Our yards make a difference. Mosquitoes...
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Nature Scoop June 2020

Spicebush Swallowtail on Common Milkweed
Do our yards really make a difference? My National Wildlife Federation certified yard is 100' X 50', with almost no lawn. I walk out of my front door into a garden, and have a mini-forest edge in my tiny backyard. I did a comparison of the different kinds of wildlife in my yard over 5 years, before and during the transition to native plants and organic care. Next, some volunteers and I did counts of different kinds of wildlife in my yard compared to the adjacent traditional yard for two summers. Read about all the creatures we are saving in our yards in my article. See both graphs.

If you have problems with aphids sucking the juices from your milkweed or other native plants, keep the plant watered to deter them from attacking it. If that doesn't help and Monarch caterpillars or eggs or other beneficial insects aren't present, spray aphids directly with mild soapy water when you first notice them; before they become a large community. Rinse the leaves off after the aphids die because soap also kills beneficial insects. If Monarch caterpillars or eggs are on the milkweed leaf, squeeze the aphids between your fingers to kill them. Read more.

Prevent West Nile and Zika by controlling mosquitoes in your yard. Lots of mosquitoes breed in the tiniest bit of shallow, stagnant water in as quickly as four days because it doesn’t contain the natural predators that a wetland has. Mosquitoes do not breed in moving water. I have a dripper in one of my bird baths, and I change the water in all of the bird baths once or twice a day. Investigate your yard to prevent sources of stagnant water. For example, my neighbor dumps the water out of her swimming pool cover after it rains to prevent water from stagnating. Clear your gutters so they drain properly. More in Tips for Our Yards below.

Good news: Proof that our yards make a difference. Yards (including small city yards) make up roughly 5X more of our total space in the continental United States than Park lands do. Be inspired.

Toni Stahl, Habitat Ambassador Volunteer, Email; please retweet @naturescoopohio, website

Tips for Our Yards

-  Organic Lawn Care DIY: Mow grass high (3-4 inches) so lawn shades out weeds
-  Fertilize flower baskets with organic fertilizers, such as a little fish emulsion or kelp emulsion mixed in water
-  Deep-water new plantings when dry until they grow their deep taproots (needed year 1 and less in years 2-3)
-  Kill Mosquitoes Doug Tallamy's way: In an out-of-the-way area, partially fill a bucket with water, add wheat straw or hay and add a product containing Bti (Mosquito dunk) found at most nursery and hardware stores. Let it ferment. The fermentation attracts female mosquitoes to lay her eggs there. Bti keeps the eggs from hatching
-  To control mosquitoes, put a Mosquito dunk with the active ingredient Bti in your rain barrels, even if they have screens. Bti products are available online and at most nursery and hardware stores
-  Turn your outdoor light on and off and stomp your feet before taking your pet out on a leash to avoid an unexpected skunk encounter
-  If you have window wells, put a cheap cover over them to prevent small creatures from being trapped in them
-  Look before you mow; Baby Wild Cottontail Rabbits are probably not abandoned because adults feed their babies quickly at dusk and dawn and often make their nests in lawns
-  Milkweed leaves curling and turning slightly yellow? Your milkweed may have Milkweed Yellows bacterial disease. Cut off infected leaves, or if all leaves are yellowed, pull out the entire plant, bag and throw in trash (not yard waste or compost due to disease)
-  If you rear multiple Monarchs indoors, Monarch Jt Venture gives tips to rear Monarchs responsibly
-  Moths have a bad reputation because of just a few non-native species (i.e. tent caterpillar, gypsy moth), but the others (more than 3,000 species in Ohio) are beautiful and essential to our birds' survival whether residents, migrators or for parents to feed their young. Add native plants for moths
-  Help prevent air quality alerts; Use an electric or push lawn mower because the average pollution from one hour of mowing with a gas mower is equivalent to driving 11 cars for an hour or with a riding mower as much as 34 cars per National Wildlife Federation
-  Japanese Beetle scouts? Watch your plants and kill Japanese Beetles when they first enter your yard to keep others from following: hold a container of soapy water or alcohol below them and tap the plant stem or brush them with a craft stick (similar to a Popsicle stick; found in the craft section of stores) so the Beetles drop into the container
-  Opossums are related to Kangaroos (not rats), eat up to 4,000 ticks per week, eat venomous snakes, aren't prone to rabies and eat snails and slugs, so they are beneficial to have in your yard. Read more
-  If you find a baby bird on the ground, follow this decision tree before taking any action
-  Put out smashed fruit (like banana and watermelon) for butterflies that don't drink nectar, spritz it with water to keep it moist when it's hot and cover it with taut mosquito netting so that flies cannot reach the fruit
-  Avoid catching an itchy rash from Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac by learning to ID them. They don't grow everywhere, so see their range maps and photos. Stay far away from all parts of these plants. If you touch any part, quickly go and wash thoroughly with soap and water, leaving no oil on your skin. If you are away from water, bring alcohol to clean off the oil
-  To avoid tick bites, keep to sunny, dry areas, tuck pants into white socks, make a tick-free zone by piling wood chips around a play area and check and remove ticks when entering the house. Put clothes in a hot dryer to kill any ticks on clothing. Remove ticks promptly to help avoid disease
How to Remove a Tick

Nature News

Facts About the Murder Hornet
Monarch Butterflies Raised in Captivity Don't Migrate
Help: There are Red Foxes in My Yard
Why birds hit windows - and how you can help prevent it
Nature Guide Apps from National Wildlife Federation - Scroll down to see video
National Wildlife Federation Nature Guide Bundles in the App Store
Activities and games to teach kids about Trees
Environmental Education Activity and Coloring for Kids

Ohio Habitat Ambassador Nature Events

Please send your backyard conservation educational event with a link the month prior to the registration deadline (e.g. May 1 for June issue)
-  Garden and enjoy your yard. Events have been postponed due to the virus.

Other Ohio Nature Events

Please send your backyard conservation educational event with a link the month prior to the registration deadline (e.g. May 1 for June issue)
-  Events have been postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic. Stay safe.

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