Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wildflowers threatened by "safe" levels of nitrogen pollution Article

By Jaymi Heimbuch
from Treehugger Website
Wildflower season will be here before we know it and with it a new understanding of how we are affecting spring foliage. New science shows that even "safe" levels of nitrogen pollution -- pollution caused by the agricultural industry through nitrogen fertilizers -- have ill effects on wildflowers. While the fertilizer is a boon for farmers looking to boost crop yields, it has incredibly disastrous effects in other ecosystems, most noticeable in the gulf where agricultural run-off has triggered massive marine dead zones. And on land, wildflowers are also suffering a blow.
The Ecologist reports that a new paper written by Dr Richard Payne and Professor Nancy Dise, of Manchester Metropolitan University, and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looks at 100 plant species in 153 grassland sites across Europe and examines their reactions to nitrogen deposition.
The scientists found that many species, particularly wildflowers such as creeping buttercup, harebellyarrow, and autumn hawkbit, were much less abundant in areas with high nitrogen levels, such as central Britain, the Netherlands, northern Germany and Brittany. But particularly surprising was the discovery that many species declined at very low levels of pollution, often below the legally-recognised ‘safe’ level.
The findings show that even relatively "clean sites" far away from the source of pollution are still negatively affected, with a reduced abundance of some plant species. And this is no small issue. According to The Ecologist, "The scale of the problem is huge. It has been estimated nitrogen pollution costs the countries of the European Union alone up to €320 billion a year- but progress in tackling it has been limited... Nitrogen fertilizers are essential to feeding the world’s population but we can try to reduce the amount we use and the amount we lose into the environment."
While more attention is paid to the marine ecosystems impacted by nitrogen pollution, the study shows that an equal amount needs to be paid to the damages caused by the pollution to ecosystems on land -- from tropical rainforests to wildflower fields.
For All Your Native Wildflowers & Seeds Please Visit Our Website at Native Wildflowers & Seeds from Ion Exchange, Inc.

Do's and Don'ts for Erosion Control Article with a Preface from Howard Bright aka: Earthyman

In controlling erosion, one must start looking to the headwaters of the watershed.  Sheet and rill erosion are the major contributor to siltation of our rivers.  Even gently sloping land can have severe erosion if the surface is not protected by a vegetative umbrella.  Native grasses are the ultimate solution to these two types of erosion.  It's too late if we are already in the river up to our knees in mud and looking for a solution after the fact. Always look upstream first and then work your way down the watershed taking care of erosion problems on your way to the main river or watercourse.

Howard Bright, President Ion Exchange, Inc.
Native Wildflowers & Seeds from Ion Exchange, Inc.

Here's the Complete Article "Do's and Don't for Erosion Control"
By Susan Boyd
Shoreline Management Ranger, J. Strom Thurmond Lake

Did you know that silting can reduce the long-term depth of your cove? Silting is a natural process caused by soil erosion. Our shoreline management team is here to help permit holders and adjacent property owners resolve these issues within the laws and regulations that apply. Here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts for how you can control erosion and prevent silting in your cove.


1.  Reduce the potential for erosion by maintaining vegetated buffers around properties and bodies of water. While grassed lawns may help hold soil in place, trees, shrubs and native herbaceous plants can significantly slow the rate of erosion, as well as benefit native wildlife. (Herbaceous plants are fleshy, herb-like plants, many of which die back during the winter. They can be annuals, biennials or perennials).
2.  If erosion gullies begin to develop, placing natural, woody debris in the gullies can slow the flow of water, subsequently slowing the rate of erosion. On public land, however, only dead, fallen vegetation originating on public land can be placed in gullies and ditches. Woody debris and materials from private land cannot be placed on public land. All material placed in gullies should be placed in such a manner to slow erosion, but not creating a large mound or pile.
3.  Installing waterbars, drains and other diversionary measures on private land can re-direct water away from gullies and dissipate the flow of water, reducing the potential for further erosion and soil loss. Diversionary measures should be placed on private land.
4.  If clearing private land adjacent to waterbodies or public land, utilize silt fences and other erosion control measures, and always obtain the necessary state and local soil erosion control permits for land-disturbing and construction activities.
5.  If soil erosion has already occurred along the shoreline, it is possible to limit the extent of the erosion by stabilizing the existing shoreline. Permits can be obtained from the Corps of Engineers to place rip-rap, natural stone, and/or bioengineered materials along eroded shoreline to stabilize the shoreline and reduce the potential for future erosion.
6.  If silt has accumulated in coves and along the shoreline, adjacent property owners can obtain permits from the Corps of Engineers to excavate the accumulated silt and restore natural depths within the cove.


1.  Don’t place non-natural materials and debris in gullies and ditches. Placing non-natural materials (including treated wood) in gullies can constitute illegal disposal of waste materials and can result in water and soil pollution and contamination as materials decompose.
2.  Don’t plant non-native plants and trees to control erosion. When possible on private land, always try to plant native vegetation. Many non-native plants, including the ornamentals commonly found in gardens and landscaping, can be invasive and can negatively impact natural plant and animal communities. Invasive species often out-compete and choke out native plants and trees. Only native vegetation may be planted on public land and must be approved by the Corps of Engineers.
3.  Don’t clearcut buffers along streams, waterways and waterbodies. Vegetated buffers naturally slow the flow of water and reduce erosion and siltation within waterbodies.
4.  Don’t conduct any shoreline stabilization, excavation or install soil erosion control measures on public land without the appropriate permits and approvals. Always contact your shoreline ranger or nearest Corps office prior to activities on public land. While many options are available for controlling erosion and removing silt from coves, all actions on public land require approval and permits.

For more information regarding shoreline management at Thurmond Lake, please contact the Thurmond Operation Project Manager’s Office toll free at 1-800-533-3478 or email us at For information on Hartwell Lake, please contact the Hartwell Operations Project Manager’s Office toll free at 1-888-893-0678 or email

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Beguilding Beetls in the Wildflife Garden Article by Heather Holm from Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens

Beetles are a very diverse insect order and many beetles are frequent flower visitors; they are pollinators, beneficial insects predating on problem insect populations such as aphids, as well as parasitoids of other flower visitors. See similar posts about Fantastic Flies and Wonderful Wasps

The two most common flower visitors are soldier beetles (Cantharidae family) and long-horned beetles (Cerambycidae family). Beetles visit flowers to feed on pollen and nectar. Some have hairs on their tongue tip that act like pollen brushes, but typically they use their mandibles for chewing pollen grains.

Beetle Life Cycles and the Greater Food Web – It’s All Connected
Many beetle larvae are wood-boring, feeding on wood fibers or the fungus that inhabits decaying wood. By leaving dead standing trees (snags), or downed tree logs on the ground (nurse logs) in your landscape, you are providing valuable habitat for beetle larvae and the birds who feed on the larvae such as woodpeckers. Many native bee species use the abandoned wood burrows made by beetle larvae as nesting sites. Some examples include leafcutter bees, Megachile spp., mason bees, Osmia spp. and carpenter bees, Xylocopa spp.Banded Longhorn Beetles, Typocerus velutinus

Banded Longhorn Beetles, Typocerus velutinus
Common on coneflowers, this beetle feeds on pollen and nectar, their larvae are wood-boring.

Beetles can sometimes be destructive; some are not delicate flower visitors by any means, their mandibles chew on flower parts and foliage causing damage in some cases. For example, these blister beetles, Lytta sayi, are destructive feeders on legume flowers such as wild white indigo, Baptisia alba.

Many flower visiting beetles have hairy bodies where pollen grains attach aiding in the pollination of flowers. They often show a preference for white, cream or green colored flowers, with a strong, fruity or fermenting odor. The hard wings (elytra) provide some protection to beetles while they visit flowers. They are not easily scared off by other flower-visiting insects and will spend several minutes on a flower feeding on floral resources.

Locust Borer Beetle, Megacyllene robiniae
Locust borer beetles feed on pollen and are found on many goldenrod species in late summer. A possible survival strategy is to mimic wasps with black and yellow coloring, a good bird deterrent. The larvae of this beetle excavate tunnels in the wood of black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia).

Blister Beetles, Nemognatha spp.
These blister beetles are common on black-eyed susans, often feeding on nectar. They have strange looking mouthparts consisting of long maxillae that they use to suck nectar, they can also feed on pollen with their mandibles. Females lay their eggs on flowers, when the larvae hatch, they attach themselves to visiting bees and are carried back to the bee nests. The beetle larvae kill the bee larvae and consume the bee provisions of pollen and nectar.

Fire-Colored Beetles, Pedilus spp.
Fire-colored beetles are common flower-visitors in the spring. Larvae feed on fungi in decaying wood. Look for these beetles on flowers near woods often where blister beetles occur. Male fire-colored beetles will climb onto blister beetles, prompting them to release cantharidin, a defensive chemical. The male fire-colored beetles then lick the cantharidin off the blister beetle and use the chemical to attract females. When the male beetles mate with females, the cantharidin is transferred to the female. Her eggs are coated with cantharidin which helps protect them from predation.

Soldier Beetles, Family Cantharidae
Soldier beetles visit flowers for pollen and nectar, they are very common in mid- to late-summer.Their narrow head, thorax, and maxillary tongue allow them to access flower nectar in fairly deep flower corollas.Considered a beneficial insect, soldier beetle larvae feed on aphids, fly larvae, small caterpillars, beetle larvae and grasshopper eggs. Some adults in this family also feed on aphids. One defense mechanism of soldier beetles is to secrete a chemical compound so they are unpalatable to predators.

Ladybird Beetles, Cycloneda spp.
Both adults and larvae feed on soft-bodied insects (mainly aphids) and are utilized in the biological control of aphids. Females can consume hundreds of aphids before laying eggs. These beetles overwinter in groupings as adults and emerge in spring. Look for ladybird beetle eggs laid near aphid clusters, often under the flowerheads.

Wedge Shaped Beetle, Macrosiagon limbatum
A distinctive, triangular-shaped small beetle. Both male and female wedge-shaped beetles are found on native plants visited by wasps (and bees), where the female lays her eggs on the foliage. When an egg hatches the tiny first stage larva attaches itself to a visiting wasp or bee. The host carries it back to its nest where the beetle larva burrow into the host larva and live as an internal parasite.The developing wedge-shaped beetle larva continues to consume its host from the inside and eventually emerges from the host body. It then proceeds to feed on the host from the outside until the host dies.

Tiphiid Wasp, Myzinum spp.
These wasps visit late summer natives for nectar. Males have a menacing looking ‘pseudostinger’ on the end of their abdomen. Females burrow into the ground and lay their eggs on scarab beetle grubs which their larvae consume as they develop.

Milkweed Leaf Beetle, Labidomera clivicollis
Milkweed leaf beetles are one of several beetles who specialize feeding on the foliage of milkweed (Asclepias) plants. Overwintering adults emerge in early spring. Females typically lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves; look for bright red to orange egg clusters. Larvae hatch and develop in several instar stages during the summer months and feed on milkweed flowers and foliage. Adults are again active in the fall preparing to overwinter.

2013 Heather Holm Native Plants & Wildlife Garden Website
To Purchase all Your Native Wildflowers & Seeds Visit Native Wildflowers & Seeds from Ion Exchange, Inc.

House "Sodsaver" Measure Would Protect Native Prairie Habitat

Protect Our Prairies Act would limit taxpayer-funded incentives to destroy native grasslands
02-14-2013 // Aviva Glaser

Representatives Noem (R-SD) and Walz (D-MN) today introduced legislation to save America’s grasslands through a national sodsaver provision. The Protect Our Prairies Act, which has the support of eight bipartisan co-sponsors, is common-sense legislation that would reduce taxpayer-funded incentives to destroy vital grassland resources.
Aviva Glaser, Legislative Representative for Agriculture Policy at National Wildlife Federation, said today:
America is at risk of losing one our most iconic ecosystems. Native prairies, along with the wildlife that are dependent upon them, are disappearing at an alarming rate. The Protect Our Prairies Act will help protect this vital resource by promoting management practices that conserve native grasslands.
“Without a national sodsaver provision, we will continue to see native prairie habitats converted to cropland, despite the fact that this vulnerable land is often marginal, highly erodible, or prone to flooding. It’s time we get rid of the perverse incentives that encourage farmers to destroy native prairie for marginal financial gain.
“With this legislation we can protect vital habitat for declining wildlife and save taxpayer dollars while ensuring that some the riskiest land for crop production is kept in grazing use. It is critical that the House Agriculture Committee include this national sodsaver provision in the 2013 Farm Bill.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Great News Global Great Backyard Bird Count Shatters Records

February 21, 2013--From Antarctica to Afghanistan, bird watchers from 103 countries made history in the first global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), February 15–18, 2013. In the largest worldwide bird count ever, bird watchers set new records, counting more than 25.5 million birds on 120,000+ checklists in four days—and recording 3,144 species, nearly one-third of the world’s total bird species. The data will continue to flow in until March 1.

Building on the success of the GBBC in the United States and Canada for the past 15 years, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada opened the count to the rest of the world for the first time this year, powered by eBird, a system that enables people to report birds globally in real-time and explore the results online. Bird watchers are invited to keep counting every day of the year at
Common Redpoll by Missy Mandel, Ontario, 2013 GBBC

Cornell Lab director Dr. John Fitzpatrick says:
“This is a milestone for citizen science in so many respects—number of species, diversity of countries involved, total participants, and number of individual birds recorded. We hope this is just the start of something far larger, engaging the whole world in creating a detailed annual snapshot of how all our planet’s birds are faring as the years go by.”

Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham:
“People who care about birds can change the world,” said Audubon chief scientist Gary Langham. “That’s why this year’s record-setting global participation is so exciting. Technology has made it possible for people everywhere to unite around a shared love of birds and a commitment to protecting them.”

Other Key Preliminary Findings: 
Top 5 Most Reported Species (reported on highest number of checklists): Northern Cardinal; Dark-eyed Junco; Mourning Dove; Downy Woodpecker; House Finch
Top 5 Most Common Birds (most individuals reported): Snow Goose; Canada Goose; Red-winged Blackbird; European Starling; American Coot
Finch Invasion: A massive number of northern finch species moved into the U.S. including the Common Redpoll, reported in a record 36 states. Scientists believe these periodic movements are related to natural fluctuations in crops of conifer cones and other seeds in Canada.
Hurricane Sandy: The weather system that caused Sandy's landfall also blew some European birds to North America and evidence of this is still showing up in GBBC results. The colorful, crested Northern Lapwing was reported in Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts during the GBBC.
GBBC First: A Red-flanked Bluetail has wintered at Queens Park, Vancouver, and was also reported for the GBBC’s first record ever. This British Columbia bird has been drawing bird watchers from all over the U.S. and Canada hoping to see this rarity. This little thrush is one of the only birds in the world with a striking blue tail and is native to Asia; the other GBBC report of this species this year was from Japan.
For more information, visit

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part thanks to founding sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.


Pat Leonard, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 607-254-2137,

David J. Ringer, Director, Media Relations, National Audubon Society, Office 212-979-3062 / Mobile 601-642-7058,

Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada,  250-493-3393 (Pacific Coast time),

Article From Great Backyard Bird Count Website

Monday, February 25, 2013

Restoring the Landscape with Native Plants Article Grass-carrying Wasps ~ Isodontia spp.

Grass-carrying wasps are a flower-visiting solitary wasp, common in late summer and early fall. Because they are solitary-nesting, and not colonial like yellowjackets or hornets, they do not sting humans to defend their nests. It's an important distinction to make with wasps in our landscapes, so many are solitary and not aggressive.

They perform important ecosystem services, pollinating the plants in our landscape, and preying on foliage eating insects, crickets and katydids in particular.

Females look for prey, stinging them several times to paralyze and immobilize them. They carry their prey back to their nests, which are preexisting cavities such as hollow stems or holes bored in wood.

The paralyzed prey are stocked for their developing larvae to feed upon. Using nearby grasses, nests are divided into sections with pieces of grass, they also close the end of nest with grass.

If you erect a mason bee nest board (board with nesting holes drilled in it), grass-carrying wasps will sometimes build nests in the cavities. Look for pieces of grass sticking out the ends of the board holes or plant stems.

I have several different variations of stem nests hung in the yard for solitary bees (and wasps), this one in particular has been utilized almost exclusively by grass-carrying wasps. Cup plant and pale Indian plantain stems work extremely well, both are hollow.

Here's a cross-section of one of those stems with the wasp larvae and stocked prey. In my yard, the grass-carrying wasps like to use little blue stem to seal off the cavities.

Look for grass-carrying wasps in late summer. In my yard, they like to visit stiff goldenrod, common boneset and pale Indian plantain flowers for nectar.

Article Posted From Restoring The Landscape Website

If You Are Interested In Purchasing A Great Pollinator Seed Mix Please Visit Website Native Wildflowers & Seeds From Ion Exchange, Inc.