Posts tagged insect

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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All about lawns

   It’s spring and attention is turning to lawns. Two things today about lawn care. The first is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith and the second came to me from Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey sent the message to remind homeowners that spring is an ideal time to improve soil quality in our yards and that restoration of the soil can help retain water, prevent erosion and protect water quality.

 

This is from Claire Smith:

 

   Are you ready for some mowing?  Depending on the weather, your summer lawn mowing and maintenance can begin anytime in April.

Did you service the mower last fall?  If you didn’t have time then, you should take time now.  Beg or bribe your favorite spouse or relative to change the oil, kick the tires, replace the spark plug and air filter, and be certain the blades are sharp and not bent. 

If the ground temperature is 55-60’ you can commence any necessary re-seeding and repairs. Lawn repair kits that will contain seed and mulch can be purchased.  But remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is so do not succumb to terrific sounding no maintenance grasses and groundcover.   Apply the patch after you have removed the dead turf and loosened and amended the soil.

   Pizza or ice cream treats may create some enthusiasm to have the kids or grandkids help you rake and remove clumps of leaves and other debris left over from winter ice and snow. Initiate a game of pickup sticks (branches). Tamp down runways created by winter vole activity and fill in holes. 

  Hose off lawn areas along walks, drives and roadways that have been exposed to deicing compounds or your grass may not reappear.  Keep newly seeded and sodded areas moist to reduce stress on young and developing root systems.   Watering an established lawn is not necessary now.  Wait until May to fertilize.  Over watering and over fertilizing does more harm than good on your lawn:  strike a happy medium.  Excessive use of insecticides may reduce nature’s aerating machines, the earthworm. Monitor your lawn for any insect damage prior to spraying. 

   Proper mowing is a real key to a healthy lawn.  The suggested mowing height is 3-3 ½” Taller grass forms a deeper root system.  Stronger plants are more likely to fend off insects, disease and weeds.  Remove only 1/3 of the total height of the grass and leave the clippings on the lawn to decompose. Clippings add nitrogen, moisture and organic matter to the soil.  Varying the direction and pattern of mowing will reduce the wear and tear on the lawn.

   So, are you ready for some mowing?  Grab a bottle of lemonade and your hat and sunscreen. Hop on the mower and enjoy the spring weather and the start of a beautiful lawn.

 

From Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship:

 

    Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today encouraged homeowners to consider incorporating soil quality restoration efforts into their annual spring yard work.

   Often in urban areas, especially new developments, the topsoil has been removed and what is left is compacted.  Restoring soil quality helps yards and green spaces absorb and infiltrate rainfall, which reduces the homeowners need to water their yard while protecting water quality and preventing runoff.

   “Iowa is known for it’s great soil, and rightfully so, but we need to make sure we are taking care of that soil so that it is healthy,” Northey said.  “What made our soil so productive was the high organic matter content and porosity that absorbed rain and allowed roots to grow deep.  Soil quality restoration helps recreate those conditions that allow plants to thrive.”

   If you are establishing a new lawn, perform deep tillage (8-12 inches deep) before seeding or sodding to breaks up compacted soils.  Add compost to increase organic matter.  It is recommended that soils have 5 percent or more organic matter before sodding or seeding, which can be achieved by incorporating 1 to 3 inches of compost.

   If you have an existing lawn, consider aerating the soil and then apply a blanket of compost in the spring or fall.  An application of one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch of compost following aeration will help fill the holes with organic matter to amend the soil and allow existing turf to grow through the compost amendment. If your turf is patchy, add seed to the compost application to thicken up the vegetation.

   “Improving the soil quality in your yard will make your lawn healthier, require less water and reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide applications,” Northey added.  “A better looking lawn and improved water quality in the state are possible when we better manage runoff through soil quality restoration and other measures that allow water to infiltrate.”

   There are a number of other lawn care tips to help care for your soil and promote infiltration of water and prevent runoff.

  • Begin mowing after the first of May and end near Labor Day.
  • Set the mower at three inches high. The higher the grass shoots the deeper the grass roots, making it better able to survive dry periods.
  • Use the mulch setting on your mower to leave the grass clippings on the yard. Don’t lower organic matter content by removing clippings.
  • Consider using native plants for accent in planting beds or in rain gardens to minimize the amount of turf grass.
  • Seed your lawn to a native turf mixture that has deep roots and thrives in Iowa’s weather conditions without extra care.

   More information about urban conservation, rain gardens and a soil quality brochure are available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov

 

 

               

               

 

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