June 4, 2013 at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

by Christine Hanrahan

Tuesday afternoon at the garden, June 4th, and a lovely day to be wandering through the FWG.

Mating pair of silvery blue butterflies

Mating pair of silvery blue butterflies

Silvery blue butterflies were fluttering around in many locations, including this mating pair near the new woods. Common ringlets were indeed common that day but hard to photograph as they land low down in the vegetation much of the time. One posed briefly, however. Cabbage whites and a couple of hobomok skippers completed the butterflies I saw.

Still on insects, bumble bees were busy around the lupines, as were a few honey bees. I think the red squirrel, resident in one of the big roosting boxes, depleted the honey bee population over the winter. They made the mistake of deciding to make a hive in the box, and this spring when Barry and I checked it, the honeycomb was largely eaten and the bees were absent, likely also eaten by the red squirrel (these mammals will eat just about anything).

Mason bees are using the AAFC bee boxes, and a number of other bee species (Halictids, Andrenids, etc.) were actively feeding. Spittle bugs are mostly noted by the presence of their “spittle” on plants. These are actually protective coverings for the nymphs, keeping them moist, as well as hiding them from predators. There can be anywhere from one to four or more little nymphs inside these damp cases. Eventually the cases harden (they are a mix of fluid and a waxy secretion from the nymphs) and the nymphs have to create new ones.

Dame’s rocket is abundant. Yes it is not native, yes it can be invasive, but for the moment, the beauty of the flowers when seen en masse is stunning. This member of the mustard family is a common garden plant in Europe and is well liked here by pollinators. Claudia notes that she recalls it being planted in the BYG long ago to attract butterflies, but it was then weeded out, probably because it produces so many seeds. She thinks that may be where the plants we now see all over the garden, originally came from.

Various flies, including syrphids (hover flies), tachinids, root maggot flies, and so on, were found throughout. Not only are many syrphids excellent and important pollinators, but their larvae are formidable predators of aphids. A bit later in the season, carefully check out colonies of aphids and look for the flat larvae of syrphids working their way through them.

Green lacewing

Green lacewing

Also found, a couple of green lacewings. These beautiful insects in the order Neuroptera (Nerve-winged insects) are almost ethereal in appearance, with their golden eyes and see-through lacy wings, which of course, give rise to the common name. But their larvae are fierce predators of aphids, sawfly larvae and other insects. I have seen a single green lacewing larva work its way quickly through a colony of rose sawfly larvae, which are twice or three times its size!

All the usual birds are busy breeding now: yellow warblers, chickadees, cardinals, robins, house finches, etc. The phoebe is doing well, and I was happy to find a house wren nest. A lone cedar waxwing was near the birch grove, while a turkey vulture circled the garden overhead. The kestrels are still in their usual spot, so all is right with the world.

Isabelle (far left) and Renate (far right) showing members of the Ottawa Horticultural Society around the Backyard Garden

Isabelle (left) showing members of the Ottawa Horticultural Society around the Backyard Garden

On Tuesday evening, members of the Ottawa Horticultural Society came to the garden for a walk. There were two tours, ably led by Sandy (the first one) and Renate (the second one). Backyard Garden (BYG) habitat manager, Isabelle, gave Renate’s group a good intro to the BYG. Isabelle and I then hung around the BYG, keeping the centre open, and directing any stragglers onward to the tour.

Just as I was about to send this email, I rec’d one from Diane with some excellent photos which I will post to the blog very soon. There is a great shot of the pretty California calligrapha beetle and a golden image of the lovely syrphid Spaerophoria, a small, elongate fly, which is not at all easy to photograph. I’ve tried in other areas of Ottawa recently, but none of my photos comes close to the one you’ll see from Diane. There is also a very neat photo of a little scentless plant bug, new for our list of insects.

See more photos on the June Blog

DSV vs the Dandelion Digger

By Ted Farnworth

I gave the dandelion digger a test run on the north face of the ravine to see if it would work against DSV in a real-life situation. The plot where I have been focusing my attention this year is actually starting to look like DSV is not taking over as it has done in so many other parts of the garden. But using the dandelion digger in the ravine has taught me a few lessons.

The digger is most effective on smaller plants. The jaws are able to pull out small root balls, especially from moist soil. When the DSV is growing among other plants, it is sometimes difficult to get a good grip on the roots, and so two or three pulls are necessary to get the targeted DSV out. The ravine is slopped and so placement of the digger to take best advantage of the jaws is something I need to work on.

But, for a large number of plants that I attacked on Friday morning, the digger worked very well. The stamp, pull and eject method you use with the digger soon produced a good pile of DSV root balls.

DSV under tarp

DSV under tarp

But I also saw a couple of things that reinforced to me how formidable my enemy is. In the ravine there is a blue tarp that has been there at least since last summer. I’m not sure why it was put down, but while working on Friday I looked underneath the tarp. And what did I see? Many long DSV vines growing under the tarp obviously looking for the sun. The vines were long, large, pale green and yellow, but obviously alive. It was clear that they were headed to the edges of the tarp in search of sunlight. So even covering DSV may not successfully kill them.

The second observation I made concerns plants that I had dug out in previous weeks and left to die on the surface. Guess what? They didn’t all die. It seems that just a little soil and some rain is enough to keep a DSV plant going or bring it back to life. Yes, most of the root balls that I had left on the ground in the ravine had dried up, and there were no new green shoots coming from them. But others that appeared to be sitting on the soil surface had managed to get enough water and nutrients to sprout again. So, it is obvious that cutting up and exposing the root ball is not good enough. Proper disposal to prevent resprouting may be necessary.

re-sprouting DSV

re-sprouting DSV