The Birds and the Bees

Bee on Tithonia_DBG_LAH_7606

There we were, a gaggle of pre-adolescent girls approaching puberty, giggling as we shared the details of the recent talks we’d each had with our mothers. Apparently, the parents had gotten together and decided to synchronize their lectures about the birds and the bees. That was smart on behalf of the parents—armed with the facts, we wouldn’t be sharing misinformation.

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Blooms, Bugs, and Birds

Aquilegia coerulea_Colorado Columbine_EmeraldValley-EPC-CO_LAH_0521

What do you do when you run out of birds to see? With around 10,000 different species, that may seem like a silly question. Who could ever see them all? Most of us will never have the prospect of traveling to every part of the globe looking for birds. Continue reading “Blooms, Bugs, and Birds”

Bountiful Bugs

Mountain Bluebird_ChicoBasinRanch-CO_LAH_1248-001The bulldozers are at it again. Another swath of short-grass prairie is being turned into houses. I can’t complain—I live in such a house. A mere three years ago, birds and bunnies made their home in what is now my yard. The voles and cottontails are still here and thriving, largely at the expense of my landscaping. The birds—assorted sparrows, hawks, Say’s Phoebes, Horned Larks, Scaled Quail, and Killdeer—decided to go elsewhere.

Now I’m trying to lure them back by replacing what nature has lost. Instead of the typical neighborhood rocks-and-grass “zero-scape,” we’ve included shrubs and trees that offer wildlife food and shelter. Native shrubs such as three-leaf sumac, manzanita, Boulder raspberry, buffaloberry, and chokecherry all offer berry-like fruit. Our roadside oak will one day provide acorns, the limber pines have seed-filled cones. Seeds come from native grasses and flowers, too, while dwarf conifers and dense shrubs offer a place to hide from predators and the weather. My nectar garden feeds hummingbirds and other pollinators. Feeders offer additional seeds and suet, and my heated birdbath is a year-round source of water.

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My Pine Has Brown Needles!

We all know that deciduous trees—oaks, maples, and the like—lose their leaves in the fall. But what about conifers? They’re supposed to be evergreen! Should we be worried if we see lots of brown needles on our pines and firs?

Pine trunks_NehalemSP-OR_LAH_8177As is frequently the case with questions about gardening, the answer is “it depends.”

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Yet More Bugs…

Popillia japonica_Japanese Beetle_HudsonGardens-CO_LAH_5585It’s the end of the summer, and what’s a nature photographer to do? Most flowers are languishing in the sultry heat, their leaves brown and crispy as the summer monsoon turns to dry autumn. Gardens look battered from a season of hail storms, insects, and the ravages of sun and wind. The birds have had their families, so the males no longer need to impress the ladies, at least for a while. In many cases, they’ve shed their fancy duds in favor of muted colors that predators won’t notice. This year’s crop of youngsters is also hoping to be overlooked, with tan stripes that blend with the fading grass. Some of the most photogenic birds—tanagers and warblers, for instance, are already wending their way southward.

As I learned on Monday, however, this is a great time of year for bugs.

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A Garden for Good Bugs

Monarch Butterfly_ChicoBasinRanch-CO_LAH_8874Why would I want to invite insects into my garden? Don’t most homeowners want to get rid of the bugs? It’s true that some insects cause major problems in a landscape, chewing indiscriminately and leaving behind a trail of devastation. But don’t let a few bad guys ruin it for everyone—there are plenty of insects who can live harmoniously among our plants. Some, such as bees, more than earn their keep. And who doesn’t enjoy a garden full of butterflies?

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Like Dragonflies? Visit Bitter Lake NWR!

Widow Dragonfly_BitterLakeNWR-NM_LAH_9472-001I had never encountered so many dragonflies, both in sheer numbers and incredible variety. Birders speak of “hotspots”—places where birds tend to congregate. Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, just outside of Roswell in southeastern New Mexico, is clearly a dragonfly hotspot.

red Dragonfly_BitterLakeNWR-NM_LAH_9302-001 Continue reading “Like Dragonflies? Visit Bitter Lake NWR!”

Great Blog, Bug Eric!

Sergiolus sp. male from Indiana

Do you like arthropods? Do butterflies cheer you? Are dragonflies delightful? Do you want to know what that cool, metallic-bronze colored beetle is? Perhaps some pest is munching on your marigolds, and you want to learn more about it. Or, maybe spiders send you screaming. (I totally understand!) Would you enjoy reading an entertaining, scientific, yet easy to understand blog about all these topics—and more?

I’d like to introduce you to Eric Eaton, perhaps better known as Bug Eric.

Eric is the author of the Kenn Kaufmann Field Guide to Insects of North America, so you can tell he knows what he’s talking about. He’s an engaging writer. I love reading his posts. And happily for me, he and his wife, Heidi (who is also a fount of bug-related information), live here in town, so I get to directly benefit from his expertise (and patience with non-entomologists). You may remember that Eric and Heidi led June’s “Bugwatching” field trip that I enjoyed so much.

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Bugwatching!

Cuckoo WaspIt’s 4:30, still dark, and the alarm clock rouses me from a deep sleep. Wha…?? Oh, right, I’m going birding. There’s lots of talk about the “early bird” for a good reason. Birds get up early. Even as I’m fumbling around trying to find some jeans and a t-shirt, I can hear a robin singing outside my bedroom window.

Last week, I went on a field trip that didn’t start until 9 am. Nine! No setting the alarm clock. No downing cup after cup of caffeine (and then realizing all the bushes are much too small to hide behind). I could have a leisurely breakfast and drive off in the daylight—and we still saw plenty of wildlife. How did we manage to see so much so late in the day? Easy. We were bugwatching.

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Western Conifer Seed Bugs

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You may have noticed some strange invaders in your house this fall, particularly if you have pine trees in your area. Don’t be alarmed, and don’t grab the bug spray. They look ferocious, but these insects won’t hurt anything.

Western Conifer Seed Bugs are about an inch long. Their black and red color scheme helps them hide in pine cones where they feed on the seeds, hence their name. They have long antennae. When folded, their wings create an “x” shape across their backs. Look closely at their hindmost legs, and you will notice the flat appendages, much like mud flaps, that give this group of insects its name: leaf-footed bugs.

In late summer, these bugs collect on the warm, southern side of your house. When the sun sets, they burrow into cracks and crevices for safety, often ending up inside the house. If they bother you, just scoop them up and put them outside where they belong.