Moth to Yucca to People

This week I have the opportunity to teach children about the benefits pollinators presented to the Pueblo People, and I know you will enjoy this topic just as much, so here it goes!

YUCCA POLLINATION

Yucca plants rely on yucca moths to pollinate them, and yucca moths rely on yucca to feed their young.

Obligate mutualism is the name of the game with the yucca: yucca moth relationship.  One cannot survive without the other.

IMG_5993Female Yucca moth collecting pollen from the anther of a yucca bloom.

Yucca blooms open early summer, inviting visitors with sweet nectar and shelter within its petals.

Yucca blooms release the most concentrated scent at night, and produce the most nectar in the evening hours, and reason for this, is their most important pollinator flies at night.

Yucca moths fly at night, making them nocturnal. They search for a yucca bloom to take refuge in, and scent plays a large role in moths finding the blooms.  Inside the yucca bloom, the yucca moths will mate.

Once mated, the female yucca moth will collect pollen from the anthers on the yucca bloom, and store it under her chin.

She will then fly to another yucca bloom, lay a few eggs, and deposit some pollen from under her chin onto the stigma of the bloom where her eggs will hatch.  She knows this will result in seeds.

The larvae of the yucca moths feed on the seeds of yucca plants.  The mother moth knows to lay only a few eggs in each bloom, so the bloom doesn’t abort and fail to feed her young.

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Yucca larvae feeding on the seeds inside a yucca fruit.

In many cases, pollinators do not know they are pollinating flowers to form seeds, but this clever girl is very much aware of her purpose for the yucca plant.  Her efforts benefit more than just her young. 

YUCCA AND THE PUEBLO PEOPLE

The Pueblo people used the yucca plant from top to bottom!

The blooms are sweet, and can be eaten straight off the plant.  Those blooms will also become a tasty fruit that can be eaten alone or paired with other foods.

IMG_5925Yucca bloom wide open for visitors.

The leaves are tough and fibrous, and can be shredded down to pieces perfect for weaving baskets, sandals, and blankets.

IMG_5955Yucca plant bearing a row of seed pods.

The tips of those fibrous leaves are sharp, and can be used as needles for sewing.

The roots of yucca plants make excellent soap and shampoo when ground into a pulp and mixed with a little water.  The roots can also be used as a remedy for rashes and sores.  They can be eaten, but have a soapy flavor.

yucca root and pulpYucca root and its’ pulp.

This pollinator isn’t a bee, but very important nevertheless! What a plant, and what a moth!

Thank you for joining the movement!

Jessica

Mason Bee Larva!

Check out this video to spy some live mason bee larva.

Below is a picture of the inside of my observation native bee house.  You are looking at two males nestled in the top rows resting, and three individual egg cells filled with pollen and nectar, and separated by mud in the bottom rows.  This is before the eggs hatched into larva, and the video I took tonight shows the larva, which are growing more chubby every day.  The next phase will be the larva spinning a cocoon around themselves to develop into pupa and then adults, which will emerge next March.  This is so cool watching the entire process!

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Making History

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In 2017 I find myself busier than ever toiling away at raising awareness for pollinators, many of which are insects that people generally dismiss as nuisances. Everyday I rise with the sun and begin pondering ways to reach people regarding the importance of pollinators, and many of my days I don’t have the privilege of witnessing the fruits of this labor, but I press on nevertheless, in hopes of reaching even the smallest of numbers to promote positive change.  I have been very fortunate to meet some amazing people on this journey who are also tirelessly toiling away for change.

2016 marked the beginning of my involvement with, and the establishment of the Colorado Pollinator Network, and what a wonderful journey this has been! We are looking forward to establishing the first annual Colorado Pollinator Month, which will take place in June of every year.  Our goal is to create state-wide awareness around pollinators to bring about positive change for pollinator species in our state.  My team on the Education and Outreach Workgroup has been working to invite as many entities as we can to help raise awareness during the month of June, and I cannot tell you how thankful I am for my team!

I am so very lucky to be working on Colorado Pollinator Month with:

Amanda Accamando (co-chairs the Education and Outreach Workgroup with me) of Hudson Gardens, Angela Jewett of Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield, Rebecca Coon of CU Museum of Natural History, Jane Crayton of CSU Extension of Pueblo, Deryn Davidson of CSU Extension of Boulder, Jessica Romer of Denver Urban Gardens,  of Audubon Rockies, Greta Mae of BBBSeeds.

All the hard work we have been putting in has been supported by Public Policy and Advocacy Workgroup of the Colorado Pollinator Network.  They brought a proclamation  to make Colorado Pollinator Month official, and thus a lasting mark on our state, to Governor John Hickenlooper, and he signed it!

When my family heard this news our house erupted with celebratory cheering!  My team of awesome go-getters were overjoyed.  This is a moment I will never forget, and I will always smile when June rolls around in Colorado, because we have already begun making history for pollinators!

Now, let’s do this!  Look for #pollinateCO to see the happenings for pollinators in June, and tag some pollinator photos of your own too.

12 x18 CO Pol Month Poster

I am buzzing with excitement, and determined to keep this state beautiful.

Jessica

Colorado Pollinator Garden

2017 harvest

Fall is a time we can appreciate what pollinators have helped to bring to our tables, but also a great time to plant for pollinators, and this is the number one way to help pollinators.

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The plants you choose should be pesticide free, and most importantly, neonicitinoid free.  “Neonics” are systemic pesticides, and end up in all parts of the plant, including pollen and nectar.  And once you plant them in the ground, roughly 90% of those nasty pesticides end up in the surrounding environment they are planted in, including the water.  If the nursery you shop at is unfamiliar with this type of pesticide, and cannot guarantee their absence in the plants they sell, don’t buy the plants.  Additionally, if there is a label stuck in the plant that reads “pest resistant,” that is likely containing neonics, or some type of pesticide.

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A garden that provides food from spring to summer to fall is most helpful, which means you will need a variety of flowering plants, and this also means your yard will be a rainbow of colors for you to enjoy!

I did some research to construct a garden consisting of food for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, as well as many other pollinators in Colorado.  Additionally, I have chosen plants that would bloom at varying times to provide food for pollinators from spring to fall.  Be sure to consult with your nursery about when to begin your fall planting for each type of plant, as this may vary.

Here’s the list:

Lavender

Yarrow

Turkish Veronica

Dalmation daisy

Catmint (bees of all sizes congregate on this plant)

Hissop/Agastache (of any variety, especially the red ones)

Coneflowers

Columbines

Hummingbird trumpet mint

Chocolate flower

Smooth blue aster

Cashmere sage

Russian sage

Bluebeard

Rabbitbrush

Mountain Mahogany

Sedum

Yucca 

And here are some more with pictures for your enjoyment!

Sunflowers are always wonderful for pollinators, and later for songbirds.

Salvia 

Lupine

Bee Balm

Blanket Flower

Penstemon

White Aster

Black-eyed Susans 

As always, I thank you for joining the movement to save our bees, and in doing so, saving all of our pollinators!

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Andrena Mining Bees

Andrena are early risers, and this year I was very luck you witness the emergence of a very large aggregation of these solitary bees in Highlands Ranch!

Andrena bees are solitary bees who happily live next door to many other solitary nesters. Some bees in this family will begin their season early spring, as is the case with these mining bees. Others will begin late summer, hoping to visit many of the sunflower family plants.

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Andrena can be social or solitary, depending on the weather conditions.  They can live in large aggregations, which is like a large housing development for humans.  This seemed to be the case with this group, however they can also live in a social structure with one queen laying all the eggs, and workers collecting all the necessary resources.

To identify the nesting hole of Andrena bees, you must be very observant of the smallest of details.  The following pictures show mounds of sandy soil, with and without holes.  This is evidence of some kind of ground burrowing bee.  The mounds without holes are either finished, and full of developing bees, or the mother bee has decided to close up shop and get some rest.  They will use dirt, plant debris, petals, or any kind of small covering to cover the holes.

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It can be alarming to stumble upon the activity of a large aggregation, however, there is no cause for concern.  These bees are too busy to concern themselves with humans or other animals, so long as there is no threat.  A perceived threat would be digging into their nesting site, or grabbing a bee out of pure harassment.  Wouldn’t you sting something if you felt threatened?  I sure would, and sometimes I wish I could sting to get the “point” across…he,he.

Andrena are of the few early rising bees, and that means the few flowering plants that are also early bloomers depend on these bees for their pollinating services.  So, consider yourself pretty darn lucky when you have been chosen to host these tiny ladies on your property.  Sit back and enjoy the very busy show.

Thank you for joining the movement!

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Look at all that pollen! She’s covered in yellow dust.

Let’s Make a Plan to BEE Good Hosts

In previous posts I have gone into great detail about the ways we can bee good hosts in our own yards.  You can review by clicking here.  There are lots and lots of great bits of information inside that link!

Here’s a quick list of to dos for a good host to pollinators:

  1. PLANT lots of flowers of a wide variety, and make sure they are organic.  I love seeds because if they grow, they will likely survive the rest of the season in my Colorado soil.
  2. DIRT won’t hurt. Leave a little bare soil for native bees to use for nesting sites.
  3. WATER is for everyone! Place a watering dish with marbles, rocks, or sticks for insects to land on and safely get a drink.

Cheers to another season buzzing with pollinators!  Thank you for joining the movement!

Jess