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WIDOW SKIMMERS MAY BE PATROLLING YOUR BACKYARD

The widow skimmer is one of the most striking dragonflies you are likely to see patrolling your backyard.  This is especially true if you live near water.

       The adult male can easily be identified as it has a primrose blue abdomen, dark shoulders, and a black band at the base of each wing.  The outer edge of the black band is bordered in white.

       Females and immature male widow skimmers look very much alike.  Their wings have dark brown stripes and their abdomens sport a dark dorsal stripe bordered on each side with yellow.  In addition, the tips of the females’ wings are tipped in black.

       These flying predators capture airborne prey with their feet.

       Widow skimmers do not continuously fly through the day.  Instead, they prefer to perch atop weeds and other plants.  From these vantage points, they frequently take wing and patrol their territory in search of food; this behavior is repeated throughout the day.

       Widow skippers typically fly from May through early November.

       This large dragonfly is very common above the Fall Line, uncommon in the Coastal Plain and mostly absent in the southeast corner of the state.

 

 

THE SWEET SCENT OF LEMON IS IN THE WINTER AIR

honeybee-feeding-winter__-honeysuckle

honeybee feeding at winter honeysuckle

Along about this time of year, when I walk out into my backyard and a gentle zephyr is blowing in from the east, I can often catch the lemony scent of a winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima).

Although this shrub is only about eight feet wide and seven feet tall, it is very special to my wife and me.  We moved this shrub from my wife’s Alabama home well more than three decades ago.  My wife fondly remembers a winter honeysuckle that grew just outside her bedroom window.  When should would open her window on warm winter days, the scent produced by the plant’s small, white flowers would fill her room with their fresh, lemony fragrance.  Like her mother, we bring winter honeysuckle branches adorned with flowers into our house simply to enjoy to pleasant aroma that given off by the small, showy blossoms.

There was a time when plants like winter honeysuckle and abelia were commonly found in yards throughout the South.  Today, in spite of the fact that both are attractive and used by wildlife, more often than not, they are missing from home landscapes.

We are fond of our winter honeysuckle for a number of reasons.  First, it has sentimental value.  In addition, a provides a touch of floral beauty at a time of year when few plants are blooming.  That would be enough to earn a spot our my yard; however, it is also a source of nectar and pollen for wild pollinators during a time when they find food extremely scarce.

Winter honeysuckle was introduced into the United States from China during the middle of the 19th century.  Those that brought the plant here touted its merits as an ornamental and hedge plant.  It proved to be so popular that it first showed up in plant catalogs in 1860.

It is a deciduous shrub that grows to a height of around ten feet.  The leaves are oval in shape.  This woody shrub blooms from late winter to early spring in most parts of the state.  Its half-inch, creamy white flowers are arranged in pairs.  They are followed by a crop of small, red berries that are frequently eaten by birds.

Although the plant grows best in rich soil types, it will also grow in dry sites. While it does best in full sunshine, it will grow in partial shade too.

If you want to add winter beauty to your backyard, as well as provide a food source for wild pollinators, you my might want to consider adding this shrub to your home landscape.

 

 

MAGAZINE PROMOTES NATIVE BEE CONSERVATION

The downward spiral of many of our native bee populations is something that we should all be concerned about. The plight of these insects was recently highlighted by a study conducted by researchers with the University of Vermont’s Grand Institute of Ecological Economics. Their findings suggest that between 2008 and 2013 native bee populations declined 23 percent across the United States.

If you would like to learn more about native bees and what you can do in your backyard to promote native bee populations, I strongly urge you to read the April-May issue of the National Wildlife Federation’s magazine National Wildlife.  This special issue is titled Garden For Wildlife – NURTURING NATIVE BEES.

NATIVE BEE

THE REDBUD TREE IS IMPORTANT TO POLLINATORS

HONEYBEE ON REDBUD

Wild pollinators, such as honeybees, bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies and other pollinating animals, are responsible for pollinating 75 percent of the world’s plants. In fact, roughly one-third of all the food we eat comes from plants pollinated by animals.

Here in Georgia, in late winter and early spring, it is difficult for honeybees and many of our native pollinators to find enough pollen and nectar to meet their needs. In many locales, the redbud is one of the only plants where these animals can find an abundant source of pollen and nectar.  This is because this small native tree blooms long before many other plants have sprouted leaves or flowers.

Earlier this month when the redbud in my yard was in full bloom, it literally hummed with activities. The trees pink, bean-like blossoms were swarmed by countless bees.  Although I didn’t see any butterflies visit the tree this year, in past years, they have joined the feeding frenzy.

If you would like do something to benefit the pollinating insects in your neighborhood, plant a redbud tree. In addition, it will provide you with beautiful blossoms in the spring, shade in summer and pleasing fall color provided by purple seed pods and greenish yellow heart-shaped leaves.

It is amazing how much this small native tree has to offer.