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Milkweed. Save Forests. Earthworms...
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Nature Scoop July 2021

Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Cardinal Flower
Breaking news: A mysterious illness is killing songbirds, and the reason is unknown. It may be contagious and has spread into parts of the Midwest and South so far. Watch your feeders closely for a bird with a crusty eye, drooping head or that has trouble flying. Contact a Wildlife Rehabilitator to report it and for instructions about what to do with the bird. Take down all feeders and bird baths immediately, disinfect them and keep them down for at least two weeks. Keep pets from eating diseased birds and use disposable gloves if handling the birds. Learn More and More and More.

Entomologists from Michigan State University report that Monarchs lay more eggs on tender new leaves of milkweed (their host plant) than on older, tough leaves. Fewer predators hunt on young milkweed and prefer to visit the older parts of the plant. To encourage new growth, try cutting back or mowing about a third of the milkweed around July 4th each year. Then, the Entomologists report to anticipate an increase of three to 10 times more eggs per stem on the new growth. This may hold true for other butterflies and moths whose caterpillars eat leaves that become tough as they age, so check your other host plants for tough leaves.

This video shows the shocking difference between forest floors with and without European or Asian (invasive) earthworms. The invasive worms decompose leaf litter and roots too quickly, completely removing the rooting zone habitat needed for seeds, plants and small animals.  A forest’s rich leaf litter, often a foot deep, is a vast carbon sponge. As invasive earthworms eat through it, they breathe out planet-warming carbon dioxide. No worms should be in glaciated areas, roughly from New Jersey across the Upper Midwest to the Pacific Ocean. However, invasive worms are invading all of North America being sped along by humans. The clitellum (the thicker section near the head) of invasive worms is lighter or darker colored than native worms. See the problems a reader, Joanne, had with jumping worms in her yard.

We can help save forests. Compost without invasive worms, including European Nightcrawlers, Red Worms aka Red Wigglers and Asian Jumping Worms. Discard invasive worms, including fishing bait or compost worms that appear dead, in the trash. Don't take anything that could contain invasive worms or their egg casings into wooded areas, including dirt off your shoes, livestock hooves, vehicle tires, ATVs, earth moving and snow removal equipment. Make sure there are no invasive worms in any plants you give away, whether they came from a nursery or from your yard. Rinse the root balls of new plants to get rid of invasive egg casings. Avoid buying commercial mulch or compost, where their eggs can live for years. Learn more about invasive worms from National Wildlife.

Good news: National Wildlife Federation has teamed up with Wild Birds Unlimited as our new Certified Wildlife Habitat Champion. They are working together to encourage people to create a bird-friendly garden and certify it in our Garden for Wildlife program. Here are six ways to support wild birds at home from Wild Birds Unlimited.

- Toni Stahl, Habitat Ambassador Volunteer, Email marc-a@columbus.rr.com, please retweet @naturescoopohio, website www.backyardhabitat.info


Tips for Our Yards and Gardens

-  Organic Lawn Care DIY: Mow grass high (3-4 inches) so lawn shades out weeds. Let your lawn go dormant; don't water it because it will green up again when the weather cools off
-  Avoid gas-powered trimmers and blowers, which give off more pollution than gas mowers; instead, use electric ones or those run by re-chargeable batteries
-  Do you notice severed flower heads on sunflower-type plants (including purple coneflowers)? Delicately cut off heads below the discoloration and put the heads into a bucket of soapy water to kill the tiny Sunflower Head-clipping Weevil, eggs and larvae. After dead weevils float to the top, scoop out the flower heads, put them in the trash and flush the used, soapy water down the toilet
-  Supply water for wildlife. The easiest way is by bird bath and best with moving water (add an accessory, like a dripper), use a soft scrub brush to clean once a week or when dirty. Change water daily to keep it clean
-  Suet you purchase at bird stores is rendered so it will not go rancid in the heat like beef fat or other hand-made suet
-  You don't need toxic DEET to keep mosquitoes away; use non-DEET repellent sprays with Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, like Repel Eucalyptus, (wrist bands don't work as well). Follow instructions; you may need to apply 1/2 hour before going outside
-  Many orange or black and orange insects depend on the milkweed plant. Most are a part of the ecosystem and not harmful. Take the Milkweed, Monarchs and More field guide out of the library or buy it online
-  Watch your plants and kill Japanese Beetle scouts 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
-  Turtle in the road? Safely stop your car, pick the turtle up by the shell near the hind legs and support below with other hand, take it across the road in the direction it is pointing, put it well off the road and wash your hands afterwards. Wild turtles are not pets
-  Opossums are related to kangaroos and are beneficial to our health because one eats up to 5,000 ticks per season. Opossums play dead for protection, so go around them or brake when you see one in the road. Safely stop to see if it is okay. If not, check for babies in the pouch. Call a Wildlife Rehabilitator if help is needed
-  Found injured or baby Wildlife? Find a Wildlife Rehabilitator by your address
-  Avoid skunk spray: Stomp your feet, clap your hands and turn the porch light on and off to let the skunks leave the area before taking pets out on a leash. Take a flashlight
-  If slug or snail damage is a severe problem: fill a cheap pie pan with beer and change often because slugs and snails are attracted by the smell of yeast, and beer kills them
-  Contact your Public Health Department to find out if your city does mosquito fogging and, if so, ask how to opt out. These chemicals kill beneficial insects, including bees and Monarch caterpillars
Help lightning bugs (fireflies) in your yard
Lost Ladybug Project - citizen scientists needed
Surviving the Dry Spells
-  Have caterpillars on your herbs (such as fennel, dill, parsley...)? They are probably Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, scroll down to see many ID photos
-  Be careful, some caterpillars sting
-  Avoid stings: Learn to ID Bees, Wasps and Hornets; Bees are fuzzy, eat pollen, have a round shape and are gentle unless provoked; wasps have a distinct narrow "waist" between the thorax and abdomen, are smooth and carnivorous. Be cautious around Yellowjacket nests above or below ground, Paper Wasp nests hanging from eaves, porch ceilings or in slats, and Hornet nests in trees. These three species defend their nests by stinging and are attracted by the smell of food. Keep all food indoors, including picnic and pet food. Keep garbage lids on tight and, if you add kitchen scraps to compost, keep it sealed in a container
Bee Basics with free downloadable booklet
Tips to best remove ticks video
Toxic, Wild Plants to Avoid
-  I had a bumblebee nest in my yard a few years ago, and we really miss them. Watch your yard for bumblebees throughout their lifecycle. Only one queen bee survives the winter. Read more about what happens next
-  Non-native aphids on your plants? If beneficial insects are on the plant, squeeze aphids between your fingers. If not, mix 1 tablespoon of dish soap and 1 quart of water thoroughly and pour it into a clean spray bottle. Aim carefully with newspaper behind it so as not to hit any beneficial insects on other plants. Rinse with lots of water after aphids are dead
-  Deer bother some readers by eating their plants, so put deterrents in your yard before the deer come to discourage them from using your yard as a buffet. Try using motion-detectors to turn on sound, white light or a water sprinkler. Try putting a barrier around the plants you want to protect by laying chicken wire flat (not standing up) because deer don't like to get their hooves caught in it. If you want to try other methods, look for harmless ways on the Internet and be sure that sprays or other home solutions are water-resistant
Meet the Leaf Cutter Bee - short fascinating video about what you may see in your yard
-  Listen for the first Annual (not Periodical) Cicada song and mark your calendar for 90 days. Last year, it sang on July 4, and the first frost was right on time October 2
-  According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, count the number of Cricket chirps in 14 seconds and add 40 to get the current temperature
-  Please don't release balloons into the sky. Wildlife ingests them, which is often fatal. Use wildlife friendly alternatives
-  Learn how easily we can stop Light Pollution which harms wildlife
 

Nature News

Cover Crop Champions Grants - Apply by August 6
Meet the Squad of Mosquito-Eating Species
Bicycling with Butterflies (Monarch migration) Podcast by Sara Dykman, Author, and Chip Taylor, Monarch Watch
Bicycling with Butterflies Q&A
Take a Walk on the Wild Side (Forest Bathing)
How to Attract Hummingbirds: 10 Expert Tips
Three Ways to Limit Oak Wilt (And Elm) Damage
Are Your Trees Being Suffocated by Their Own Roots?
Living Landscape Webinar by Doug Tallamy


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)
-  Reg now for 7/18, Pollinator Gardening: Make Your Yard Come Alive!, Steve Inglish, Fee, Gorman Heritage Farm, Cincinnati
 - 7/24, 10am-4, Garden for Wildlife exhibit, Steve Inglish, at the Native Plant and Artisan Sale, Midwest Native Plant Society, Bergamo Center, Dayton
 

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)

-  5/1-10/31, Native Butterfly House - Cox Arboretum, Knowledgeable volunteer hosts onsite 7/5-8/31, Dayton
-  6/7-9/12, Native Butterfly House - Beech Creek Gardens, general admission fee, Alliance
-  Reg now for 7/8, A Wetland Vegetation Primer by Mark A. Dilley, sponsored by the Westerville Library, Zoom
-  7/24, Tour of Guy Denny's Prairie, 18 years of Natural Ecological Beauty, Wild Ones Columbus, Fredericktown
-  Tickets now for 7/24, Sustainable Living and Garden Tour, 8 sites with at least 2 Certified Wildlife Habitats, donation, Simply Living, Columbus and Worthington
-  Can My Woodland be a Solution for Climate Change?, Third in list, Woodland Stewards Webinar Recording


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