Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Do you have Bagworms?

A month ago, I was at a physical therapy session with Lisa at her studio (http://www.movemoretoday.com/) and she pointed out to me a Bagworm problem she was having on several of her plants outside. I had never noticed them before and went home to survey my trees to see if any had indeed found their way here as well. 

I did have some! 

I had passed a spruce tree several times, not really noticing them as 
they are well disguised as pine cones.

Our tree had between 50 and 100 bags. John used a ladder to reach and remove them by hand, 
then discarded them in the trash. 

We still have a few that still need to come down.

If not removed, when they hatch in late May into June, 500 to 1000 worms will emerge from EACH bag and eat all the needles, the bark and can completely defoliate the tree or bush. 

Had I had them before and never noticed them? It's possible as they have a natural predator and infestations can vary from year to year. They also spread very slowly.

If you have them though, be proactive and remove them immediately.

See the following Penn State website for further information: http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/bagworm

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Every September, spiders and spider webs are everywhere to be seen.  Spiders are busy casting webs, catching prey, paralyzing and liquifying them, mating and laying eggs.

On a recent foggy morning, the spiders' night's work was astonishing, with webs of all different sizes, shapes and configurations. This site explains and shows how a web is created:

Here are some Orb weavers and their amazing, intricate webs:

and Sheet web spiders, including Platform spiders at a greater number than I have ever seen before in the last several years. Within a greater complex of webbing, there is a platform that looks like a parachute.

Here is prey wrapped in silk with the spider located right under it:

Here is another orb weaver in a Sweetgum tree processing its prey:

This article explains clearly the process of the spider injecting its prey with venom, wrapping it in silk and then liquifying: http://science.howstuffworks.com/zoology/insects-arachnids/spider7.htm

According to recent research, spiders can learn how to catch prey more effectively. See articles:

Here is a Penn State publication on Spider ID in PA: http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/uf019.pdf

In search for more information about spiders, I found these interesting and informative blogs:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pick Your Own

I was recently visiting the Cape May Honey Farm store, which offers honey varieties from around the world, candles and gifts. It is well worth a visit.

Their website is: http://www.capemayhoneyfarm.com/

As I was leaving, I noticed this funny comic strip lying on the counter. I hope you enjoy:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reblogging: Scientists discover another cause of bee deaths, and it's really bad news

Found on: Treehugger Blog: http://www.treehugger.com/

Below are excerpts from the full article:

The researchers behind that study in PLOS ONE -- Jeffery S. Pettis, Elinor M. Lichtenberg, Michael Andree, Jennie Stitzinger, Robyn Rose, Dennis vanEngelsdorp -- collected pollen from hives on the east coast, including cranberry and watermelon crops, and fed it to healthy bees. Those bees had a serious decline in their ability to resist a parasite that causes Colony Collapse Disorder. The pollen they were fed had an average of nine different pesticides and fungicides, though one sample of pollen contained a deadly brew of 21 different chemicals. Further, the researchers discovered that bees that ate pollen with fungicides were three times more likely to be infected by the parasite.
The discovery means that fungicides, thought harmless to bees, is actually a significant part of Colony Collapse Disorder. And that likely means farmers need a whole new set of regulations about how to use fungicides. While neonicotinoids have been linked to mass bee deaths -- the same type of chemical at the heart of the massive bumble bee die off in Oregon -- this study opens up an entirely new finding that it is more than one group of pesticides, but a combination of many chemicals, which makes the problem far more complex.
And it is not just the types of chemicals used that need to be considered, but also spraying practices. The bees sampled by the authors foraged not from crops, but almost exclusively from weeds and wildflowers, which means bees are more widely exposed to pesticides than thought.
The authors write, "[M]ore attention must be paid to how honey bees are exposed to pesticides outside of the field in which they are placed. We detected 35 different pesticides in the sampled pollen, and found high fungicide loads. The insecticides esfenvalerate and phosmet were at a concentration higher than their median lethal dose in at least one pollen sample. While fungicides are typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees, we found an increased probability of Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load. Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees placed in an agricultural setting are exposed to."
While the overarching issue is simple -- chemicals used on crops kill bees -- the details of the problem are increasingly more complex, including what can be sprayed, where, how, and when to minimize the negative effects on bees and other pollinators while still assisting in crop production. Right now, scientists are still working on discovering the degree to which bees are affected and by what. It will still likely be a long time before solutions are uncovered and put into place. When economics come into play, an outright halt in spraying anything at all anywhere is simply impossible.
Quartz notes, "Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Looking for Breakfast

On a recent summer morning, a Cooper's Hawk, I believe, landed on the fence, 
searching intently for prey. 

A small bird was moving below and caught his eye - his very intense red eye!

He moves in for a closer look.

He has narrowed his search.

Or, perhaps not, as he takes one look back.

and heads out with no success.

This hawk appears to me to be a Cooper's Hawk, but after reading through the Cornell Identification notes (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/accipiterIDtable.htm), comparing a Cooper's and a Sharp-shinned, I'm not as a certain. Please feel free to weigh in!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dove Love, Part 2

After the first nesting cycle, the female was wooed by another suitor.

Her mate takes notice, tries to reel her in, by chasing and circling her. He succeeds and she sits down in place. 

He then chases off the intruder as she watches on.

He then races back to her, 

reunites and reasserts himself, ruffles his feathers and woos her.

She accepts and acknowledges him by grooming in unison.

They face one another, with him providing a ruffled display as she sits down submissively.

He feeds her, 

then mounts her and they mate.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dove Love, Part 1

We have always have an abundance of mourning doves year round. This spring, a pair chose to nest in a large spruce bush near our home. The nest is located only 4 feet off the ground, which makes for easy viewing.

The nest building attracted my attention, with both male and female working together - the male bringing the plant material and twigs and the female putting them into place.

The male is leaving and the female is down in the bush, building the nest.

Off he goes. 

Nest building is presumably exhausting and here is the male resting after making many trips.

The nest is a very frail small platform comprised of twigs and straw that 2 off-white inch long eggs balance upon. For a couple of weeks, the male and female take turns at the nest, with her cooing mornings for him to come and take over. 

Here he is, relaxing in a nearby oak tree:

Finally, 2 little babies were born. The mom perches on them for a week or so to keep them warm and perhaps to keep them from falling off the nest.  

Here is the baby pair a couple of weeks later. 

And, then slowly exploring just barely beyond the nest

and even further - hello new world.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lightning Strikes

On May 8th, violent thunderstorms with hail and lightning rolled 
through our area and left their mark.

As I was pulling in, I noticed a strange bright line down the trunk of an old dead tree in the side yard.

At closer view, it was clear that the tree had been hit by a lightning bolt, that broke a major branch and stripped the tree of bark, as the bolt traveled down the trunk into the ground. 

After surveying the area more carefully, I could see another tree nearby had also been hit by the same bolt or another. Bark was missing, too, in a stripe down the tree and bark was 
blown off on several limbs. 

On the tree in the foreground here, charred bark is clearly visible and in the background is the other tree that had been hit, which is over 8 feet away.

 Here is another angle. 

Here is an image from wikipedia that shows what this event would have looked like in real time: 

Here is an interesting article to read to consider how to care for a tree after being hit by lightning: 

Per the article, the second tree hit has damage on several sides and may by severely damaged internally. We will have to watch for wilt and other telling signs.