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Gardening For Wildlife, #26 rain, gardens and a good insect
August 13, 2007

The days continue to shrink and the humidity seems to increase.

August has been one warm month this year.

Some good news though.

No I didn't save a bundle,

We actually had some rain this past week.

About 1/2 inch one time and another inch early Sunday morning.

I'm really pumped about that.

I know, it's to little to late for many of the farmers around here.

Wildflowers, trees and shrubs that offer food for birds and other wildlife suffered dearly around here this summer because of drought conditions.

Yes, pickings will be slim this fall and winter for some wildlife.

Many of you may be dealing with animals coming into your gardens to graze.

I mean more than usual.

With a lack of natural food, animals become more daring or brazen.

Your greens look pretty good to a hungry deer.

Not to mention shrinking habitats.

You must remember, they were here first and we are taking their livelihood away from them.

Here is a scary thought.

In the United States alone..........................

365 acres an hour of woodlands, prairies and old farms are destroyed and converted into subdivisions, malls and industry.

Yes, I said in one hour.

There are 640 acres in a square mile.

You do the math.

So where is wildlife to go and what is it to do to survive?

In some instances, it becomes extinct locally.

Maybe altogether.

Birds that were once common for me, I haven't seen locally in decades.

Eastern meadowlarks, Redheaded woodpeckers and Bobwhite quail come to mind.

You may be experiencing something similar.

Though birds are wild and in most cases still prefer to feed in the wild, it is clear..........

For some species to survive.......

They will need our continuing help.

Not just for food, but for places to nest and habitats to raise a family.

I get excited when I hear about your efforts and read how you provide habitats for wildlife.

That is what Gardening For Wildlife is all about.

Yes, we do get great pleasure from our efforts as well.

You know, you can't help but feel good when you do something good for others or in this case, nature.

The young hawks are still surviving,

What beautiful birds they are.

The yard is a buzz with hummers now.

The feeders aren't the place of action, it is all the flowers.

Monarda is winding down, yet there is the red salvia, canna, hibiscus, snap dragons, butterfly bush and new to my yard this year is the Black and Blue salvia.

Black and Blue is a striking plant hardy to zone 7/8 and can grow to 4 or 5 feet tall.

The hummers love the nectar rich blue/purple colored trumpet shaped flowers.

A bonus..............

Black and blue like many salvia and sage is critter resistant.

I have them planted with my Helianthus ( a perennial sunflower, depending on the variety is hardy to Zone 3).

The contrast of blue and yellow is striking in any garden.

The Helianthus offers nectar for butterflies and later will provide the goldfinches with seed.

Hummers will hover to glean tiny insects from the flowers too.

Don't ya just love it when a plant is multi-purpose?

Last week I touched on wasps.

I mentioned a bit on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This week in "Gardening For Wildlife" I will touch on one of the good guys from the insect world.

The "Hover fly"

Also called the flower fly by some.

Yes, they are true members of the diptera or fly family.

More than 6,000 species of Hover fly have been identified world wide.

More than 900 species in North America and at least 60 in the United Kingdom.

Okay Ron, enough already.

What is a hover fly and why do I want them in my yard and gardens?

I'm glad you asked.

Hover flies serve double duty.

Adult flies are pollinators.

Flying in and out of or flower beds and veggie gardens.

To the uninformed or the untrained eye, many species of hover flies resemble wasps and bees in appearance.

A couple of sure ways to really know if it is a wasp/bee or a totally harmless hover fly is to observe.

Like most flies, hover flies have those huge eyes.

However, the real give away is the flight of a hover fly.

Yes indeed, hover flies do indeed hover.

Like our hummingbirds, hover flies can move up and down, front and back.

They hover, move side to side and do it on right now.

Hover flies are unique as their wings operate much like a hummer.

While wasps/bees and many other insects have two sets of wings. hover flies operate with a single set of wings.

Nature has provided several species of hover fly to look and act like a wasp or bee.

Many have similar colors and markings.

Some mimic a bee's actions and movements.

Even to the point of pretending to sting.

Hover flies lack extended antennae so some flies will extend their front legs to look like antennae.

Isn't "Nature" marvelous?

Hover flies or flower flies earn their weight in gold in the larval state.

Many hover fly larvae spend time under water eating decaying plant material or hanging out on the floor of your gardens doing the same.

Some hover fly larvae are ravenous feeders on garden insects like thrips, aphids and other insects that suck the life out of your plants.

They also attack the larvae of other insects as well.

Yes, larvae or maggots of the hover fly are on the front lines of biological warfare in your gardens.

Hover fly larvae eat more aphids than our beloved lady beetle.

More and more research is happening on biological warfare and beneficial insects.

Millions of dollars in damage is done to crops every year by aphids alone and the humble hover fly larvae is now leading the way in chemical free battles.

Yes, These relatives of the house fly are truly a marvel in the garden.

Before you swat, stomp or spray away, take a moment.

Are you watching the mighty yet humble "Hover Fly"?

Hover fly adults and larvae also provide a source of food to your backyard birds.

I suppose this would make them an insect that pulls triple duty.


It's time to fly.

As always, be sure to smile.

Smile at family and friends.

Maybe share it with a boss (ouch).

Of course, share your smile with a stranger.

Smiles are free, yet may be "priceless".

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

Ron Patterson

PS: Feel free to forward this to friends and others. Encourage them to sign up and join the fun.

PSS: Pictures of hover flies are from Wikipedia.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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