Happy Spring 2019

Today is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun is shining and I saw the tiny tips of crocus and one tulip tip in the garden. 💕 My weather app says it’s only 32° but the RealFeel right now is 42°.  Yes, I could actually sit on our deck with a light jacket and soak up the sun.

Very soon we should be seeing and hearing a few early spring insects buzzing around looking for nectar in the garden. But maybe not. From what I’ve been reading in science news, perhaps we will not actually seeing insects at all. We may be seeing pollinating drones in our future gardens. With news of insects on the decline globally and more than 75% of the world’s food crop depending on insects and animals, drones may be taking on the huge role of pollination.

RoboBees: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RoboBees.jpg

And, lo and behold, it is Walmart that could be going into the business of garden and crop pollination in the future. In 2017 Walmart filed a patent for RoboBees or Autonomous Flying Microrobot drones that pollinate as a swarm. Developed at Harvard University, the goal for the RoboBees is to pollinate crops, identify pests, monitor damage, and spray pesticides. They can fly, stick to walls, some models dive into and out of water and, as a bonus, they can be helpful in search and rescue missions.

male carpenter bee

A single RoboBee weighs about as much as a real bee and is about the size of a penny. To be effective, they must have a sustained power source and be able to make complex navigation patterns using microchips. Time will tell just how efficient these robo-colonies of bee pollinators will be.

I hope we never need to find out.

Honey bee

Fingers crossed tightly there’s enough of a global effort to help protect the pollinators we already have…. the ideal ones that nature provides. Insects.

Bug-pocalypse?

“The Windshield Phenomenon”  Have you heard of it? It was described in a New York Times article in November, 2018. Entomologists penned the name from the fact that people were noticing fewer bugs… around night lights, hitting faces while riding bikes, working in the garden, and on auto windshields.  Yes, I have noticed fewer insects and fewer birds and wonder if there’s a link between the two.

Bumblebee 2018

A German entomological study in 2017 found that insects in nature reserves had decreased by 75 percent over the 27 years that they have been collecting information. The New York Times article stated, “Scientists are still cautious about what the findings might imply about other regions of the world. But the study brought forth exactly the kind of longitudinal data they had been seeking, and it wasn’t specific to just one type of insect. The numbers were stark, indicating a vast impoverishment of an entire insect universe, even in protected areas where insects ought to be under less stress. The speed and scale of the drop were shocking even to entomologists who were already anxious about bees or fireflies or the cleanliness of car windshields.

Most people don’t pay much attention to insects except for the pretty ones like butterflies or the ones that bite like mosquitoes or ticks. Some insects can be pests, but most insects are not. Not only do they pollinate 35% of the world’s crops, they help decompose organic matter and are the main food source for many birds, reptiles, amphibians, bats, fish, and small mammals. They’re a critical member of the food chain.

Swallowtail caterpillar

I was encouraged at a recent neighborhood association meeting where the board decided not to apply lawn herbicides due to wetland restrictions. However, because of the increased tick population and as a preventative for ants and termites, they will spray pesticides along the edge of the woods and around the building foundations… probably every home foundation but mine.

I will protect the small habitat here and make it hospitable for insects, insects like the katydids that still populate this garden. I heard their raspy calls in the summer. They are nocturnal insects, but occasionally they appear during the day.
The male Fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata):

male katydid 2018

And below, the female Fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata) with the telltale anatomy of the female. She uses her serrated ovipositor to delicately insert her eggs between the layers of a leaf’s edge.

female katydid 2018

2018 Fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata)

One more interesting note… there is a tiny slit visible on each of her front legs. Those are her “ears” that she uses to listen for the call of the male katydid.

These healthy insects and many others are important links in the backyard food chain. Even though adult birds may eat seeds, it’s insects like these that are fed to their young…. not seeds.  So until we know and understand more about a possible “insect apocalypse,” I guard this tiny habitat and no herbicides or pesticides will be used here.