The Great Georgia Pollinator Podcast has launched! University of Georgia’s Becky Griffin is the host and she designed the podcast to correspond to the Great Georgia Pollinator Census.
If you are interested in pollinating insects, habitat, and research, this is the podcast for you. It can be found on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Anchor. Each episode is 20-30 minutes so it is easy to listen to at your office desk, during lunch, or on your commute.
The first episode explores the Connect to Protect pollinator certification program with Lauren Muller. As with other social media platforms, this podcast will concentrate on pollinator habitat during the first part of the year and transition into more insect topics as we approach warmer weather. Won’t you join us?
April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 in schools and communities around the United States as a way to call attention to environmental issues. According to the Earth Day Network, the occasion is now celebrated in over 190 counties.
With most of our country sheltering-in-place, we have an opportunity to really embrace Earth Day at home with our families. Hopefully, you have taken time over the last days to really slow down and appreciate nature around you. Let’s celebrate that with a special Earth Day! Plant a garden or create nature poetry. It can be a great day while safely staying within recommended shelter-in-place guidelines. Following are some other ideas to get you and your family in an Earth Day spirit.
Hold a family nature photo contest. Give the members of your family 24 hours to take nature photos from places nearby using their cell phones. Give simple prizes for the most creative photos. You can use an online photo service to create a book of the photos as a memento.
Explore your pollinator garden. Practice identifying and counting insects to get ready for the Great Georgia Pollinator Census on August 21 and 22. The project website at https://ggapc.org/ contains all you need to learn more about the pollinators in your garden.
Learn to identify the birds in your yard. For added fun learn their calls. Cornell’s bird lab has free resources on bird identification. Feeding birds is a wonderful family hobby. Get tips on now from UGA Extension Circular 976 at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Discover more about the trees in your yard. Can you identify them? The Arbor Day Foundation has a great website for tree identification. What role does each tree play in the wildlife ecosystem? Create some leaf rubbings to decorate your home. For more information, see UGA Extension Bulletin 987 on native trees and shrubs at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Organize your recyclables. If you don’t already recycle, spend some time creating an area in your home to place and organize your recyclables. Research where to take your recyclables locally. Does your trash pickup service also take recyclables? For more tips, see UGA Extension Bulletin 1050-2 on recycling at extension.uga.edu/publications.
Plan an Earth Day dinner. This is a tradition with my family each year — we choose a theme and plan dinner and activities around it. For example, plan a pollinator dinner choosing foods that need a pollinator. Strawberry shortcake is a great dessert for this theme! Other themes are foods grown underneath the earth’s crust like potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes and onions. Or perhaps a spring greens dinner with different lettuces and salad toppings. Cooking together is a wonderful activity for stress relief. Decorate your table for the occasion and plan some relevant dinner conversation topics.
Whatever you decide to do, stay safe and enjoy the day!
It is the time of the year when Georgians look to the sky to watch for signs of Monarch migration. These butterflies are on their way to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico to overwinter on the oyamel fir trees of the area. The fir trees provide the perfect climate with a combination of optimal temperature and humidity to ensure the butterflies survive the winter. It is amazing to realize that this super-generation of migrating butterflies endure the hazards of the trip to go to a place that they have never been before.
Fall Monarch Migration Routes Source: USGS National Atlas
Reports around Georgia are that Monarch populations are high. A poll taken of insect enthusiasts showed that 83% have seen Monarchs heading south this year. Thirty percent of the respondents indicated that they are seeing a higher number of Monarchs than last year. This is terrific news as Monarch population numbers have been inconsistent over the last several seasons.
To increase the chances of seeing this phenomenon and to assist the butterflies create a fall migration garden. Monarchs will descend from their high migration path looking for food resources. Research shows that migrating butterflies respond to tall flowers that are easily accessible. Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum), goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) are all proven Monarch attractors in the fall. Several of our fall-blooming native aster plants (Aster spp.) are perfect for these butterflies as well. The butterflies do not need milkweed (Ascelpias spp.), their larval host plant, at this time of the year. But be sure to include milkweed in your summer butterfly garden.
To follow the Monarch migration and to report your butterfly populations visit Journey North (https://journeynorth.org/monarchs). This organization has tabulated the reports of citizen scientists for many years and is a great resource for school groups. Monarch Watch (https://www.monarchwatch.org) provides online information for learning about these insects and their habitat needs. Contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension agent for more information about butterfly gardening and habitat building. If you miss seeing the fall migration spend time getting your garden ready for the Monarch return in the spring!
School is back in session over most of the state and with that school gardens are being used in curriculum. Hopefully teachers came back to a neat and weed-free space. In the perfect world, teachers would come back to crops planted and paths cleared. If neither of those is your school, you definitely have some work to do this year in building your school garden committee!
Over the coming weeks we will be exploring how to tie your school garden into your classroom curriculum. I look forward to hearing from you all on ideas that you have as well.
This week I want to make sure that all educators are aware of the Great Georgia Pollinator Census. This is happening Friday, August 23rd and Saturday, August 24th. This program is perfect for school gardeners. I have been working with teachers across the state to help them craft events for their students. All that is needed is pollinator garden or an area with several pollinator plants blooming during the census.
For fifteen minutes, participants count insects that land on a favorite pollinator plant and place the insects into categories:
Carpenter Bees Bumble Bees Honey Bees Small Bees Wasps Flies Butterflies/Moths Other Insects
The Insect Counting & Identification Guide is found on the website and is the key to success with the project. The observation sheet can be printed and carried to the garden and actual counts will be uploaded to the website. You do not need a strong entomology background to be successful with this project.
Two years of pilot projects helped us refine the project and make it ideal for upper elementary through high school students. It fits in perfectly with STEAM curriculums. The website also has a special page for educators with ideas on how to use the census with your students. We also have a Facebook group, Georgia Pollinator Census, where educators have been sharing ideas.
August 23rd and 24th of 2019, citizens of Georgia will be conducting the first ever statewide pollinator census. This includes YOU if you live in Georgia! You will want to be a part of pollinator history!
We have been working towards this project for some time and even though it is still 14 months away, we want to make sure that every Georgia citizen has the date marked on their 2019 calendar. We have already been asked a few questions so I wanted to answer those most frequently asked:
What is the Great Georgia Pollinator Census?The Great Georgia Pollinator Census is a statewide project where all Georgia citizens will be asked to count pollinators on either August 23rd or 24th of 2019. Training and all supporting information will be provided through the website, https://GGaPC.org, closer to the August 2019 date.
How will it work? Each citizen scientist (YOU) will choose a favorite pollinator plant that is blooming in their garden for counting. You will count all the insects that land on that plant during a 15-minute period. After you tally the counts, you will upload your data to the webpage. Very simple. The data will be used for researchers to see a snapshot of which pollinators are at work in Georgia on those dates.
Do I have to be an entomologist to participate? NO, definitely NOT. We will be asking you to place the insects you see into one of eight categories:
Carpenter bees Bumble bees Small bees Honey bees Wasps Flies Butterflies Other insects
The online training, conducted and posted online in 2019, will teach you how to tell the difference between flies, bees, and wasps. We will give you the tools to understand the basic skills needed to place insects in the categories. It will be very simple and straightforward. Of course, we will be available for any questions.
Can school groups participate? ABSOLUTELY! One of the reasons for the August date is to make sure school groups do participate. We will have lesson plans available for teachers use. We have conducted smaller censuses and school groups have really enjoyed the activities. The teachers can tie the census to their STEM activities.
If you are a teacher and have a lesson plan on pollinators that you want to share we would love to put the plan on our website and to feature you on upcoming social media. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to submit a lesson or for more information.
What about families? Can my small family participate? OF COURSE. The census is set up so that individuals can count in their gardens.
Will groups be holding special events around the census? YES, the State Botanical Garden in Athens and the Coastal Botanical Garden in Savannah have already started planning special events. Other gardens will follow. Also, contact your local UGA Extension office to see what they have planned.
Starting in January 2019 we will have supporting social media so that as you get ready for the census you will have fun, and educational, snippets to use in classrooms or in family discussions.
Why are you announcing the census so early? So that everyone can mark those dates on their calendars. And, it gives those who don’t have a pollinator garden time to design and plant one! (https://ugaurganag.com/pollinators)
There are many fantastic events planned for 2018 so mark your calendars and save these dates:
Plant Sales – now! 4-H groups and Master Gardener Extension Volunteers across the state are having plant sales. These sales feature high quality plants for reasonable prices. While picking out your plants, find out what classes and workshops are being offered this year. Contact your county Extension office for more details.
Hands-On School Garden Day (Part of Ag Week) – Monday, March 19th To kick-off Georgia Ag Week, Hands-On School Garden Day will recognize the importance of school gardens. Plan a special workday in your garden or use the day to remind your administrators and community members about the importance of your school garden. What makes your school garden special? We would love to see photos! Post them on the UGA Community and School Garden Facebook Page!
Healthy Soil Festival – May 5th at Truly Living Well Farm This year’s Healthy Soil Festival will have some special activities for teachers and those who work in school gardens. Stay tuned for more details!
American Community Garden Association Conference in Atlanta – September 14th-16th This year’s conference is in Atlanta! More details will be coming but definitely put those dates on your calendar.
Great Georgia Pollinator Count – August 2019 In August of 2019 gardeners across the state will be counting pollinators as part of a year long campaign to promote best management practices in getting and keeping pollinators in your garden! You will want to be a part of this! Again, stay tuned for more information as we get closer to 2019.
It is Pollinator Week 2017! Since last year the rusty patched bumble bee has been put on the Endangered Species List and honey bee keepers in the United States reported hive losses of 33% over 2016-17. How can the average Georgia gardener help our pollinators? These steps are easy and will make a real difference to our pollinating insects:
Read Georgia’s Pollinator Protection Plan
University of Georgia entomologists collaborated with stakeholders across the state to develop Protecting Georgia’s Pollinators. There is a role for every Georgia citizen whether you are a farmer, a landscaper, or a homeowner.
Plant Flowering Plants
Adding flowering plants to your food garden attracts pollinators and as a bonus can also attract other beneficial insects. To attract butterflies, adding plants that sustain the caterpillar stage of the butterfly is important. The University of Georgia has done research on pollinator plants and has suggestions for plants that do well in our climate.
Plan for a Succession of Bloom
Strive to have plants flowering as much of the year as possible. Even during the winter months if temperatures rise above 50 F, bumble bees and honey bees are flying and looking for nectar and pollen.
Create a Water Source
Adding pebbles or stones to your birdbath makes a wonderful water source for small insects with delicate legs. By cleaning the birdbath once a week you will avoid any mosquito problems. If you don’t have a birdbath the drainage pans used to catch the water running out of potted plants can be used.
Wisely Use Any Pesticide
Examine your use of any pesticide. Is the pesticide really necessary? Your UGA Extension agent can assist you with any pest situation and guide you in deciding if a pesticide is the best answer. Make sure you thoroughly read and follow any pesticide label. The label is the law.
Have Your Garden Certified as a Georgia Pollinator Space
Insect scouting is an important part of integrated pest management, whether you are a large scale farmer or just “farm” a 4′ X 8′ raised bed. Here are some hints to help you scout successfully so that you can manage garden insect pests:
Hint #1 Look under plant leaves
Damaging insects often stay on the underside of leaves or in leaf crevices and plant whorls. Check those areas carefully.
Hint #2 Look for insect eggs
Insect eggs are small and by spotting and removing them you limit future damage. Squash bug eggs are a good example.
Hint #3 Confirm insect identification
The majority of insects are not harmful to your plants. Many are actually beneficial and can help you manage pests. If you are unsure of an insect identification contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension office for confirmation. Oftentimes you can send your agent a photo and that is all he/she needs to assist you.
Hint #4 Scout at night
Some insects do their damage at night. Grabbing a flashlight and scouting after dark could yield some interesting results.
Happy Earth Day week. How will you celebrate? Here, we are celebrating the bees – honey bees and native bees.
The decline in managed honey bee colonies in the United States is well documented. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports a decline from 6 million colonies in the 1940s to approximately 2.3 million in 2008. In 2015, beekeepers reported hive loses of 40%. This is a global problem with countries worldwide trying to understand bee loses. There are even calls for a coordinated multi-country initiative. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a term used to describe a certain type of mysterious honey bee deaths. No one can pinpoint the cause of CCD but scientists have proposed that many factors combine for a synergistic tragedy. The factors considered include habitat loss, poor honey bee nutrition, varroa mites, and pesticide issues. Several of the issues affecting honey bees also affect native bees.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is looking at a more proactive approach to protecting bees, especially honey bees. In 2013 the agency proposed specific pollinator protection language for products containing imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, or dinotefuran – all neonicotinoid insecticides. The agency has expanded this policy with the January 12, 2017, updated “U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products”. The 2017 document is the result of an earlier proposal that was amended following public comment. This policy is designed to help managed honey bee colonies. The thought is that the measures taken to protect honey bees will inadvertently protect native bees as well. What can we as Georgia citizens and gardeners do to protect our bees?
This plan, created by a collaboration of experts and stakeholders across Georgia. There is a role for every Georgia citizen.
Limit insecticide use.
Make sure you know for sure what insect pest you are battling. Confirm any pest identification with your UGA Extension Agent. Have your agent help you devise a suitable integrated pest management plan for this pest.
Spray only when other measures have failed.
Thoroughly and carefully read the pesticide label and follow instructions. Remember, the label is the law!
Spray only when other measures have failed.
Do NOT spray blooming plants.
If you have weeds in your lawn that have blooming flowers, mow them down. This eliminates the flowers that the bees would visit.
Create bee habitat
In Cherokee County, Georgia, construction of new homes and apartments has exploded over the last twelve months. This means that natural bee forage is being destroyed at about the same rate. Cherokee County is a snapshot of what is going on all across the United States as we lose our wild spaces.
Add pollinator habitat to your garden. You will find this helps bees and other beneficial insects as well. Choose plants suitable to your climate and have include things that bloom throughout the year. Visit the pollinator spaces webpage to get ideas.
Support Your Local Beekeepers
Get to know your local beekeepers. Their bees provide pollination to your food crops! Do they sell their honey?
Learn what insect are in your garden
I ask each of you to spend some time this week in the garden just observing the insects that visit your space. Take a chair out with some sweet tea and just watch! Allow yourself to be fascinated by insect biology – what they look like, how they move, what flowers they visit, how they interact. Send photos of what you find to me at email@example.com. I will repost photos on our UGA Community and School Gardens Facebook Page so we can all see what is flying in our gardens.
With the recent cold damage to the commercial blueberry crop in South Georgia, the blueberries in our community, school, or home gardens are all the more precious this year. As a result, it seems like gardeners are paying more attention to their blueberry flowers. I have gotten several emails asking about slits appearing in the sides of blueberry flowers. This is not unusual and it probably happens every year, gardeners just don’t notice it.
The slits are made by carpenter bees who are “robbing” the flower. They chew slits in the sides of the flowers and get the nectar without having to go into the flower. A result of robbing is that the bees don’t leave or pick up any pollen. Pretty sly bees, right? Research shows that this action still results in some pollination, it is just not ideal. Other bees may use these slits as well to retrieve whatever nectar is left.
Blueberry Pollen is Heavy
Blueberry pollen is heavy and sticky. It does not move around easily and isn’t wind blown. The blueberry flower shape does not lend itself to adequate self-pollination so pollinators are needed even with the self-pollinating types of blueberry plants.
Several native bee species pollinate blueberries including the Southeastern blueberry bee. This bee also pollinates several flower types that bloom at the same time. The male Southeastern blueberry bee has a yellow face.
The smaller native bees are shown to be superior pollinators in these plants. You will also see bumble bees in the blueberry patch. They vibrate their flight muscles inside the flower aiding in pollen exchange, flower sonication. Also, honey bees are often brought into blueberries fields to aid in pollination. To learn more about bees in the blueberry patch visit North Carolina State’s Blueberry Pollinators .
I enjoy pulling up a chair near my blueberry plants to watch the pollinators at work. Try it and you will be amazed at the different insects you see.
If you don’t have blueberries in your community or school garden, why not? They are a fantastic addition to the garden. Being perennial shrubs they add a nice permanent shape to the space. School gardeners should look at later season varieties.
Happy Gardening and I wish you all a very large blueberry harvest this year!