Friday, October 07, 2016

Red Banded Leaf Hopper - Graphocephala coccinea

It's the beginning of October and as we start to prep for autumn clean up, I noticed our David Austin Rose has set a bunch of new buds and on closer inspection, I noticed these beauties.

Wow. I've seen dozens of leaf hoppers before, but this Red Banded Leaf Hopper (Graphocephala coccinea) is beautiful! I tried taking several cell phone photos, but at this size I couldn't capture their intense colour properly.

Leaf hoppers are sap sucking insects, and as they feed you'll see honeydew droplets excrete from their rear ends. If numbers were greater than the 5-6 that I saw on the rose, I would relocate them. Too many and they would suppress the sap from reaching the buds.

Completely yellow beneath, they can hop quite a distance from plant to plant anyways. I let them drink and do their thing. Incredible colour display, eh?

Nature is so beautiful.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Boxelder Beetle (Bug) - Boisea trivittata

You would think we have an epidemic on our hands with the way the media and public are going on about these tiny creatures.

Relax people, they are just Box Elder Beetles - Bugs, to be more specific. I've been gardening now for nearly 20 years and I see them EVERY autumn; gathering in large numbers and not once have I worried or fussed over their life cycle and purpose.

Boxelder Beetles basically eat what they are named after: Boxelder Maples, AKA Manitoba Maples (Acer negundo). Although they are also known to feed off of some fruit trees and other maples. They basically sap suck and any damage isn't noticeable on the foliage.

Acer negundo (Boxelder/Manitoba Maple)

These next photos I took, were a "sample" that was brought to me and the catalyst for me to make this post. Nearly each bug was dead. Brought in this container - having sat on the dash of a car, it's sad they clearly were dying from being taken away. I was further disappointed when I heard: "How can I get rid of them?"

Here is an up close pic:

I tried my best to be civil but I needed to emphatically educate them. On how important these critters are.

If you know anything about our natural environment around the GTA, you will have come across an Acer negundo (Manitoba Maples - Boxelder Trees) - I guarantee it.  They are everywhere. So this makes sense, no?  Logic dictates: great amounts of food source = more fauna and insects benefit from this food.

Pest Control Canada Photo of Boxelder Swarm

I am sure entomologists who study them will know more as to why numbers are higher some years than others. This is a phenomenon I have also been curious about.

The good news is - don't worry about them.  Actually, be grateful. If they are feeding on Acer negundo trees (which are becoming invasive and outgrowing other native shrubs and trees), don't you think this is a good thing? If they help suppress a bigger issue, then let's leave them be.

They gather on warm, sunny brick sides of houses during the autumn. I would too, if I had to find shelter during the colder nights of October. They are gathering and looking to overwinter in leafy matter, in wood piles, between patio furniture piled close to the house. So do yourself a favour: either clean up any mess around your house or just live with these insects. They do NO harm.

More great info on their life cycles and why:  Plant Natural: Boxelder Bugs

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Duckweed is a great Mulch!

Duckweed is a floating aquatic plant that just showed up one day in this pond. The plant probably hitched a ride on some water fowl which frequented the pond in early spring. Since then, Duckweed - a species of Lemna, has been gift: a floating food source for our Koi. We're thankful and allow it to do it's other thing: shade the pond - to help control algae. And it is a great means of camouflage for our frog, Kermi - who patiently waits for his next meal.

It has many aquatic benefits, but when the summer heat of August peaked 35ºC for several days and the humidity stuck around, the duckweed numbers exploded.

Too much and the pond would be overly shaded and the water lilies would suffer from lack of light. Even the Koi couldn't keep their numbers down! Gathering enough weekly, so that 1/3 of the pond was open for sunlight, I would usually skim it off the pond into a bucket and off to the compost heap.

However, I lazily tossed several screens full around some perennials and let them sit there a few weeks ago.

Going away for a few days, we realized how beneficial the dried out Duckweed became. It acted as a mulch. Retaining moisture levels and kept that section of the perennial border hydrated.


Now, Heidi gladly places it under Hostas, Ligularia, Peonies, Clematis....well you get the idea.

An inch or so of Duckweed knits together like a blanket of sorts, when dry. It's been ideal.

Kermi - our frog enjoys the pond as much as we do! He comes for a dinner call every time. 

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Biodiversity Booklets From Toronto's Public Library - Trees, Shrubs and Vines of Toronto

I'm beginning to realize so many folks don't know about the City Of Toronto's great resource booklets that have been published since 2009.

I've been collecting them ever since they were first released. They are free and the recent publications are available at any Toronto Public Library.

Great collections of photographs, drawings and specific ecological info relating to Toronto's biodiversity.

More info:  Biodiversity Booklets from Toronto's Public Library

Just recently, they released "Trees, Shrubs and Vines of Toronto".

What a great little booklet. I won't give away any spoilers, so - go out and get your own!

Soon to be available:

  • Mushrooms of Toronto
  • Bees of Toronto
Can't wait! 
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