inside is softened with grass or other materials. An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year.

I left a pot on the side of my house and Ms. Robin took advantage of the situation.

baby bird robins in nestRobins eat different types of food depending on the time of day: earthworms in the morning and fruit later in the day. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is susceptible to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution.Baby robins in nest

There were five bundles of joy in her nest.

Robins are among the first birds to sing at dawn. This possibly relates the saying, “The early bird gets the worm”.

Robin bird trying to be scary
Mom sometimes thought we were getting too close to the nest. INCOMING!!

The Robin uses sound, smell and possibly feels its prey moving in the ground with its feet, however vision is the major method of prey detection. In addition to hunting visually, it also has the ability to hunt by hearing. Experiments have discovered that Robins can find worms underground by simply using its listening skills. So all the cute running, stopping, hopping, and cocking of the head is how a Robin find its breakfast.

mom robin sitting on nestRobin roosts can be huge, sometimes including a 250,000 birds during winter. In summer, the females sleep in their nests and males gather at roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males. Female adults join the roosts only after they have finished nesting. These guys left one by one, until there were none!

© The Naturarian

 

Epic Fail in My Landscape

dead shrubsIn 2017, I designed and installed a whole new front foundation bed. It took almost a year for me to even design it, as I wanted to find the most obscure plants for my garden. No ordinary plants for me!!

I noticed a new plant being offered at a few nurseries of mine called First Editions® Amber Jubilee® Ninebark or it’s original name, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’. Basically, Monrovia bought the rights to ‘Jefam’ and changed it’s name to patent it.

Common Ninebark’s are native here, so I didn’t question the hardiness of this shrub. I thought it’s orange leaves in this variety would be a wonderful addition to my landscape.

Sadly, this spring they barely leafed out. All five shrubs are toast. At $45 a pop at wholesale, that was a hit to my pocketbook. Hubby will be doing me the pleasure of removing them. I’ve decided large perennials would be a better choice for this location. We will be painting the house next spring and they will be safe underground opposed to these shrubs next to the house. The replacement cost is five times lower, also.

So, what happened here!?!

Well. Here are a few thoughts that ran through my mind:

  • They were planted at the correct depth, mulched and watered correctly.
  • They were planted in the correct exposure, 6 hours of sun.
  • There wasn’t an herbicide accident or outside force that took them out.
  • No animal damage.
  • Yes, sometimes things just die.

As a horticulturist, I do take this personally. I don’t understand how something can just die on my watch! I do know there are forces in nature that we as humans can’t understand yet. I get it.

The thing I did find interesting is that these plants started being advertised by Monrovia in 2014. I’m not sure how long the original ‘Jefam’ had been around. In 2017, nurseries were full of them. This year, they aren’t listed in any of the inventories. This tells me that the plant wasn’t popular or didn’t over-winter well at the nurseries. If a nursery can’t keep a plant alive, who could?

In the end, I figured my story would make non-professional gardeners feel better. Things do die in the landscape, even under the watchful eye of an educated horticulturist.

PS – I wrote this post before I ripped them out of the landscape and didn’t want to do a whole rewrite…

There is another possibility/reason they croaked. Their root systems were very week and undeveloped, a nursery management issue. Nurseries sell by pot size and actual size. Most likely the nursery had many orders for these and sold them sooner than they should have from a recent upsize in pot. Immature plants with under-developed root systems survive just fine under drip irrigation and climate control. Once out in the real world (like kids after college), they don’t realize how tough the real world is. These ripped out of the ground with little effort, as the rootball was only he size of a softball. It should have been the size of a basketball, at least.

© The Naturarian