Monday, August 18, 2014

Gardening for Hummingbirds

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Pineapple sage

If you haven't gardened for Hummingbirds yet this year it may not be to late to help the little birds out. Now is when the little guys start to migrate. Hang out some feeders and make plans to garden for them next year. Or you may attract a Rufous Hummingbird to stay the winter in your yard like I did last year! 

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Mix I part white sugar to 4 parts water mix thoroughly, bring to a boil, and cool. Store extra mixture in refrigerator. You don’t need to tint the mixture red but having red on the feeder will help them locate the nectar. Keep it clean, sugar water molds quickly in hot weather. Put it in the open where it will be seen easily. More than one feeder may cut down on hummingbird fights. Hummer’s returning year after year will look for feeders and flowers in the places they were they were the previous year.

Rufous Hummingbird in February 2014

Unlike the Rufous and other hummingbirds of the western mountains, where freezing nights are common even in summer, Ruby-throats aren't well adapted to cold temperatures; they have a tough time below the mid-20s (F), and don't enter torpor (a state of physical or mental inactivity; lethargy) as regularly as their western cousins to conserve energy. To avoid the cold, and the scarcity of food when flowers stop blooming and insects stop flying, they go south. Some adult males start migrating south as early as mid-July, but the peak of southward migration for this species is late August and early September. By mid-September, essentially all of the Ruby-throated at feeders are migrating through from farther north, and not the same individuals seen in the summer. This is difficult to see, since they all look alike, but has been proven by banding studies. The number of birds migrating south may be twice that of the northward trip, since it includes all immature birds that hatched during the summer, as well as surviving adults.

Hummingbird gardening involves the planting of hummingbird attracting plants. It is just that simple! Hummingbirds consume 1-1/2 to 3 times their own weight in food per day. Their diet includes flower nectar, spiders, and small insects. Because hummingbirds rely on insects as a  source of protein, chemical insecticides should not be used in the hummingbird garden. Not only will insecticides kill insects which are essential to a hummer's diet, but they could sicken or kill the hummingbird that eats insects or flower nectar that is tainted with insecticides
Top Long-blooming flowers for Hummingbirds:
  • Columbine
  • Phlox
  • Bee Balm
  • Fuchsia
  • Salvia
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Verbena
  • Cardinal; Flower
  • Cigar Flower
  • Lungwort

Hummingbird Favorites:

  • Hyacinth Bean vine
  • Climbing Nasturtium
  • Cypress vine
  • Trumpet vine
  • Trumpet Honeysuckle
  • Salvia
  • Verbena
  • Phlox
  • Fuchsia
  • Cuphea
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Black & Blue Salvia

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Webworms, the Tiger Month

This is the time of year is when we start seeing Webworm around the Lowcountry.

Webworms invade trees in the fall (late summer in our area) and build large brown, webby nests in the branches of trees. The webworm is the larvae form of a tiger moth and although they usually don't harm trees, they are unsightly.

The fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea, is a moth in the family Arctiidae known principally for its larval stage, which creates the characteristic webbed nests on the tree limbs of a wide variety of hardwoods in the late summer and fall. It is mainly an aesthetic pest.   The caterpillars  will feed on almost all shade, fruit and ornamental trees but true damage to the tree is minimal. Eggs are laid on the undersides of leaves in early to midsummer and hatch in about a week. The caterpillars feed for six weeks before dropping to the ground to pupate. There may be as many as four generations in the south.

One generation per year emerges in the northern part of North America, with larvae appearing in late summer through early fall. South of an approximate latitude of 40°N there are two or more generations annually, with webs appearing progressively earlier further south. The parallel 40° north forms the boundary between the states of Kansas and Nebraska. The parallel 40° north passes through the cities of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Columbus, Ohio; as well as northern suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana and Denver, Colorado. 

The caterpillars are highly variable in coloration, ranging from a pale yellow, to dark grey, with yellow spots and long and short bristles. There are two cream stripes along the sides. The two races, one more common in the north, the other in the south, differ in head capsule coloration.The maximum length is 35 mm. Webs are progressively enlarged, and much messier looking than those of tent caterpillars (which occur only in spring and have shorter hairs and very little yellow on their bodies) also (webs from the fall webworm are concentrated to the tips of the branches, where as the tent caterpillar webs are largely found in the unions). Larvae feed inside the tents until the late instars. Very young larvae feed only on the upper surfaces of leaves. Later, they consume whole leaves. The larval stage lasts about four to six weeks.

The pupa stage overwinters in the bark and leaf litter at the base of the trees. It is dark brown and about 10 mm long. The thin brown cocoon is made of silk with bits of detritus ( non-living particulate organic material ) interwoven. This stage overwinters.

Tiger Moth

The adult is mostly white in the north, but in the south, it may be marked with black or brown spots on the forewings. It is quite 'hairy', and the front legs have bright yellow or orange patches. The underwings will have less marking than the forewings, and the abdomen often has a sprinkling of brown hairs. It has a wingspan of 35–42 mm.

Management techniques: Tents may be removed by hand, or an insecticide with residual activity may be applied to foliage and twigs. Chemical treatments work best on the youngest larvae and will not penetrate the nest. Both species have natural enemies such as birds, stink bugs, wasps, and flies. Use of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is also effective against young larvae. 
Systemic insecticides may be used on large trees, but use this insecticide with caution. remember  they usually don't harm trees,  but they are unsightly.