Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bumblebee Impersonators and Meadow Thoughts

I'd love to have a large area that was meadow.  However, until then, I have planted a couple small swathes of meadow flowers, and plan to learn on terms of weed management, annual mowing, and all that.  I have an area in the vacant lot next door that we are slowly renovating, that is seeded with native wildflowers and grasses, crimson clover, and oats, and I am having to hand weed the knotweed seedlings that are popping up in a carpet amidst my wildflowers.  

We decided to weed wack all other areas of the lot, because a carpet of knotweed was coming up, and we will cardboard and then lay wood chips on top to kill the knotweed seedlings.  We have learned from experimenting that it seems knotweed coming up from seed can be killed this way because it is not established.  Knotweed that is spreading underground from a mother plant will just laugh at this technique and come on up, even if it has to grow around cardboard and up through a foot of woodchips.  This plant can grow through concrete.  And before we can really do anything with the lot, we have to get the knotweed a little under control.  Total control is futile, however.     

Wildflower and grass patch in the vacant lot
crimson clover in the vacant lot
So, areas of the lot look barren, as they are freshly weed wacked and waiting for a deep mulch to kill any knotweed seedlings waiting to pop up.  The grass patch in the back near the shed is my little wild flower patch.  There is no real soil in this lot, its pretty much just yellow clay subsoil.  It's kind of fun to start from scratch though, and see how resilient some plants are.  

little meadow patch in our vacant lot
bee on crimson clover
hunting praying mantis
In the home garden, lots of flowers are blooming to feed and host insect life.  

dill flowering
small bee on an onion flower
small bee on bachelor button
visitor on a carrot bloom
This is very cool.   The internet says this is the syrphid fly Mallota bautias that mimics a bumble bee for protection from bird predation.  This sucker was huge, but with fly eyes and little fly legs and fly mouthparts.  Aside from all those differences, the dead giveaway is that flies only have two wings and bees have four.  But birds can't tell that from the air when they are looking for a snack I suppose. 

bumblebee mimic Mallota bautias
bumblebee mimic Mallota bautias
Another small meadow patch I have is along a fenceline, and it is starting to bloom and buzz with life.  
fenceline meadow patch
fence meadow patch blooming
bumblebee on butterfly weed
bumblebee on butterfly weed
I ordered some reed and cardboard tubes for mason and leafcutter bee nests from Crown Bees months ago and have finally put a house together with them.  Though it would have been better to get this nest up earlier this year, it is now finally up.  You can house the tubes in an old coffee can, pipe, or bucket, and face the house south or southeast in full sun.  Lots of different size holes are good so individual females can pick their favorite fit.  

mason and leafcutter bee house
mason and leafcutter bee house
Next up, finding a good location for my bat house!  

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