Monday, November 27, 2017

Keep it messy. Keep it alive.

Still feeling tempted to tidy up your  garden for the winter time? Think again. Xerces Society says that one of the best things a gardener can do in the fall and winter for pollinators is LEAVE THE LEAVES ALONE: let it be messy.

The reason why moths, butterflies, native bumblebees and solitary bees, beetles, snails, spiders etc are begging you to control your OCD this fall and leave "dead" matter alone (there is nothing dead about pesticide-free garden), is because leaves and such, provide shelter from the cold and food for these little critters. Leave "litter" provides protection from predators. So why would you rack them away?
At the very least, leave some leave and twig piles.

Fall garden, Strathcona
In fact, as Xerces Society points out, the vast majority of butterflies and moths overwinter in the landscape as an egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, or adult: "Red-banded hairstreaks lay their eggs on fallen oak leaves, which become the first food of the caterpillars when they emerge.
Luna moths and swallowtail butterflies disguise their cocoons and chrysalis as dried leaves, blending in with the “real” leaves. There are many such examples."

Fall garden. Strathcona.
Remember too, that these critters are food for birds, chipmunks and other wildlife.

Solitary bees will take winter refuge under a pile of bark or dried leaves, or nest in cavities in hollowed out stems and decomposing logs.

When you permit yourself to be a laidback gardener, you help to support a rich population of native pollinators in the following spring and summer.

Interested in other reasons for why a little messiness is good for your garden?
Read the entire article here.

The wildlife value of a messy garden.

So this fall and winter, please don't make a fuss over a bit of mess, and be proud that your gardening is adding value to wildlife habitat, and a diversity of insects!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Doug Tallamy: A world without insects is a world without biodiversity.

Biodiversity starts with insects.
Doug Tallamy delivered an absolutely riveting presentation last week at the RBG. A Chickadee's Guide to Gardening took the perspective of a (Carolina) chickadee's experience in a regular garden as a place to breed: would there be enough food and shelter for it to live its life, including rear its young?
Carolina Chickadee
Doug told us how he had surveyed over 1176 trees in Portland, Oregon. He noted that of this number, only 100 were indigenous. He observed that there were not that many birds: “Woodpeckers, kinglets, junco etc aren’t breeding in our greenest city, because there are no trees to breed in.The city is a biological desert!”

Most of our cities lack biodiversity, but, as Doug says, we can fix this. He demonstrated how to do so from the perspective of birds, and more specifically, through a year of the life of our little Carolina Chickadee friend.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Major Loss of Insect Biomass in Protected Areas

So this is some sombering, sombering news. A report came out last week in the journal Plos One, talking about a study tracking the devastating decline in flying insect populations over the last 27 years on nature reserves in Germany. More than a 75% decline in total flying insect biomass (the total mass of organisms in a given area or volume) in protected areas. An excerpt from the abstract reads,
Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services. Our understanding of the extent and underlying causes of this decline is based on the abundance of single species or taxonomic groups only, rather than changes in insect biomass which is more relevant for ecological functioning. Here, we used a standardized protocol to measure total insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (96 unique location-year combinations) to infer on the status and trend of local entomofauna. Our analysis estimates a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study. We show that this decline is apparent regardless of habitat type, while changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics cannot explain this overall decline. This yet unrecognized loss of insect biomass must be taken into account in evaluating declines in abundance of species depending on insects as a food source, and ecosystem functioning in the European landscape.
The paper ends with the following:

 The widespread insect biomass decline is alarming, ever more so as all traps were placed in protected areas that are meant to preserve ecosystem functions and biodiversity. While the gradual decline of rare insect species has been known for quite some time (e.g. specialized butterflies [9, 66]), our results illustrate an ongoing and rapid decline in total amount of airborne insects active in space and time. Agricultural intensification, including the disappearance of field margins and new crop protection methods has been associated with an overall decline of biodiversity in plants, insects, birds and other species in the current landscape [20, 27, 67]. The major and hitherto unrecognized loss of insect biomass that we report here for protected areas, adds a new dimension to this discussion, because it must have cascading effects across trophic levels and numerous other ecosystem effects. There is an urgent need to uncover the causes of this decline, its geographical extent, and to understand the ramifications of the decline for ecosystems and ecosystem services.

Doug Tallamy is coming to Town!

Yas! Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home is coming to Hamilton. Here is what he'll be presenting on: A Chickadee’s Guide To Gardening

Doug Tallamy
In the past we have designed our landscapes strictly for our own pleasure, with no thought to how they might impact the natural world around us.  Such landscapes do not contribute much to local ecosystem function and support little life.

Using chickadees and other wildlife as guides, Tallamy will explain how plants that evolved in concert with local animals provide for their needs better than plants that evolved elsewhere.

In the process he shows how creating living landscapes sharing by our spaces with other living things will not reduce our pleasurable garden experiences, but enhance them.

Doug Tallamy is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he has authored 87 research publications and has taught Insect Taxonomy, Behavioral Ecology, Humans and Nature, Insect Ecology, and other courses for 36 years.

Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. His book Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens was published by Timber Press in 2007 and was awarded the 2008 Silver Medal by the Garden Writers' Association. The Living Landscape, co-authored with Rick Darke, was published in 2014. Doug is also a regular columnist for garden Design magazine. Among his awards are the Garden Club of America Margaret Douglas Medal for Conservation and the Tom Dodd, Jr. Award of Excellence.
Tickets are still available. Get 'em.