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Horticulture Blog June 2020

June 30th: Bees

When you think of bees do you think of honey bees and bee hives? There are 416 bee species in New York State. The majority (54%) are digger bees (ground-nesting, solitary bees). Some, like mason bees and leaf-cutter bees, nest in cavities like beetle burrows and hollow stems. 23% are parasitic bees.

Parasitic bees lay their eggs in the nest of other bees. When the larva hatch, it kills the host egg or larva and feeds on its pollen. The rascals!

Would you be surprised to know that the honey bee is not a native bee to the United States? It was introduced to the East Coast of North America in 1622 by European and Spanish settlers. Then again:

This 14-million-year old fossil which has been identified as a honey bee raises a lot of questions. What happened to it? Did it pollinate flowers? Were there flowers 14-million-years ago?

University of California School of Agriculture and Natural Resources



June 29th: Let's Talk About Pollinators

This week we are going to talk about pollinators. I’m sure you know that they are important for our food supply, but you may not know how vital they are.

Of the 1,400 crop plants grown around the world, i.e., those that produce all of our food and plant-based industrial products, almost 80% require pollination by animals. -- USDA

How many groups of pollinators can you name?

I’m looking for different groups. Yes, bees are a group, but lump in honey bees, mason bees, sweat bees, bumblebees, etc. into the group, don’t count them separately.

A list of 8 can be found at the end of this blog.


Poster Artwork by Fiorella Ikeue

Bumble bees are my favorite pollinator. They are so fuzzy and round. They look like tiny stuffed animals. When my son, Ben, was four, we were sitting at the picnic table and he was coloring. He noticed a bumble bee sitting on his orange crayon and tried to pet it. Bumble bees are not aggressive, but petting it was seen as a threat and it stung my son’s finger. It hurt of course, but Ben was more distressed that the bumble had not been appreciative of his kindness toward it. A simple misunderstanding, I’m sure.



June 26th: Ladybugs



Looks pretty creepy doesn’t it?

It’s actually the larva of a ladybug.



Are you surprised?

This is a pupa of a lady bug.


After this stage the lady bug is ready to meet the world.

Ladybugs are actually Lady Beetles. You can tell they’re beetles because the wing covers, called

elytra, come together in the middle. The elytra protect the wings, and protects the ladybug from predators.



June 23rd: A Baby Porcupine is Called A?

Yesterday was a high-traffic day at our house. It began with another turtle laying eggs in a flowerbed, that’s three so far. Then the workers, who are retiling two of our floors, were here for several hours. Then our refrigerator wouldn’t get cold so the refrigerator repairman was here. And last, but not least, while we were eating dinner a huge porcupine walked through our yard.

The only other porcupine I have seen was at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. They had a docent with the porcupine telling us all about it. The docent was telling us, not the porcupine. It was very interesting and really cool. If you haven’t been, you should try to get there with the kids.

The North American Porcupine is surprisingly large. The only rodent in North America larger is the beaver. You know that it has quills, but do you know it has up to 30,000 of them? The quills are about 3 inches long, and hollow. They are lightly attached, and easily dislodged into the offending creature. Not easily removed, as the ends have backward-facing barbs. If you have ever seen a dog that tried to grab a porcupine, you know it is a painful and sad sight.

Porcupines are nocturnal although it was still daylight when the one was walking across the lawn. I saw it climb a tree so maybe it was hungry, or had a nest, or was doing whatever porcupines do in trees.

DID YOU KNOW? A baby porcupine is called a porcupette



June 22nd:


June 19th: Snapping Turtle Bale

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I took these photos last year of a female snapping turtle and 2 months later, a bale of baby snappers. Really, a single baby turtle is called a hatchling but a group of them are called a bale!

I watched this female snapper climb to the top of this mulch and edging in the corner of my yard. I wasn’t sure she was going to make it, but she did. Do you think she was scouting out a good place to lay her eggs?

When she started coming down from her perch, she took a tumble and landed upside-down on the driveway. I was afraid she would need help, (I didn’t want to get snapped), but with her powerful legs and neck muscles she flipped herself over and walked away. She eventually found a suitable place for her eggs.

Two months later we discovered this bale of turtles. Dirty from clawing their way out of the nest, which is underground, but healthy and on the move.

Did you know that the temperature of the turtle egg while it’s incubating determines whether the turtle babies are male or female? Some years ago I was fortunate enough to visit the Cayman Turtle Education Centre & Hatchery in the Cayman Islands. The researchers there, in their quest to prevent the extinction of some endangered turtle species, remove turtle eggs just laid in the sand and incubate them at temperatures that ensure male and female hatchlings. The idea is to create a good male-to-female ratio. Important work, don’t you think?


June 18th:

Yesterday morning as I walked out my front door, as I always do to check on my gardens, I saw this turtle sitting in my yard.


She was the second turtle this week that came looking for a place to lay her eggs. She headed for one of my flower beds and I followed, maintaining social distancing to avoid frightening her.

After pushing thru my flowers, she decided the bed didn’t meet her needs and moved on. She wandered across the driveway, stopping now and then to raise up onto her toes and survey the area with her head held high.

Seeing another area to inspect, she crossed the driveway, going under two vehicles, and arrived at her destination. Walking alongside this raised bed and pushing dry grass and weeds aside with her nose, she found a comfy spot, dug a nice hole with her feet and settled in.

After ten minutes or so, she changed her mind and was on the move again. Eventually she ended up close to the spot she started from, dug a hole, spent half an hour laying eggs, buried them to her satisfaction and headed back to the lake.

She knew what she wanted, and needed, and achieved her goal. A lesson for all of us!


June 15th: Dragonflies


Dragonflies are aquatic creatures. They begin their lives in ponds and shallow parts of lakes and rivers, growing progressively larger until it’s time to emerge. They then crawl up some foliage or leave the water for a dry place where they break free of their exoskeleton, pause long enough to dry their wings, and begin their next cycle of life by flying away.

Besides being quite beautiful, dragonflies consume many mosquitoes each day. They are the fastest flying insects, up to 35 miles per hour, depending on their size and direction they’re traveling. They are most proficient at forward (aren’t we all?)


June 12th: Emerald Ash Borer

The Emerald Ash borer is an invasive species of beetle that has no natural enemies in the United States.

Emerald ash borer threatens the entire North American genus Fraxinus. It has killed tens of millions of ash trees so far and threatens to kill most of the 8.7 billion ash trees throughout North America.

Because the damage is taking place inside the tree, it’s vital that we watch for the symptoms resulting from infestations.Frequently, when EAB has been verified the tree is removed, as well as other ‘at risk’ trees in the area.

June 11th: Giant Hogweed

Since I mentioned it yesterday, I thought I should tell you more about Giant Hogweed, which is even more dangerous that Wild Parsnip.This information courtesy of NY Department of Environmental Conservation

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Giant hogweed is very large, erect biennial or perennial. The plant has white flowers that appear in late summer, forming a large, flat-topped umbel up to 2.5 feet across. Hollow, rigid stems grow 2-4 inches in diameter, can be 8-14 feet tall, and have purple blotches and coarse hairs. Leaves can be 5 feet across and are lobed and deeply incised. Giant hogweed is usually found growing in rich, moist soils in open fields, wooded areas, tree lines, roadsides, ditches and along streams and rivers. Its sap contains a phototoxin that reacts with ultraviolet light to cause skin irritation ranging from a mild rash to severe blistering.


If you think you see giant hogweed, report it to the DEC, they will investigate, and if it’s determined to be giant hogweed, they will remove it, at no charge to you.

ghogweed@dec.ny.gov, 845-256-3111

June 10th: Wild Parsnip

Wild Parsnip is unfortunately easy to find in the North Country. It grows along our country roads, the Northway, and in fields and meadows. It looks quite lovely in bloom; masses of yellow flowers. But it is one of most dreaded invasive species we come in contact with.

The problem is that we come in contact with it. The sap of wild parsnip burns the skin when exposed to sunlight.

From the New York Invasive Species Information Clearinghouse

The plant produces a compound in its leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits that causes intense, localized burning, rash, severe blistering, and discoloration on contact with the skin on sunny days. This condition, known as phytophotodermatitis, is caused by furanocoumarin contained in the sap. This is not an allergic reaction; it is a chemical burn brought on by an increase in the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Affected areas can remain discolored and sensitive to sunlight for up to two years, similar to but not as severe as contact with giant hogweed. This reaction is not brought on by contact with the foliage of the plant, only by contact with the sap.

Pretty, isn’t it? Wild Parsnip is often mistaken for Queen Anne’s Lace or dill. I’ve had folks pick it thinking they could use it in a recipe calling for dill. Children might think they could bring mom or grandma a bouquet of it. Make sure everyone in your family recognizes Wild Parsnip and knows not to walk through it, pick it, or in any way expose themselves to it.


June 9th: Japanese Knotweed


ECOLOGICAL THREAT: Japanese knotweed spreads quickly to form dense thickets that exclude native vegetation and greatly alter natural ecosystems. It poses a significant threat to riparian areas, where it can survive severe floods and is able to rapidly colonize scoured shores and islands. Once established, populations are extremely persistent. http://plants.usda.gov/

If a single, highly aggressive invasive plant takes over an area, that can really disrupt the ecosystem. Invasive plants outcompete native plants, which may be medicinal or sacred. In turn, that may hurt the pollinators in an area that depend on a specific early-flowering plant or hurt a mammal that depends on the roots of a plant for winter food.

This is Japanese Knotweed, an invasive plant that’s very difficult to control. It outcompetes native and other non-native plants, taking over an area where it grows. It spreads primarily by seeds that are triangular, shiny, and very small, about 1/10- inch long, which can be carried by wind, water, animals, or humans. It can also spread by shoots which sprout from a system of rhizomes, or stem fragments.

Photos by Jolene:


June 8th: Invasive Species

Yesterday, June 7, was the first day of Invasive Species Week, an annual event designed to bring awareness of the invasive species in NY, that are, or may be, in our area. This week I am going to write about some of the plants and insects that we are dealing with. You probably have seen some of these yourself.

Invasive species are plants, animals, insects, and diseases that are not native to an area and cause harm to the environment, the economy, or human health.

PRISM--Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) New York State Department of Environmental Conservation partners with resource managers, non-governmental organizations, industry, resource users, citizens and other state agencies and stakeholders to combat invasive species. http://nyis.info/prisms-and-partners/

The following lists are of terrestrial plants and insects that are invasive to our area. We will cover some of these in my blog this week. We’ll start with Japanese Knotweed tomorrow.

Terrestrial Plants Kudzu

Common Buckthorn Lesser Celandine

Garlic Mustard Mile-a-Minute

Giant Hogweed Mugwort

Honeysuckle Spp. Multiflora Rose

Japanese Knotweed Norway Maple

Japanese Stiltgrass Swallow-wort, Pale and Black

Japanese Virgin’s Bower Wild Parsnip



Asian Longhorned Beetle

Emerald Ash Borer

European Crane Fly

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

Sirex Woodwasp

Swede Midge

Walnut Twig Beetle,

Thousand Cankers Disease


June 5th: Accepting Soil Samples

A quick note: We are accepting applicants for the Master Gardener training and we are also accepting soil samples for pH testing! See instructions on this page.

As we get into June things are happening fast. We are planting our gardens, pulling our weeds, and trying to keep flies out of the house. Have you seen, or been bitten by, any mosquitoes yet?

I once did a little research on mosquitoes, trying to find out if they serve any useful purpose. Their purpose in life is to mate. The female must have a blood meal to provide protein for her eggs, and water in which to lay them. She may live as long as 30 days, while the male is history after 4 or 5. The one redeeming quality they have is as a food source for bats, birds, frogs, and dragonflies. Anyone know where I can get 1000 bats at a decent price?

Did you know: The first reference to a mosquito in English came in 1572 when it was described as “A certeine gnat or flie … which biteth both men and women in their sleepe.” express.co.uk

The world’s 3,000 species of mosquitoes transmit more diseases than any other creature.


Mosquitoes need water in which to lay eggs. This doesn’t have to be a lot of water though. The saucer under your plant pots may have plenty.Toys, wheelbarrow, or anything else left out when we have a rain should be emptied. Old tires are a common place to find mosquitoes breeding outside.

Are you a mosquito magnet? Do they swarm to you as though you had sent them invitations? It may be a number of factors that your body exhibits that cause them to especially like you. Mosquitoes use carbon dioxide, body odors, temperature and movement to decide who to feed on. Sitting in the shade is more likely to attract them than a sunny area. Exercising, (and sweat) are also attractants.

This information about mosquitoes rings a bell with me about ticks. Both can detect your presence through carbon dioxide and movement, the females need a blood meal in order to lay eggs, and most important of all they can be vectors of serious diseases.

Review my video on ticks at http://cceclinton.org/gardening/online-horticulture-programming

June 4th:


I walk around my garden several times a day. It only takes a few minutes and gives me a chance to see how everything is doing, what might need water, or staking, or weeding. I like being outside and checking on my plants. Now that we have entered the ‘pest and beneficial’ season, it’s more important than ever.

I found a pest problem this morning that wasn’t there yesterday. I have a good sized cornflower plant and every year I get four-lined plant bugs on it. They are small, sucking insects that create window-pane-like damage. They are very small, and very fast. The nymph is about 1/8-inch long, and the adult less than 1/4-inch long. Check the canopy of your plants for the tell-tale damage. These little guys drop to the ground on your approach and are nearly impossible to find. Once they mate and the female lays eggs, you won’t see any new damage—until next year!


June 1st:


On May 5, I showed you how to move a hollyhock.I thought you might like to see how that is working out. I had 2 hollyhocks in the same bed and although not side-by-side, I could see early on that they were going to take up more room than I was willing to give them.

My husband dug one up for me and I moved it to a different location. The place it had been was on the east side of the house and got morning sun. The new location is on the west side and gets sun in the afternoon.

The picture on the right is the hollyhock that was not moved. The picture on the left is the one that was moved. The difference in size is quite noticeable.You might think this has to do with the amount of sun each plant now receives but I think it more likely that the plant that was relocated is still adapting to the new location.

When you relocate a plant, even if it’s a transplant you purchased, the roots need time tore-establish themselves. Avoid transplanting in the heat of summer. If you have to do it then, choose an overcast day, transplant early in the morning, and keep it watered.

I can remember in my early days as a gardener, I used Vitamin B-1 on transplants. It has not been shown to improve the re-establishment of roots. Do not feed a plant when you transplant it, but be sure the soil it’s going into has what the plant needs to thrive.

I feel safe in saying my transplanted hollyhock will be fine and will reach mature size as well.