It's tick season as I was reminded yesterday when I found one of the nasty pests lodged near my collar bone. A trip to urgent care for removal and a round of antibiotics should take care of the matter. Of course I asked about contracting Lyme Disease and the Physician's Assistant told me that it was unlikely. However, he did mention that there is something similar to Lyme Disease here in the south--STARI or Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. I had never heard of it before but it is carried by the Lone Star tick, one of the three ticks prevalent in the South. The good news is that if the tick is on you for less than 48 hours, possibility of transmission isn't likely. Be careful out there and check for ticks after being outside!
If you live in Georgia, seeing a mound like this in your lawn means trouble. It's a fire ant colony that recently appeared in my backyard. There are two types of fire ants--the Red Imported and the Southern. Red Imported fire ants are more aggressive and build larger mounds--sometimes 18-24 inches high. This one is very low so it probably was built by Southern fire ants.
The Southern fire ant is considered the "good" fire ant because they are less aggressive and eat flies, cockroaches, and ticks. But they also deliver stinging bites and invade a house. I'm usually pretty tolerant of nature, but in this case I'm going to call the exterminator and take care of this problem right away.
I often write about bee and butterfly magnets, but the Sweet Pepper bush, or Summer Sweet, is at the top of the list for attracting bees. In high summer when lots of flowers have bloomed out, this deciduous shrub is covered in fragrant blooms. Every time I walk by, I'm amazed at the number of bees swarming the flowers.
This versatile shrub is easy to grow, very low maintenance, and showy in bloom. It isn't very interesting for most of the year, but I really look forward to the few weeks it flowers.
The beds of salvia and lantana are humming with activity as bees gather that last little bit of nectar before winter. All through the summer butterflies have been visiting, but lately I’ve seen a lot more orange and black Monarch butterflies around the yard.
Monarchs have a fascinating life cycle. Every year, there are four generations. Each lives for only a few weeks, except for the fourth, which emerges in late summer. The last generation lives for about 8 months, long enough to migrate to Mexico and hibernate for the winter. They emerge in early spring and return to the U.S. to start the cycle over again.
The Monarchs I see now must be gathering nectar to sustain them for the long trek to Mexico. Even though the salvia is overgrown and could use some pruning, I’m glad I resisted the urge to tidy up. To these beautiful creatures, I’m sure every bloom is a precious source of nectar.
Seeing this little hummer enjoying nectar on a bee-free feeder is a victory. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the problem I had with bees covering the hummingbird feeder (see https://www.georgiabackyardnature.com/georgia_backyard_nature/2011/08/battling-bees.html). This had never happened before and I couldn’t figure out why bees were suddenly drawn to the feeder. I used the same formula for nectar (4 parts water to 1 part sugar) and put the same feeder in the same location as years past.
When I made the next batch of nectar I realized that last year I used a measuring cup to get the right amount of sugar. This year I used a ¼ cup scoop. On a hunch, I cross checked the scoop with the measuring cup. The scoop held more than ¼ cup of sugar—almost 1/3 cup, making the nectar too sweet. I went back to using the measuring cup for the sugar. Like magic the bees disappeared, but the hummers didn’t even notice.
I’m glad I finally solved that problem. The hummers are swarming the feeder now as they bulk up for their long migration. I’d hate for them to battle bees for that much needed nutrition!!
Now that it's high summer, I’ve seen lots of Dragonflies diving and darting around the yard. These speedy fliers are notoriously hard to photograph, but this one was nice enough to strike a pose for me.
Dragonflies are usually found around lakes, ponds, and wetlands because their larva, called nymphs, is aquatic. Adults and larva are always welcome in my yard because they help control the mosquito population. In fact, adult dragonflies are feared by mosquitoes. Just hearing the whir of dragonfly wings supposedly scares mosquitoes away. Adults also eat bees, ants, and butterflies. Nymphs feast on mosquito larvae as well as worms, crustaceans, small fish and tadpoles.
In the South, these insects are also known as “snake doctors” because folk lore holds that they can heal injured snakes. I hope the ones I see in the yard aren’t on a house call.
A few days ago, a friend asked me how to get rid of bees on the hummingbird feeder. I didn’t have an answer because in all the years of feeding hummers, this is the first year I’ve had that problem. In fact, the bees are so tenacious, I have to blast them off the feeder with the garden hose to refill it. From time to time, even the hummers have a problem finding a spot to feed.
After doing some research, I learned that this is a common problem, but there seems to be no one perfect solution. Some of the suggestions seem to rely on the fact that bees aren’t that smart: remove the feeder for a few days or move it a few feet and hope the bees won’t find it again. Another is to move the feeder to a shady spot because insects prefer to feed in full sun.
The best option seems to be selecting a feeder that’s insect resistant and surprisingly, doesn’t have yellow accents. Apparently insects are attracted to the color yellow. As you can see, my feeder has yellow flower feeding ports.
One thing for sure is NEVER use insecticides around the feeder because they’ll harm the birds. Also, cooking oil and petroleum jelly may deter insects, but isn’t a good solution either because the oils can get on birds’ feathers and make it difficult for them to preen and fly.
I can’t figure out why I suddenly have this problem with the same feeder, same location, and same nectar. I checked and the feeder isn't leaking but I read that sometimes hummers dribble nectar when they feed. The first thing I’ll try is moving it to a spot a few feet away with more shade and hope that my bees aren’t clever enough to find it.
Every morning when I go out to water the salvia, cleomes, and purple hearts that line my front walkway, I hear the steady drone of bees. It seems that there's a bee on every flower gathering pollen. I'm careful not to disturb them. I direct the water toward the ground and try not to jostle the stalks. I don't want to begin my morning with a bee sting!
A few days ago, I saw what looked like a leaf on the front porch.When I went out to water the hibiscus, I discovered it wasn’t a leaf at all. It was a dead cicada.That’s about the only way I’d ever get a picture of one, because they’re really fast. Also, cicadas aren’t seen very often, but their distinctive high-pitched noise is the background music of summer.
When a cicada is mentioned, most people think of the periodical cicada. These are the ones that emerge in 13 or 17-year cycles.Here in Georgia, the 13-year cicadas are supposed to emerge next year. We won't see the 17-year cicadas until 2021. But there are other cicadas with overlapping shorter cycles and these cicadas are present every summer.
Even though I’m not always conscious of the cicada’s song, I’ve been paying more attention since I found this guy. It really is the sound of summer.
I can tell it’s summer because the dragonflies are whirling and darting around the yard. They aren’t still very often but this one stopped for a rest on my front porch. Here's another one that stopped on the walkway.
Dragonflies are usually found around lakes, ponds, and wetlands because their larva, called nymphs, are aquatic. Adults and larva are beneficial because they help control the mosquito population. Adult dragonflies are feared by mosquitoes. Just hearing the whir of dragonfly wings supposedly scares mosquitoes away. Adults also eat bees, ants, and butterflies. Nymphs feast on mosquito larvae as well as worms, crustaceans, small fish and tadpoles.
With all the rain we’ve had recently conditions are right for a bumper crop of those pesky mosquitoes.I hope the dragonfly population surges, too. There’s nothing like natural mosquito control.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Eagle Cam 2014 This camera streams the activities of the eagle nest located 110 feet up, in a tree on the grounds of the US FWS National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.