The Shawnee News-Star Weekender March 9th 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg The duck saw a small group of compatriots gathered along the edge of the pond.  He shot downward, leveled and extended feet out in preparation to land in the water.  The top of the pond was frozen.  The duck hit the surface and began sliding, […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender March 9th 2019

Rescued Daffodils

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The duck saw a small group of compatriots gathered along theedge of the pond.  He shot downward,leveled and extended feet out in preparation to land in the water.  The top of the pond was frozen.  The duck hit the surface and began sliding,not splashing, wings and feet going in all directions as he vainly tried tostop.  Nothing graceful about it.  So embarrassing.

Until recently, we have been residing in the Arctic.  Right before the bottom dropped out of thethermometer days ago, I cut several daffodils about to burst into bloom andbrought them inside to become part of the Shrove Tuesday display.  When Tuesday arrived, the daffs were in fullbloom, unlike what it would have been if they were outside!

Bees have a strategy for coping with winter.  In a bee colony, the older bees clustertogether forming a mantle over layers of younger bees.  They are masters of thermoregulation bymaintaining core temperature. I wear a down-filled puffy coat, gloves with hothands.

In order to make Heather's presentation in Tulsa on Friday night, I first had to conquer two earlier problems that had unexpectedly cropped up.   The heat pump refused to go into the defrost cycle during the chilly morning and stood outside proudly coated in thick ice.   Worthless.   After surveying the situation, I walked into the house to discover the washer had flooded the utility room. The drain pipe had partially frozen.   Great.   Water was mopped, a towel placed along the base of the washing machine and, later in the afternoon, the heat pump was adjusted. Time to go to Tulsa.

Heather Holm's Bee ID Guide

March 1st and 2nd the Oklahoma Native PlantSociety, the Oklahoma Horticultural Society, OKC/OSU and the Oklahoma Nurseryand Landscape Association hosted brought pollinator champion Heather Holm.  This fascinating person grew up exploring thewoods and fields of her great-great-grandfather's land that has been in thefamily since the 1850s.  With abackground in biology and horticulture, the Canadian is on a mission to savenative bees and plants.  Heather haswritten two books about pollinators and participates in landscape restorationand native bee research projects.

Heather was well into talking about color when I arrived, soI tippy-toed into the room of 70 people and sat at the back.  Hummingbirds can see red, but bees cannot.  They work in the UV range.  The Black-eyed Susan has a two-toned UV lightpattern that bees home in on.  Texasbluebonnets produce flowers with light banner petals along a stem.  If the flower has been visited by a bee, thepetals turn dark. The next bee knows to bypass those and go to light ones,saving time and energy. 

Fragrance is another way a plant can influence insectvisitors.  American plums are highlyscented bee magnets.  Familiar with electricalcharges?  Bees carry a positive chargeand flowers are negative.  Oppositecharges attract.  The pollen literally fliesoff and adheres to the bee.  If theflower charge is low, the bees sense the flower has already been visited.

The wasp is another beneficial pollinator, although themention of wasp initiated groans.  Thesolitary wasps (most wasps) are specific hunters and flower specialists but notaggressive. They like white flowering plants and milkweeds, golden rods andprairie clovers.   Solitaries include the thread-waisted sandwasps and hole diggers who sting and paralyze their prey, carry the poor insectback to their hole, lay eggs and the baby larvae have live food. Fresh is best.Great interest has been generated in the Square Headed Wasp versus the EmeraldAsh Borer.  This wasp attacks the smallbrilliantly green but deadly borer currently attacking ash trees in the US.  The distinct S H wasp has become a biosurveillancetool used by researchers.  This couldhelp save 8 billion ash trees, the backbones of North American woods. 

The paper nest makers such as yellow jackets and paper waspsare social wasps. They are generalist predators that can be quite aggressive,but usually not when on flowers.  Heatherquipped their motto could be 'Don't defend the restaurant, defend thehouse.'  Spotted Beebalm (Horsemint) lureswasps.  When a wasp flies in, the flowerdrops pollen onto the wasp thorax (its back). Clever. 

Flowering plants lined the walkway to Heather's home last year.   Aphids first arrived in the spring.   Choosing not to use any chemicals, Heather waited to wait to see what would next happen.   Aphid wasps soon appeared.   Lady bugs and syrphid flies that resemble hovering bees then came.   These were followed by brown and green lacewings. Ms. Holm had witnessed natural predator control using no pesticides.   When the plants bloomed, they were filled with bees, much to the chagrin of her friends.   Heather recommends to leave the garden leaf litter on the ground; don't rake.   The decomposing leaves provide homes for lacewings and their miniature alligator-like larvae.  

Grand Lake Pelican flying by the Arkansas River

Insecticides, fungicides, herbicidesthe toxic chemicalsall play a part in declining bee populations. The loss of habitat due to flowerless landscapes is a huge contributor.I only have to look around at most of my neighbors' yards to see this.  Very few have time for flowers, but plenty oftime to mow; dozens of derrieres riding on cutting machines week afterweek.  Flowering native plants standlittle chance of ever blooming. 

Bee a Habitat Hero! Plant, let live and bloom the native plants.  They provide a nutritionally completediet.  Keep the garden chemicalfree.  Mimic Mother Nature in gardenmaintenance (leave the leaves; flower stubble at least 15' tall houses cavitydwelling bees), and put in dense herbaceous plantings to host a continuoussuccession of flowering plants throughout the growing seasons.  Remember, the restaurant has to stay open24-7!

Across town, NatureWorks was holding its 2019 juried art show (and sale) of outstanding wildlife artists and sculptors.   Based in Tulsa, NatureWorks, Inc. is an exclusive all-volunteer non-profit dedicated to wildlife conservation and education.   Since 1994, life-size bronze monuments have been donated to the city in honor of a person or group who actively supports the NatureWorks mission.   Several monuments are along the Arkansas River.   Saturday I located the indoor art show and strolled through a huge partitioned area occupied by 46 artists and their works:   oils and acrylics of birds, eye-catching still life pictures of native wildlife posed with flowers, fruits and veggies, bright impressionistic paintings, wildflowers, wild animals and animals in bronze, including a few roadrunners and scaled-down bison.

2019 Great Blue Heron sculpture

In the center was the 2019 bronze wildlife monument 'TheGreat Blue Heron' sculpted by Raymond Gibby of Spanish Fork, Utah.  It will be unveiled at the Quik Trip Plaza bythe Arkansas River this May.  In 2017 'GrandLake White Pelican' was installed, also near the river.  The 600-pound bronze bird with 12-footwingspan (pelicans weigh 7-10 pounds with a 9-foot wingspan) was created byBryce Pettit of Colorado. The giant stands guard over the dozens and dozens of livingwhite pelicans now on the Arkansas.

The blue heron from Utah is the last of the large monuments,at least for a while.  A herd of fortybronze bison are being created to run free in LaFortune Park.