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Gardening For Wildlife, #020 Nature provides
June 11, 2007
It's me again.
A correction from last week's letter.
I messed up on Lorraine's web site.
Good Ole Lake Michigan tore them apart before they could reach here once again.
We managed a small amount of rain, but that was it.
Birds are every where right now.
I get a kick out of watching the fledglings begging to be fed, don't you?
Recent walks by the pond have chased away the Great blue heron a couple of times.
Then there was the time the Green heron startled me as much as I did it.
I didn't see it at first, but the loud squawk it made as it took off sure made me jump.
Herons do not look graceful at all in flight, but the manage quite well.
So far the hummer action is better than normal.
If you are like me, you stop to watch these little marvels.
The Red breasted grosbeaks are sticking around and I've seen several Cedar waxwings as well.
Usually I don't see these birds this time of year.
The honey do list is shrinking :-)
Washing and staining the deck is a major chore.
It almost made me glad to go to work so I could rest some.
Most of the planting is done, now I will play around and move some things through out the season.
Several things I couldn't do last year.
Akita is getting more aggressive with the cats.
Lorna and Bobbi Sue have become her play mates, or Keet has become their tormentor since Pookie passed away.
Keet even attacks the news paper with a vengeance now days.
So much energy and no Putta to pick on.
Karen and I are sort of keeping our eyes open for another pup.
Still, we aren't ready.
It's that time of year for the biting flies, skeeters and other insects.
I discovered last year that a mixture of rubbing alcohol and pure mint oil keeps these pests at bay.
I mixed 2 ounces of pure mint (from a health food store) with 14 ounces of rubbing alcohol.
I was using this to spray for wasps, but discovered when I rubbed it on me, that all other biting insects stayed away too.
It works well for me.
I smell good and no harsh chemicals found in other sprays.
The alcohol evaporates to nothing and the mint stays.
Increase the formula to 25% mint and this kills off wasps in the bird house, there nest and drops them like a rock.
Because birds have a poor sense of smell and mint is a food item there is no harm. The alcohol evaporates and leaves no trace for man nor beast.
Use mints when you are on a picnic to keep the wasps and yellow jackets away.
A drop or two of pure mint helps keep the bees away from hummer feeders and again, it wont harm the hummers.
Pure mint is powerful stuff, so be careful with it.
Mint is but one of "Nature's" own remedies.
Most of you have seen aphids on your plants at one time or another
These small soft bodied, green to yellow to black, insects usually come in colonies of 10 or more and appear on new leaf and bud growth.
One thing you can be certain of is that there is a kind of aphid capable of feeding on every plant you have.
Aphids have the advantage of bearing live young, which is rare in the insect world.
This helps them to reproduce very quickly.
Some aphids become pregnant without help and can remain pregnant during hibernation.
This allows them to flourish and populations can build up almost like magic.
Fortunately there are natural enemies for aphids.
Parasitic wasps that lay eggs inside of aphids.
Lady bugs, lacewings, damsel bugs and a host of others feed on aphids.
These predators are so effective, that under normal conditions we may not see aphids at all.
When we see aphid problems on plants, it is usually because an insecticide was applied for some other pest.
This causes a secondary outbreak in aphids weeks or months later.
Long-term management for aphids is simple.
Avoid using broad spectrum insecticides like pyrethroids, carbomates or organicphosphate insecticides.
This allows natural enemies to return and keep the insects under control.
Restoring the natural order of things can take a year or longer, but is well worth it for our gardens and environments.
General insecticides can't determine what is good or bad.
They kill off pollinators, butterflies and their larvae and other beneficial insects.
Pesticides get on and in our birds.
This can make your birds sick or kill them.
Without insects, some birds will go else where to feed.
Plants and insects have lived together since the beginning and will continue to do so if we don't mess things up.
Does it really matter if you have a hole in your plant leafs?
Some controls for aphids can be pinching the leafs together,
A shot with the hose can wash them off.
Safe insect soaps are on the market or make your own.
"Nature" had things in control, lets make sure it continues.
Yes, I know.
In some cases insecticides are needed.
Invasions of locust or another pests require help.
With non native invasive insects like Japanese beetles and Emerald Ash Borer, we need help to combat them.
But, these are cases where there isn't a natural enemy and they are taking over.
There is a time and there is foolishness.
There are bug free yards, but these yards lack other wildlife.
I want my birds, butterflies, dragonflies and toads.
I want a wildlife garden, not a show piece.
The wildlife is my show piece.
I enjoy the robins, cardinals, wrens and other insect eating birds.
I like to watch the butterflies.
When I come across a toad, I know I'm doing something right.
I think we need them as much if not more than they need us in most cases.
Native plants can endure hardships better than non natives.
Where's my orange crate?
It's time to fly for now.
As always, Smile and smile pretty.
Smile at a stranger, you may confuse them.
Fathers day is fast approaching and if I have time I will do a small tribute to dads.
Until then, you may be considering a new bird feeder for dad or yourself.
Until next time,
"Treat the earth well:
It was not given to you by your parents,
It was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our
Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."
Ancient Indian Proverb
Your friend indeed,
PS. If you enjoyed this letter, please forward it to friends, family and co-workers.
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