May 8 is World Migratory Bird Day. In celebration, above is a photo of a male Yellow Warbler refueling in my backyard last year on its way north. I am honored to help many migratory birds on their dangerous journey. Going native and having a no-spray-zone yard has attracted birds in this video and many more to my yard.
Hummingbirds are fun to watch in our yards, so include native plants that are tubular shaped to invite hummingbirds to nectar in our gardens. Even hanging baskets can help them. For home-grown food supplied by native plants, see this. For home-made food, make nectar by mixing four parts water to one part sugar for a hummingbird feeder. Clean feeders often in warm weather. I alternate two of the same kind. Some are dishwasher safe. There should be red on your feeder, so don't add red coloring.
Don't be surprised by loud, flying black insects with red eyes. They aren't locusts or our greenish annual cicadas that emerge in late summer. They are 17-year periodical cicadas beginning to emerge, last seen in 2004. Although the sheer number of cicadas can be a nuisance, they provide extra protein for birds. Scroll down to see a list of 15 states and their respective counties that should have 17-year cicadas emerging in May to early June. You may cover small tree seedlings with mesh, although not required, and if you are planting trees, please wait until July. The cicadas will lay eggs in our trees and soon will be gone. They are an important food source for birds and other wildlife.
We can help save bees and other pollinators in your garden. Don't put up manufactured bee houses that may attract parasites, predators and invasive, non-native bees and invasive, non-native wasps; instead, leave untilled ground, corners of rough grass, logs, brush piles, a butterfly log cabin, tree stumps and tree snags for native bee nests. Bees lay their eggs hidden from sight in soil, holes in wood, plant stalks and other places often considered debris in the garden. Plant native plants that flower throughout the season (early spring for Mason bees to late fall for bumblebees and large carpenter bees). Bees are killed by pesticides (including neonicotinoids) while pollinating plants, but even some organic products are toxic to bees (see which ones on page 2 in the Xerces Fact Sheet Table). Practice organic lawn care as described in the Tips for Our Yards below. The more different kinds of native bees we support, the better our food plants will be pollinated.
Good news: The Resolution unanimously passed in the Senate to designate April, 2021 National Native Plant Month. Let's celebrate by hosting native plant educational programs, planting native trees, removing invasive plants and replacing lawn areas with new native plants.
- Organic Lawn Care DIY: 5 weeks after using Corn Gluten (if we've had enough rain, if not - 6 weeks), over-seed weedy or bare areas with a pesticide-free, chemical-free grass seed, like TLC Titan, available at most home and garden centers; keep seed damp until grass is 2" high
- Mow grass high (3-4 inches) so lawn shades out weeds
- Let grass clippings fall into lawn to add nitrogen and sweep them out of the drain so they don't pollute our drinking water; grass clippings can increase carbon-storage in the soil by nearly sixty percent
- Pollinators and Native Plants chart by Heather Holm, scroll down to see Ground-nesting Bees
- Doug Tallamy's Guide to Keystone Native Plants
- Break or cut dead plant stems down to at least 15" tall in late spring after freezing temperatures are gone (late May in Ohio); keep the stems standing so tunneling bees (like the Small Carpenter Bee) can nest inside them; leave the cut-off stems in your garden with new plants coming up around them because some bees won't start to use them until the stems are two-years old. See how bees use stems
- Remove Invasive Dames Rocket and keep native Phlox. Dames Rocket has 4 bloom petals, and Phlox has 5 bloom petals
- If you feed birds in winter, natural food is not available until the low temps stay at 50+ degrees. Please feed birds until caterpillars are on the leaves and insects are flying (March, April and sometimes May in the Midwest are the toughest times for birds)
- White-tailed fawns lie still in vegetation for their first month and have no scent. Their mothers stay away to prevent their own scent from alerting predators. Leave fawns alone unless they are visibly injured
- Injured or baby wildlife? How to Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator by your address
- Native plants don't need fertilizer, just leaf mulch
- Avoid pesticide use because it is harmful to children, pets, insects and birds
- To control mosquitoes, put a Mosquito dunk with the active ingredient Bti in your rain barrels, even if they have screens. Dunks are available at most nursery and hardware stores
- For hanging basket or container of annuals, fertilize it with fish or kelp emulsion mixed with water. Miracle Gro contains salt, which is toxic to the soil food web
- Why Birds Hit Windows and How You Can Prevent It
- Keep cats indoors or on a leash to protect wildlife, especially nesting birds
- Keep dogs on a leash from dusk until dawn to keep them from getting sprayed by a skunk, stomp your feet and flick the light on and off before going out
- When to plant safely? Google to find out when your area's latest recorded frost date was (in Ohio, 5/22)
- If you see a Honey Bee swarm, be calm because they are docile while looking for a new home; contact your State Beekeeper's Association to collect them (please don't spray them)
- Choose a hummingbird feeder that is easy to clean and place in shade. Clean hummingbird feeders twice a week (once if cool weather) with hot water. If dirty around feeding ports, use an old toothbrush to remove the mold and if the water looks milky, use diluted vinegar or dish soap (I use Dawn); then rinse very well so no residue is left that could make hummers sick
- Avoid using Miracle-Gro because it contains sodium; instead use compost or organic fertilizers, such as fish or kelp emulsion mixed in water for hanging baskets
- Add movement to clean water in your birdbaths with a dripper or bubbler or add a water feature with fountain pump to attract birds
- Avoid using products that contain Neonicotinoids, which are infamous for killing bees, and switch to native plants, which don't require the use of chemicals
- If Asian brown-marmorated stink bugs have been a problem, try placing damp towels outside overnight. Carefully pick off any insects that are not the Asian stink bugs and put the towels in a bucket of soapy water
- Swamp Milkweed top leaves look distorted in spring? Look for black Swamp Milkweed Stem Weevils 1/4 inch long - Scroll down to R. annectans for more info. Crush it in your fingers or hold soapy water underneath and grab for the Weevil so it will fall into soapy water. Look for holes in the stem where it lays eggs. Cut the stem off below and put it into soapy water. Put all in sealed bag for trash
- Remove invasive Japanese Barberry and similar invasive plants (e.g. Burning Bush, Bush Honeysuckle) to help manage blacklegged ticks
- Add regionally native milkweed to your yard to help Monarchs. Avoid non-native Tropical Milkweed because it may trigger egg dumping causing too many caterpillars on a plant, non-migration in southern areas and increased infection from OE (similar to the way people in a crowd spread colds)
- Pull weeds out gently, striving not to disturb the soil weed seed bank in order to keep it from sprouting more weeds
Please send your backyard conservation educational event with a link the month prior to the registration deadline (e.g. May 1 for June issue)
- Reg now for 5/5, Gardening for Pollinators, Steve Inglish, Presenter, Cincinnati Nature Center, Fee, Online
1. Thanks for forwarding Nature Scoop to friends. Please let me know how many people you forward to for my records
2. Open permission to post Nature Scoop on websites, blogs, etc. - please let me know and thanks