Posts tagged butterflies

Dragonflies and Damselflies

My all-time favorite insect, the dragonfly, is finally getting the attention it deserves. This came out today from the University of Iowa:

Dragonflies and Damselflies cover

Dragonflies and Damselflies cover

“Dragonflies and Damselflies in Your Pocket: A Guide to the Odonates of the Upper Midwest,” the new addition to the Bur Oak Guides Series, will become available from the University of Iowa Press May 1.

The pocket guidebook with text and photos by Ann Johnson will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at http://www.uiowapress.org. Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at http://www.eurospangroup.com/bookstore.

Just as more and more people enjoy watching birds and butterflies, watching the many shimmering dragonflies and damselflies — collectively called “odonates,” from Odonata, the name of this order of aquatic insects — has become a popular outdoor pastime. With their extremely large eyes, elongated transparent wings, long and slender abdomens, and prehensile extendible jaws, dragonflies and damselflies are efficient hunters and quick, darting fliers. Their beauty and their behavior make them delightful subjects for birdwatchers and other nature lovers.

“Dragonflies and Damselflies in Your Pocket” introduces 50 of the showiest odonates of the Upper Midwest. In addition to providing useful general information about broad-winged damsels, spreadwings, pond damsels, darners, clubtails, cruisers, emeralds and skimmers, Johnson includes common and scientific names, sizes, general flight seasons and the best habitats in which to find each species.

Dennis Paulson, author of “Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West,” wrote, “With beautiful photos backed up by concise text, this little guide is simple and easy to use as it introduces birders and general naturalists to a wonderful group of insects, the Odonata. It should be in every glove compartment and backpack.”

Johnson is a management analyst for the Iowa Department of Human Services, a founding member of the Iowa Odonata Survey, and the owner of AJ Endeavors, which specializes in natural history Web development. A self-described birder gone bad, she now spends summers chasing more bugs than birds near her home in south central Iowa.

Named after the state tree of Iowa, the Bur Oak Guides are published to assist the exploration and enjoyment of the natural environment of the Midwest.

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I Spy

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, submitted the following about springtime preparations:

 

I spy, with my little eye, something green.  It’s tiny, a sliver, and there’s another and another right there in my yard.  Under the melting snow and ice, live grass is trying to peek through.  Is it my imagination to expect green grass in early March?  As soon as we endure the annual State Girls’ Basketball Tournament snowstorm, it will be spring in Iowa!  Then, we can dig into yard work. 

Initially we monitor the gardens’ environments.  Disease prevention can save future headaches.  Start by removing unwanted leaves, branches and other debris deposited by wind or critters. Prune or trim back the stems you left for winter interest.   Peruse your garden catalog for species and varieties that are disease resistant.  Know if your new plantings prefer shade or a sunny setting.   Plan plantings to provide adequate airflow.   Humidity and wetness under the canopy are often conducive to disease so spacing is important. Maintaining good plant vigor through proper watering and fertilizing will make your plants less prone to disease.  As you plan your garden, consider the water source.  How many trips will you need to make with a watering can or how far will you have to drag a hose?  Is a rain barrel feasible in or near the bed?  How about a soaker hose?  I have two beds near the road ditch.   I alternate running the soaker hoses from a spigot beside the house.  I also have a water barrel mounted in a wagon to use for beds where no running water is available.   Proper timing with fertilization will be important.  Follow label directions on packages.   Retain the water and feeding directions for further reference. 

Compost amends the soil.  Use it abundantly!  Mulch is a valuable asset.  It helps hold moisture, chokes out weeds and prevents too much water from splashing on the underside of plants during a heavy rain.  I stock up my season’s supply as soon as each becomes available.

 Bird houses are a wonderful addition to a garden.  A water feature will attract birds and butterflies.  Both come in all manner of shapes and size. 

Remember to check out the rakes and shovels and tune up the lawn mower.  As soon as the soil is above 50 degrees, it’s time to plant!  

 

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Know your bugs

 

 
Sixspotted tiger beetle, a beneficial insect
Sixspotted tiger beetle, a beneficial insect

   The watch continues for the notorious emerald ash borer, a pest that has devastated ash trees in at least seven states, including neighboring Illinois.

   The emerald colored bugs appeared near Detroit six years ago and have been advancing toward Iowa.

   Having seen photos of the emerald ash borer, I quickly reacted when I saw a pretty emerald bug outdoors earlier this summer.

   Iowa State University has an awesome insect identification program that allows Iowans to e-mail a photograph of their bug and have it identified by entomologists.

   I shot a photo of my bug next to a ruler to show its size and sent it to the site.

   Good news: it wasn’t an emerald ash borer. Bad news: I had killed a sixspotted tiger beetle, a beneficial insect that extension entomologist Donald Lewis said is easily mistaken for an emerald ash borer.

   Lewis tells me the beetles are predators that chase other insects across the ground in woodlands.  They hunt food like a tiger.

   Tiger beetles are ecologically beneficial.  They are not a pest.  The beetles do not bite, sting or carry disease.  They do not feed on crops, trees or houses.  They are remarkably fast and difficult to catch.

   I’m bummed that I caught one, but glad it wasn’t an ash borer.

Lewis says the emerald ash borer is much smaller and narrower and does not have the long sharp jaws of a tiger beetle (predatory

hunter.)

 

   For Iowans who have a bug they’d like identified,  specimens can be submitted to the Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic for diagnosis at no charge.

   You can e-mail a close-up digital image to  insects@iastate.edu

   Specimens can also be sent to the clinic.

   Bugs should be dead when shipped and mailed in a bottle, box or padded envelope.  Soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, aphids and ants, and spiders, mites and ticks can be preserved in hand sanitizer gel.  Hard insects such as moths, butterflies and beetles do not need to be preserved, but they should be restrained inside the container so they don’t bounce around during shipment (for example, secure a moth or butterfly inside a box with layers of dry paper toweling.)

    Mail sample to:

Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic
327 Bessey Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-3140

 

Include information about where you live, where you found your insect, and how to get in touch with you. 

 For  a photo of the emerald ash borer, go to:  http://www.emeraldashborer.info/files/E2944.pdf

 

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Demonstration gardens

Linn County Master Gardener Shelby Foley describes a worthwhile trip to make in Eastern Iowa:

 

A group of Linn County Master Gardeners has developed a demonstration garden at Lowe Park, 4500 N. 10th St., Marion that serves as an outdoor, hands-on learning laboratory.  The garden consists of eleven beds and a composting station.  Master Gardeners are in the garden on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to dusk and on Thursday mornings from 9:00 a.m. until noon all summer meeting with the public to talk gardening and answer your questions.

            From conifers to roses to vegetables, the beds offer something for everyone interested in gardening.  The herb garden features eight different types of basil, each with a unique color and taste.  Visitors are encouraged to sample them and taste a bit of Italian summer.  The birds and butterflies bed is planted with flowers and herbs to attract our winged friends.  Here a caterpillar munching on a leaf is a good thing and visitors may spot a chrysalis or two hanging on the plants.  Several beds of annuals are changed in design and color from year to year for added interest.  The other beds provide just as many interesting designs, textures and colors. 

            Meander through the gardens.  Enjoy the marvelous scents.  Hear the soft sound of the native grasses swaying in the summer breeze.    Relax by the water feature.   You will undoubtedly be intrigued by the possibility of a family gardening project. 

 

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How much rain is enough and more gardening tips

Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith describes how much water is enough  (obviously, many parts of Iowa have had too much this week) and other gardening hints:

 

We’re so excited:  my favorite daughter’s garden is growing by leaps and bounds.  We had no idea of the quality of soil in the area, but luckily she unknowingly over seeded so we can do some thinning.  Her husband is excited to be able to walk out and pluck a ripe tomato.  Can you imagine the kids learning to hull peas?

So how is your garden growing? 

Have you noted your guests—your birds and butterfly buddies?  Adding bird and butterfly houses and water may encourage them to stay longer.

Keep planting. Try a new variety.   “Mudding” in plants is not a great idea, but there are certainly a variety of perennials still available when the ground dries out a little. 

Due to the overly wet conditions now, it’s a good idea to check your plants for mold and mildew.    Remove any leaves with blotches or that are discolored.  Use an insecticide soap to control insects.  Wet conditions do make weeding easier. 

Perennials generally do not need extra fertilizer.  The soil usually provides adequate nutrients.  Watch your plants, though and if they need a boost, go ahead with a liquid fertilizer. 

Perennials require one inch of water each week.  New plantings will request water several times each week.  It is better to water thoroughly less often.   Young new trees should be checked routinely and watered thoroughly as needed.  Remember clay soils retain water:  sandy soils do not. 

Finish pruning spring-flowering shrubs this month.  Prune so that the top of the hedge is narrower than the bottom to allow light to reach all parts of the shrub. 

Deadhead annuals as soon as the flowers start to fade to encourage new growth.

               

And, remember to plan a fun, educational and inexpensive ($10 for the entire family!) day on Saturday, June 14,  from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Linn County Master Gardeners’ First Annual Garden Walk.  Tickets are available at each location.  For more information, see the last two weeks’ blogs or call the Horticulture Hotline at 319-447-0647. 

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