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!

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Do you ever look down?

There are some really cool plants beneath your paws!

Moss and reindeer lichen–sometimes called reindeer moss. They are bare-ground pioneers…hey, they grow on rocks and tree bark, too. Can you believe how tough that is?

May is for Mayapples

It’s nearly the end of May and we haven’t posted a single Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum.

Ms. Flora isn’t pleased, but the rains have gotten us off schedule. So here you go!

For those not familiar, this very different, umbrella-like leaf is the Mayapple plant.

Those broad leaves hide a flower that blooms only if the Mayapple is old enough to have two leaves. Look very carefully here and you’ll see the flower growing from the axil of the leaves.

A single and sometimes double flower–if pollinated–then produces the ‘Mayapple’ – a little fruit that is poisonous, except when it is ripe.

How can you tell it’s ripe? By smell, of course. Humans aren’t good at this, so don’t try. Just put this on your poisonous list.

But if you see box turtles or other critters taking a bite, don’t be alarmed. It’s a spring treat!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

What is this shrub?

Put your guesses in the comments and I’ll check back later!

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This new shrub joins others in out neighborhood, but this time the humans put it in full sun! Ms. Flora says that’s okay–Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginica, can tolerate both. It even tolerates out heavy Virginia clay soil–but as the name should tell you, that’s because it’s native to Virginia!

The shrubs in the sun definitely has more flowers. The ‘spires’ bloom from the inside out, so it seems to bloom for a very longtime.

Pretty little star flowers. They seem to be attracting insects, but we haven’t had a whole lot of butterflies around this year, which makes us sad. Everyone, we hope you keep planting flowers to feed those bees and butterflies! Virginia sweetspire is supposed to be a easy one to keep and be interesting for humans all year long. We squirrels just want berries, but this doesn’t seem to provide any. Nevertheless, have a look at what else the Piedmont Master Gardeners have to say about it!

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!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We’re late, but here’s a small mystery that was blooming back in April.

Post your guess what this is in the comments and we’ll be back later to check answers!

 

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We had a correct guess! These are Dutchman’s Breeches–they look like little human trousers hanging out to dry. As our reader Sarasinart says, this spring wildflower blooms before the trees set leaves and while the sunlight still reaches the forest floor. Then they are gone–flowers and soon leaves–for another year.

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.

 

Z is for witch haZel

Again! (We used witch hazel in our 2018 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, too!) There just aren’t enough ‘Z’ names in nature. But we’re lucky witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, has a Z in there for our Trees for Bees posts.

The native witch hazel becomes a small tree–to 25 feet–in the shady understory of the forest, but there are also many shrub forms of this species available. They may bloom at different times, like very early spring.

The native tree’s flower blooms in the fall, right around Halloween, and the long, stringy, yellow petals look like spiders–making us squirrels think you humans named it because you thought the tree was ‘bewitched.’ Not so! The name comes from wiche, which means pliant– as in bendable branches.

That makes no difference to bees or other nectar-seekers! If it’s one of those warm fall days that we are prone to having, they want to eat! Witch hazel and the late fall asters are about the only things blooming in October-November, so planting this tree is a real benefit to insects.

And indirectly to us squirrels, I should fairly add. Once the bees pollinate those flowers, the nuts will form, a tasty treat for wildlife.

Of all the woody trees and shrubs we’ve presented for our April ‘Trees (and Shrubs) for Bees’ challenge, witch hazel is one of our favorites. Those crazy fall-blooming flowers are just a neat thing about about nature. We hope you put it on your planting list!

We will compile a complete list of Trees for Bees for you as a summary of this month…sometime this week!

And remember: Please don’t purchase plants that have been grown with pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids. You’re not doing anyone a favor with that these days. And if you haven’t yet, please watch Marla Spivak’s TED talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and what  you can do to help.

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

Oops! We got our alphabet days wrong!

‘Y’ day is today for the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. We accidentally posted it yesterday. So for today, um…

…remember that blackberrY and raspberrY flowers also are a favorite with pollinators! Just  because these trees and shrubs help the bees doesn’t mean they can’t help us squirrels, too!

Y is for blueberrY

Again, we know this isn’t exactly how the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is supposed to run–with our chosen alphabet letter at the end of the word instead of the start–but desperate times… Honestly, we should have saved Yellow Poplar for Y, used tupelo for T… and on and on, but you know, squirrels!

Nonetheless, you readers are getting a nice list of Trees and Shrubs for bees!

Blueberry, Vaccinium sp, is found as a wild plant and a cultivated one across the entirety of North America. The wild blueberry bushes in our mid-Atlantic states are Vaccinium angustifolium.

They grown in a partial shaded forest floor, whereas most cultivated blueberries prefer full sun. The soil can be dry to average and our native plants only grow to 2 feet high, while the cultivated shrubs are 8 feet tall.

All blueberries have a small urn-shaped flower that opens at the bottom.

Only the smallest of bees pollinate them, or bees with very long tongues. However, some bees–like honeybees, carpenter bees and short-tongued bees–cheat. they chew holes in the back of the flower postal the nectar without pollinating the plants! They bloom in the spring and set berries that ripen throughout the summer.

All of the wild blueberry relatives attract bees: cranberry, deerberry, lingonberry, bearberry and huckleberry

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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