Coneflowers and Bumblebees

Last year we told you about the humans in our neighborhood planting more native plants in a common space, including coneflowers. Those are coming along and the additional flowers seem to be attracting more bumble bees.

Or maybe it’s that we are on the lookout for them more since hearing they are in trouble.

Anyway, here’s one that Hickory and I watched and then made a second stab at looking up on Bumble Bee Watch.

As we said before, you have to see the head, the thorax and all the segments of the abdomen to make an identification. And those bees move fast! Unless they are taking a nap…this one wasn’t. But he was very intent on getting his nectar so we were able to sneak around the flower.

We discovered that this one’s ‘black’ abdomen wasn’t.

See those two segments that are brownish-red? We think this is a Brown-belted Bumblebee, not only from our Bumble Bee Watch identification, but also from this poster put together by Pollinator Partnership.

It’s nice to see all of the bees in our area at once. On paper, we mean, not in real life!

Here’s the link to the Pollinator Partnership posters. They are out of this one, but it’s still there to look at and read more details about each bee to help with your identifications.

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We admit it…

We squirrels are having a hard time keeping up. We don’t know about you, but our summer plans included lots of lying around in the sun and visiting the bird feeders on human decks. So far we’ve been interrupted by rain, heat and this week, terrible smelling smoke from fireworks.

It’s not a squirrel’s life. We took a lazy afternoon to get our lungs back in working order.

Tomorrow should be a better day for leaping.

On a Milkweed

Insects–including insect pollinators!–flock to milkweed!

Tiger Swallowtail

Monarch laying her eggs.

The caterpillars will feed on the leaves and the butterflies on the nectar.

Large Milkweed bugs, which look like this as juveniles and…

growing up…

and this as adults.

Skippers.

Silvery Checkerspot

Silver-spotted skipper.

Aphids, which draw in…

Ladybugs.

Not to be confused with the Milkweed Leaf Beetle, which eats the leaves, not their pests.

Of course with all this bug activity, you will see spiders.

And even ants!

Of course, the insect most humans are interested in these days: Honeybees.

But don’t forget the native bumblebees!

There is room enough for both on these hundreds of little flowers!

Plant milkweed as an anchor for insects your garden!

Tulip trees are in bloom!

We squirrels ran across a tulip tree growing along a street, and guess what? It had branches all up that side that get sun.

Why is this important? Because it was blooming!

You humans have to realize how rare that is to see these flowers that are usually at the uppermost reaches of the canopy! We do! So here is a real treat to see the tulip-like tree flowers we talked about back on our April 23rd T is for Tulip Tree post.

And there are many more buds to provide the bees with these large pools of honey over the next week or so!

Trees & Shrubs for Bees ~ Our 2019 Blogging from A to Z Challenge Reflections

This year was the 10th year anniversary for the Blogging From A to Z Challenge, and the 8th year anniversary for us squirrels. In fact, we began our blogging in 2012 with this challenge.

We’re both proud and excited to complete our challenge. If you’ve spent any time poking around our website, you’ve likely noticed the line of ‘survivor badges’ our sidebar. We have not been able to find this year’s–and it’s not for lack of digging around! (Ok, Hickory found it–we have to complete a survey first. Ha, good way to get us to do that!)

On the A to Z site’s master list, we are number 592 of 685 blogs that sign-up this year. It’s the first time we’ve had a theme other than local nature observations from our neighborhood in suburban Washington, D. C. Our focus on woody plants that provide our bee neighbors bigger supplies of nectar and pollen is a very timely theme, one we are seeing more frequently in your human news as insect populations decline.

This is a scary thing for us. Our favorite food–acorns–are wind pollinated, but we squirrels eat a variety of other foods as well, including a lot of other nuts, berries, and yes, insects. We bet you humans might like a variety in your diet as well. I’m sure you can see where we are headed with this: we all need to be scared…and we all need to do something to help. Anything, no matter how small you think it may be.

Our April posts included: Fifteen flowering trees that help bees. Nine flowering shrubs that help bees. One insect that feeds on a tree. One structure that you can offer to supplement bee housing. We saw another blogger list his prior year’s posts in a review, so we’re offering that here.

The A to Z site suggested several questions that we might reflect on. We liked this one:

What was the best moment for you during this year’s challenge?

Our best moment was discovering that though we made a point about including native and honey bees, we honestly were thinking more about those hive bees, the colony dwellers. Right up until three-quarters of the way through the month when Hickory checked in on that mason bee house and discovered that the native bees were using it. That thing went up April 1st!

Within 3 weeks the bees were using half the tubes. We had no idea there were that many bees around. That many bees in need of places to lay eggs so desperately that they found this one house on a fence in one back yard.

See? Any little thing that you might do helps!

Read other 2019 A to Z Reflections here.

Thank you to Jeremy for the fantastic A to Z graphic–not just this year, but every year!

Thanks for being with us on this journey!

No, we have not buried ourselves!

We are just tired. Blogging for month takes a lot out of a squirrel. We are pulling together the entire Trees and Shrubs for Bees list for a post and that plus the unexpected heat, got he better of us.

While you wait for us, enjoy this new White Fringetree the humans win our neighborhood planted last year.

 

F is for Fringetree

White Fringetree is a small, native tree we have featured many times on The Squirrel Nutwork because Ms. Flora believes it doesn’t get enough attention. The leaves are rather plain, the fall color is yellow. But when this tree blooms…

It’s a gorgeous fluff of white. There is some debate over if bees get a lot of use out of it. They do pollinate it, but likely the nectaries of this long-petaled, skinny flower don’t offer much.

But for small spaces, this 12 to 20 foot high tree is perfect, and native. It blooms May to June and sets fruits in August that are eaten by songbirds.

Perhaps this is a good time to compare Fringetree to Flowering Dogwood, another small, spring-blooming, native tree. Bees do not like Dogwood and they don’t use it. We are sorry, dogwood, but if you humans have only one space for a small, spring-blooming tree and want to help the bees, choose White Fringtree or Carolina Silverbell. We’ll feature it another day, obviously not ‘C’ day–looks shiftily around–and maybe not ‘S’ day, but one of those terribly awkward letters that we can’t find a tree for! Shout out to the Blogging From A to Z Challenge for challenging us!

Tomorrow is out first Sunday of the month. The A to Z skips Sundays, so look for ‘G’ on Monday!

~~~

Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

Ready for a quiet winter? We are!

Dear Readers,

You know how busy our suburban lives are. With all the things we squirrels do, it’s harder every year to collect the acorns we need for winter.

A few years ago–actually, it’s been five!–Hickory and I decided to close down the blog. Then we started blogging again, and it came to pass over the next years that closing the blog for the winter gave us the break we needed. A squirrel never knows what winter may bring, however, we do plan to resume the blog, likely for the Blogging A to Z Challenge in April. (What’s that? They have a website, too: a-to-zchallenge.com)

Our archives are still open. Using our sidebar menus, you can look up past posts in categories. For example, if you like to test your nature skills in our Sunday mysteries, search the title “What is it?”. Or use the search bar–labeled ‘Trying to find those nuts we’ve buried?–to hunt for your favorite plants, wildlife or other nature topics. We’re actually pretty good at labelling stuff for you to dig around.

Until spring, have a safe, warm and productive winter!

Your friends at The Squirrel Nutwork.

Nutmeg, Hickory, Ol’ Wally and Miz Flora