Leave the Leaves, Turn Out the Lights

Most people are aware of the global biodiversity crisis, the shocking declines of insects, birds, and other animals, yet many don’t connect it with life in our comfortable suburbs. Because everything is connected, what we do at home is more important than you might think. Anyone with a house and yard can take two actions that will immediately increase biodiversity by helping the creatures that share our neighborhoods: leave the leaves and turn out the lights.  I’ve never understood why sensible people would remove autumn leaves from under their trees and bushes, only to then pay good money to add mulch and fertilizer. Fallen leaves are nature’s combination fertilizer and mulch, full of exactly the nutrients trees and shrubs need. And regarding “messiness,” nobody walks through the forest preserves in autumn wishing someone would clear out all those darn fallen leaves. Those leaves are what make the outdoors comfortable for many animals, providing shelter, food, and habitat. Fireflies d

Time Off

July and August I've been taking time away from the computer. I'll be back the last week of August when school starts. In the meantime, here's some backyard nature news:

Here as elsewhere around our climate-changing globe (though on a much less severe scale) the weather is news.

The morning of July 24, I woke up to a see a shallow pond in the backyard, a sight never before seen, after approximately eight inches of rain fell overnight. Flooding was widespread throughout the region, as anyone who lives here knows. The water drained, slowly but surely, and my trusty native plants are still thriving and blooming.

Consequently, we are having the worst mosquito outbreak in twenty years.

As of today the Chicago area has set a new record for longest stretch of days over 80 F--43 days, with more to come.

Other news:

Yellow jackets built condominiums in my compost pile; monarchs laid eggs on the milkweeds (a process I'd never actually watched before); yellow swallowtails, black swallowtails, red admirals and blue azures are also around; the honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees are very busy; the cicadas are extremely loud at night; and cicada-killer wasps have suddenly shown up. These last are a large, beneficial wasp that burrow in the ground and kill cicadas to feed their young, which should give an idea of just how big they are--two inches. More info here. That's three species of solitary burrowing wasps I've seen this year, since the katydid killers and the golden diggers are back on schedule.

Because of all the rain, I'm seeing new mushrooms, such as stink-horns, in the mulch.

No new bird species so far, but quite abundant.

It's truly incredible to me that the longer I garden with mostly native species, the more interesting the other life forms that appear.

Yesterday I picked my first-ever crop  of chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa x Elata) and plan to make jam. They are now in the freezer waiting for a cooler day, possibly next week.

Comments

Thomas Rainer said…
Welcome back! I need to get away from the computer myself . . .
Benjamin Vogt said…
Everything you talked about--except the chokeberies--I have seen and done and such. Amazing. Wet wet wet, lots of insects (likely th enative plants!), cicada killers, skeeters, a ong hot dry spell of 4 weeks bookened by days when we'd get 3, 4, 5 inches of rain..... and I ahte school, already two weeks in and the students are smarmy.