2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


What You DON’T Have to Do to Prepare for Winter

autumn(1)If you have a garden there is one thing you think you have to do to prepare for winter: Pull out the plants that aren’t coming back. If you love doing this, I have bad news for you. If you hate doing this, I have fantastic news for you.

Let’s start with bees. I know I didn’t mention them before this, but bare with me here. Bees hibernate during our cooler seasons. They do it in a variety of ways.  In the case of honey bees, males (drones) die, but the queen and female workers huddle together in the hive or nest until the weather is warm again. Sorry, gentleman! Bumblebees are similar, but only the queen survives. She hibernates and emerges again the following year to establish her kingdom. Solitary bees, however, depend on the species. Some species winter as adults, and others as larvae.  What does this have to do with my gardening friends? Solitary bees like to hibernate in the ground or in hollow stems! I know this seems hard to imagine with flower and plant stems being so incredibly tiny, but some solitary bees are very tiny. At the very least, your stems might be large enough for the larvae.

solitary bees

Bee populations are dwindling and this little bit of procrastination is a simple way of giving them a bit of a chance for our Michigan winters. If you’re concerned about bee stings here is a few facts for you.

Not all bees can sting! Usually, they will only sting if they are provoked or feel threatened. Bees are generally non-aggressive.  Stings from solitary bees are rare for most species.  Unless a person has a bee sting allergy, the average person can safely tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight.

tunnel nesting

Give our bees a chance this winter, and leave that last part of gardening for spring.


If you wish to find out more about our bees go to: www.buzzaboutbees.net

Contributed by Brooke Mellema, Land Stewardship Intern at Blandford Nature Center.

National Public Lands Day

Did you know National Public Lands Day is September 26, 2015. 100_1870

What is NPLD? NPLD is a program set up to give back to lands that are set aside for us to enjoy. It was started in 1994 with 3 sites and 700 volunteer. It has grown to the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands. In 2014 alone, NPLD volunteers collected an estimated 23,000 pounds of invasive plants, built and maintained an estimated 1,500 miles of trails, planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants, removed an estimated 500 tons of trash from trails and other places, and contributed an estimated $18 million through volunteer services to improve public lands across the country! That’s amazing!

Want to contribute to this wonderful day? Blandford offers an Eco-Stewardship Work Day on the 26th! It is the prefect opportunity to enjoy, and give something back to   those places we love. We will start with a lesson on invasive non-native shrub and tree identification. Volunteers will learn to identify common invasive plants like buckthorn, privet and honeysuckle and then we’ll head out into the forest to practice our identification skills by cutting and treating those unwanted invaders improving habitat for native species.

It’s a great way to give back and learn something new. To get more information click here: http://blandfordnaturecenter.org/event/eco-stewardship-work-day-2/DSCF0876

This Blog post was contributed by Brooke Mellema, Blandford’s Land Stewardship Intern.

Check trees for Asian longhorned beetle in August


Joel Bird, Blandford Volunteer, inspecting the trees for beech bark scale

August is national Tree Check Month, which makes it a great time for  Michiganders and travelers alike to be on the lookout for invasive, destructive pests threatening the state’s forest landscape. The Michigan departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, along with the U.S Department of Agriculture, are asking people to take time out this month to examine trees for signs of Asian longhorned beetle, a highly destructive invasive pest.

Take just 10 minutes this month to check trees around homes for Asian longhorned beetle or any signs of the damage it causes. Out for a stroll? Look for signs around the neighborhood, at local parks and Asian longhorned beetlefavorite recreation spots. Early detection and response are vital to protecting Michigan’s trees.

Adult Asian longhorned beetles are distinctively large, ranging from three-quarters of an inch to 1 and one-half inches in length, not including their long antennae. The beetles are shiny black, with random white blotches or spots, and their antennae have alternating black and white segments. They have six legs that can be black or partly blue, with blue coloration sometimes extending to their feet.

The Asian longhorned beetle was first identified in the United States in 1996, likely transported from Asia in wood packing materials. Like the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle spends most of its life cycle eating its way through the insides of trees. What makes ALB much more dangerous is that it feeds on a wide variety of tree species. Its first choice is maple, but it also will infest birch, elm, willow, buckeye, horse chestnut and other hardwoods. The damage caused by Asian longhorned beetles ultimately will destroy an infested tree.

Adult beetles are active in late summer to early fall. During that brief window, beetles may be seen and some of the telltale signs of infestation may be more noticeable. Female beetles chew oval depressions in which they lay eggs. When larvae hatch, they burrow deep into the heartwood of the tree where insecticides can’t reach, creating large chambers in the wood. The next summer, fully formed adult beetles emerge from trees by boring perfectly round, three-eighths-inch-diameter exit holes. Sometimes a material resembling wood shavings can be seen at or below these holes or coming from cracks in an infested tree’s bark. Once a tree is infested, it must be removed.

To date, there are no known infestations of Asian longhorned beetle in Michigan. However, the beetle has been found in areas of Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Ontario (Toronto).

“Though the beetle does not move long distances on its own, it can be transported in firewood,” said John Bedford, Pest Response Program specialist at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.  “When traveling, leave your firewood at home. Buy it at your destination point and burn it there.”

Anyone observing an actual beetle or a tree that appears to be damaged is asked to report it. If possible, capture the beetle in a jar, take photos, record the location, and report it as soon as possible through the USDA’s Asian longhorned beetle website, www.asianlonghornedbeetle.com or contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 or MDA-info@michigan.gov.

MDARD’s Asian longhorned beetle Web page provides more information and photos to help identify the beetles and signs of the damage they cause to trees.

Exotic Forest Pests

If you have been out on Blandford Nature Center’s trails recently youfunnel trap may have noticed these odd contraptions hanging around. These strange devices serve to assist Kyle Redilla and James Weiferich from Michigan State University’s forest entomology lab conduct a forest insect survey. In addition they are trapping the Emerald ash borers.

The smallerwing trapr traps you might see – referred to as wing traps – are designed for catching defoliating moths, some which are similar to gypsy moth, the notorious defoliator of Oak trees. “Little brown moths” is a fairly accurate depiction.

So now that you know their purpose at Blandford, continue reading to find out further details about the study.

Cooperative Risk Analysis and Detection Surveys in Michigan

Michigan is at exceptional risk for the introduction and adverse consequences of invasive forest pests, thanks to the extensive forest resources found across the state, combined with high-risk pathways for exotic pest invasion. As a major manufacturing center, a wide variety of products are shipped into Michigan from around the globe. These products are often transported with wood crating or pallets, which can harbor a variety of wood-boring beetles and other pests. Michigan also boasts the 5th largest nursery industry in the United States. Live plant material, known to be a major pathway for exotic pest movement, is shipped into Michigan nurseries from other states, and in some cases, other countries. Outdoor recreation is another major industry in Michigan. State-owned campgrounds attract 22 million visitors annually, including approximately 6 million people who reside in other states. Potential introduction of exotic forest pests in firewood remains an ongoing concern. Recent estimates have shown that exotic forest insects, particularly insects that feed under the bark of trees in forests and landscapes, cost households and municipal governments in the U.S. at least $2.5 billion per year.

Why is the Exotic Forest Pest Survey important?
Early detection of potentially damaging, exotic forest pests can facilitate efforts to eradicate, contain or manage populations of potentially invasive organisms. Early detection is also critical for preventing additional introductions of exotic pests. The risk factors outlined above, along with economically important plant-based industries, and the extensive forest resource, make it clear that exotic pests, particularly wood-boring insects, represent a serious and ongoing risk to the state.

Our primary objective is to survey sites that may be at relatively high risk of exotic forest pest introduction and establishment. We will use a varilong beetleety of traps baited with artificial lures designed to attract and capture exotic longhorned beetles (e.g., Asian longhorned beetle), bark beetles (e.g., walnut twig beetle) and other defoliators (e.g., Lymantria monacha moths). Insect samples collected from traps will be sorted, screened and identified by trained entomologists. If any suspect pests of significance are captured, specimens will be forwarded to federal regulatory officials for confirmation.

Who is involved in the Cooperative Exotic Forest Pest Survey?
Scientists from Michigan State University (MSU) are leading the survey. Entomologists from the USDA Forest Service, invasive pest managers from the MI Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and forest health specialists from the MI Dept. of Natural Resources, are also collaborating on this effort.

When will the survey take place?
We will begin setting traps in sites in southern lower Michigan in May, then work our way north. Traps will be checked at 2 to 3 week intervals during the summer to collect insects and to replace lures when needed. Trapping will continue through August or September.

How were the trapping sites selected?
We developed risk maps for Michigan using GIS technology and several databases. Variables used for  the risk maps included forest cover type, imported commodities (amount, type and origin), the zip codes of state park visitors, and locations of sawmills, campgrounds, railroads and highways. Spatial and point data were overlaid to identify sites at relatively high risk for specific forest pests. For example, a state park surrounded by maple-dominated forest would be considered a high risk site if the park attracts visitors from areas where Asian longhorned beetle populations are present. We identified approximately 50 sites across Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas for trapping. Some sites could get an array of up to 12 different traps while other sites will get a single trap.

A 32-Year Legacy of Service

Lenkiewicz – A Legacy of Service Over thirty years of caring for Blandford

Volunteers leave a lasting legacy at Blandford. Our dear Shirley Lenkiewicz was one of them. Shirley passed away on April 3 after more than 34 years of dedicated volunteer service to Blandford. She began volunteering after she saw a small ad in the Grand Rapids press.volunteer

Former director, Dr. Mary Jane Dockeray, visited Shirley at St. Anne Home recently. She said, “Shirley was one of those volunteers I trusted to unlock the buildings or watch over the center when staff was away at meetings.” She gave a cheerful welcome to thousands of visitors from Blandford’s front desk.

Shirley’s favorite time of the year was the beginning of spring wildflower season. She had a passion for all things green. Even when old age kept her from maintaining a large garden, she had a small box garden because she said, the microbes in the soil promote health and increase serotonin.

Jessie Schulte, Blandford’s Volunteer Coodinator says, “When I welcome new volunteers I tell them about Shirley Lenkeiwicz. Her long, active and generous life is a model for us all. So this spring, when we get our hands dirty and enjoy the benefits that nature offers, we will be paying a kind of tribute to this beloved Blandford volunteer.”

Trees have been tapped!

Trees have been tapped and the first, sweet taste of spring is here. The next time youtapping 2015 are out for a visit, be sure to check out the new and improved spiles.

In the past Blandford Nature Center has used the large traditional 7/16′ taps. Dr. Gary W. Graham, a Natural Resources Extension Specialist at the Ohio State University Extension Center, advised BNC to change out the spiles. Thanks to a generous donation, BNC is now using these smaller spiles. Even with the smaller size Graham’s research indicates that there will be no difference in the amount of sap flow, however the holes will be able to heal faster. This is better for the tree’s health.

So, now the time to harvest the sap has begun.  How long will it continue and how long will the spiles remain in the trees? That is the question and not something you can do by a calendar.  Blandford plans to watch the weather and taps will be  pulled as soon as the season ends from when the sap stops to flow and the buds start to burst.  So get out to see the taps while you can because as soon as the sap stops, within days they will be out.

Stay tuned to find out more about how Blandford manages the maple stand to preserve the biodiversity and ensure the future heath of the ecosystem.