Paper Wasps-A Work of Art


You need to click on the photos to enlarge the photos and really see the wasp nest.

My dad found this paper wasp nest for us to look at in the tree behind his house. It is sooooo big I can hardly believe it. It does look like something has pulled it down and you can see the actual honeycomb cells that are exposed. Here is a better shot.

The texture of the nest itself is truly amazing. I found a resource online that says that they make the nest from a papery pulp of chewed up wood fibers mixed with saliva.

Page 378 of the Handbook of Nature Study has a lot of very interesting information about wasps in general.

Another great day out.

http://handbookofnaturestudy.com/2012/06/ohc-more-nature-study-book-4-yellow.html

 

Honeybee: Gardens that Help


In the latest issue of Organic Gardening, the cover article is all about bees. I had heard how honeybees had a bad winter last year and there are far fewer of them around but I hadn’t taken the time to find out what it was all about. Interesting stuff. The article brings out that scientists estimate that “more than 30% of the nation’s 2.4 million honeybee colonies died out over the fall and winter of 2006-2007″ due to Colony Collapse Disorder. 35 states reported damage due to CCD. The damage was as high as 80-90 percent of their hives for some beekeepers.

What can we do to help the situation as home gardeners? The article brings out some easy steps that can make a difference. I always start planning my spring garden during the cold winter months so this article came at the right time and had lots of practical ways that I can plan my garden to benefit the local honeybee population.

Here are some ideas from Organic Gardening:
1. Plant flowers that are blue, purple, violet, white or yellow. The article suggests leaving the dandelions and Dutch clover in your lawn. Tip: Visit your local nursery and buy whatever you can find that has bees on it. My tip: Color and lots of it.

2. Skip flowers like marigolds and hollyhocks, impatiens, and salvia. The flowers are too dense for the bees to gather much nectar.

3. Try to plant for a three season bloom. The article says, “Spring is tough for bees. Common spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils aren’t attractive to bees. It’s good to have fruit trees or flowering shrubs to cover their early season needs.” Some choices they list for spring are calendula and wild lilac. For fall they suggest sedum, asters, and goldenrod.

4. Bees stay longer in gardens at least 3 to 4 feet in diameter.

5. Bees need a water source.

The article was very enlightening and will help me plan my garden to include plants and flowers that can help my local honeybees. This is a great way to tie your study of insects into your gardening time. I am planning on keeping track of which plants have bees on them. I know they *love* my spanish lavender and I have it planted in two long rows along the edge of my garden. Even now in the middle of November it has many bees in it every afternoon. I have observed bees in my cosmos that are left in the back of the garden. The plant doesn’t look as nice as it did in the middle of summer but the bees seem to enjoy it. My neighbor’s rosemary plants are always full of bees so that might be a good plant to try too.

It may not seem like each individual garden can help but according to this article about bees, we can.

 

Mosquito Eater, Or Is It?

Mosquito Eater or Crane Fly
Okay so we usually call these guys “mosquito eaters”. It is actually a crane fly or scientific name: Tipula paludosa.

They look like giant mosquitoes and this one found its way into my son’s workshop. He sat very still while I took a few photos and then with the magic of cropping, it really shows what he looks like.

This is from Wikipedia:
Numerous other common names have been applied to the crane fly, many of them more or less regional, including, mosquito hawks, mosquito eaters (or skeeter eaters), gallinippers, gollywhoppers, and jimmy spinners.”

I was visiting my dad last week and we had a conversation that went something like this:
“Dad, you know those bugs we call mosquito eaters?”
“Yep.”
“Well, I just learned that they are actually called crane flies.”
“What?”
“You know those big flying bugs we see in the house, they are really big flies and they don’t eat mosquitoes at all.”
“Mosquito eaters, they are mosquito eaters.”

Oh well, he can call them mosquito eaters. :)



More information from UC Davis’ website:
“Adult crane flies emerge from the soil beneath turfgrass, pastures and other grassy areas in late summer and fall. The adults have very long legs and resemble large mosquitoes. Females mate and lay eggs in grass within 24 hours of emerging. Eggs hatch into small, brown, wormlike larvae that have very tough skin and are commonly referred to as “leatherjackets”. The leatherjackets feed on the roots and crowns of clover and grass plants during the fall. They spend the winter as larvae in the soil; when the weather warms in spring, they resume feeding. During the day larvae mostly stay underground, but on damp, warm nights they come to the surface to feed on the above ground parts of many plants. When mature, the larvae are about 1 to 1-1/2 inch long. Around mid-May they enter a nonfeeding pupal stage and remain just below the soil surface. In late summer, pupae wriggle to the surface and the adults emerge. There is one generation a year.”

More Nature Study #4 Cover image