Celebrate our Pollinators This Week (and Every Week!)

Celebrate our Pollinators This Week (and Every Week!)

For the 13th year we celebrate National Pollinator Week June 22-28 to bring awareness to the importance of our pollinators and the challenges they face. This is an opportunity to learn about ways to protect pollinators in our own landscapes. Every one of us can make a difference.

When we hear the word ‘pollinator’ most of us immediately think of honeybees. They are very important but there are so many other creatures that are important pollinators:

  • Native bees – Florida alone has over 300 species of bees
  • Hummingbirds – their long beaks can reach into long, tubular blooms
  • Bats – they pollinate over 500 plants including banana, mango, and agave (used to make tequila)
  • Beetles – considered to be a messy and minor pollinator; they pollinate the native paw paw
  • Butterflies – a minor pollinator as most have long legs that keep them perched above the pollen
  • Flies – pollinators of a variety of native plants

According to the USDA, 75% of flowering plants and about 35% of food crops around the globe rely on these animals for pollination. Without pollination, these plants would not reproduce or provide us food.

So, what can the average person do to make a difference?

  • Plant what bees and butterflies love!
  • Avoid using any insecticide unless it is absolutely necessary. Predators like assassin bugs, dragonflies and birds help to keep pests in check. Our songbirds rely on protein-rich insects (especially caterpillars) to feed their growing babies.
  • Don’t treat areas where pollinators are visiting the flowers, whether in the lawn or the landscape beds.
  • If you need to apply an insecticide to the lawn, mow first to remove the blooms from any weeds. Always follow the label instructions carefully.
  • Avoid using a systemic insecticide on plants that bloom and attract pollinators. The insecticide can remain in plants for a long time.

Happy gardening during National Pollinator Week!

For more information:

Pollinator Partnership: Pollinator Week Activities

US Fish & Wildlife Pollinator Site

Native Insect Pollinators of the Southeastern United States brochure

Purdue University: Protecting Pollinators in Home Lawns and Landscapes

Minimizing Honey Bee Exposure to Pesticides

Those Pesky Deer

Those Pesky Deer

White tailed deer. Photo credit: Rebekah D. Wallace University of Georgia bugwood.org.

There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of deer in the panhandle, especially when it comes to them strolling in my yard looking for something tasty to eat. My vegetable garden suffered repeated assaults by hungry deer this past fall and winter. The garlic and cayenne pepper-based products only worked for a few days when freshly applied. I had to try something new this spring.

And my new method has worked. I purchased a motion activated high impact sprinkler that can be set to activate day or night. It has worked like a charm! There are various vendors but I purchased mine through a hardware store online for about $70. I put a splitter on my closest outdoor spigot and have a dedicated hose running to the sprinkler. This allows me to also have a regular hose for watering attached to the spigot.  The hose must be turned on all the time. One problem that I am hoping to avoid this summer is that the water in the hose may get too hot in the summer heat and split the hose, so I am looking to maybe trench to keep the hose and the water inside a bit cooler.

Motion activated impact sprinkler protecting the vegetable garden from ravenous deer. Photo credit: Mary Salinas, UF/IFAS Extension.

You can also choose plants that deer do not like to eat such as live oak, dogwood, muhly grass, coneflower and black-eyed Susan. However, keep in mind that when food is scarce deer will forage on plants that they normally would not eat. Southern magnolia is considered quite deer resistant but the one I planted this past winter was mostly defoliated by deer.

The University of Florida has a publication with many other strategies on controlling deer: Coping with Deer Damage in Florida.

 

Protect Your Home from Swarming Termites

Protect Your Home from Swarming Termites

Swarm of eastern subterranean termites. Photo by Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org.

Spring is in the air and that means termite swarming season is near!

Northwest Florida is home to fifteen native species of termites and six species that have invaded from other parts of the world. One invasive species of termite, the Formosan termite, arrived in the southeastern United States in the 1950’s and has been expanding its range and numbers ever since. While our native termites have colonies in the thousands of individuals, Formosan termite colonies can contain millions of individuals and that makes them a greater threat if they invade your home.

 

 

Here are some steps you can take to protect your home:

  • Turn off outside lights during termite swarming season – late April through June – the swarms are attracted to the light and may then find entry into your home.
  • Reduce moisture around your home by keeping gutters clean and having them drain at least a foot away from the foundation.
  • Avoid irrigation hitting the house.
  • Plants and mulch should be a foot away from the foundation.
  • Repair leaks and cracks – termites can get into the smallest of spaces.
  • Avoid wood, stucco and siding in contact with the ground.
  • Have an annual inspection by a licensed pest control company. Read the fine print of what is covered and what species/type of termites are included. Some policies exclude coverage for Formosan termites.

For more information:

Subterranean Termites

The Facts About Termites and Mulch

UF/IFAS Featured Creature: Formosan Termites

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Termite Control Information

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Formosan Termite Program

Spring Lawn Care Tips

Spring Lawn Care Tips

With our warm weather, many homeowners are looking to create a beautiful lawn for the year. There are so many products in the home improvement stores and nurseries that promise to make your lawn into a green paradise. What to choose?

Photo UF/IFAS Extension. Spring is a good time to check the water flow and direction of a pop-up irrigation system and make adjustments as necessary.

UF/IFAS Extension provides advice based on scientific research. This is what the science says:

  • Wait to apply lawn fertilizer in north Florida until mid-April. Lawn grasses don’t have sufficient root growth and capabilities to use the fertilizer until then. Applying fertilizer earlier in February and March feeds the winter weeds or is lost to leaching down into the soil below the grass roots. Here’s more detail on fertilizing your lawn.
  • Weed and feed products are not recommended. Instead, spot treat weeds when they are small before they mature and set seed. Consult our Weed Management Guide.
  • Preemergence herbicide, if applied correctly, can cut down on the weeds. Apply in late February or first of March for summer weeds and October 1 for winter weeds. Now in late March – Early April is still a good time to use a preemergence herbicide for those weeds that have not yet sprouted. It is crucial to apply the product correctly, following all label directions. Measure your lawn and make sure the right amount of product is applied. This is a convenient way to measure your lawn from your armchair.
  • Sharpen your mower blades! A clean cut on the grass blade cuts down on lawn stress and diseases setting in.
  • Water efficiently. We see more damage to lawns from overwatering than underwatering. Overwatering leads to increased weeds, disease, insect pests and weakens grass roots. Lawns need ½” to ¾“ of water and this will tell you how to determine when to water. The root system is healthier and stronger when watered deeply only when it needs it. Learn how long it takes your sprinkler system to deliver that amount.

The University of Florida provides more advice and information at:

Florida Natives: Black Titi

Florida Natives: Black Titi

Florida is home to some amazing and gorgeous plants that are underused and underappreciated in the home landscape. One such plant is an evergreen and easy-care large shrub or small tree known as black titi or buckwheat tree, botanically known as Cliftonia monophylla.

Evergreen shrub with spikes of pink flowers.

Pink-flowered variety of black titi, Cliftonia monophylla. Photo credit: Mary Salinas, UF/IFAS Extension.

Photo of titi tree with white blooms

Black titi or buckwheat tree. Photo credit: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, bugwood.com

Black titi is commonly found in wet areas and at the edges of swamps in USDA hardiness zones 7B through 9A from Louisiana through the Florida panhandle and into South Carolina. This is a perfect plant for those areas of your landscape that are low and consistently moist.

Early spring brings clusters of small white flowers at the tips of the branches. Occasionally one can find the pink-flowered variety of black titi in the native nursery trade. These fragrant flowers provide an early season nectar source for bees in February and March. The flowers give way to golden-amber seed pods that resemble buckwheat. The seed pods turn a pleasing orange-brown and persist on the plant through winter.  The shiny dark green evergreen leaves along with the seed pods provide an additional ornamental quality to the tree in fall and early winter.

Black Titi golden-amber fruit. John Ruter, University of Georgia, bugwood.org

 

For more information:

Florida Honey Bee Plants

USDA Plant Database

Florida Native Plant Society