Sunday, May 22: Habitat Gardening Workshop for NYC Wildflower Week

2022-05-13 UPDATE: A second session is now available for Sunday, May 22, 12 noon to 2pm! Registration links below now point to the new event.
2022-05-09 UPDATE: Due to the rainy, windy, cold weather yesterday, we will be scheduling another session of this workshop for later this week, most likely for the afternoon of Friday, May 13th. Will update here when confirmed!


Me hosting the NYCWW Pollinator Week Safari in my Front Yard, June 2014. Photo: Alan Riback

Sunday, May 22nd 6th, I will be hosting and facilitating a workshop on gardening for habitat with native plants in my home garden. The workshop is from 12noon to 2pm. Space is limited, so please register at the Eventbrite link below.

Learn how to garden with native plants to create wildlife habitat, even in small urban gardens. In this interactive garden tour and workshop, Chris will use his garden to highlight the importance of native plants for sustaining urban wildlife, and how to create and maintain a garden for its ecological value. With nearly 200 NYC-native plant species, and over 400 documented insect visitors, you are sure to learn something new and find inspiration for improving habitat wherever you garden.

Presented by Chris Kreussling. Chris is an urban naturalist and advocate for urban habitat gardening with native plants. He has led numerous native plant and pollinator walks and workshops, for NYC Wildflower Week, Wave Hill, the High Line, and others. His garden is a registered habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, Xerces Pollinator Society, and other organizations. He’s documented this ongoing transformation on his gardening blog, Flatbush Gardener and on Twitter as @xrisfg.

Eventbrite

Related Content

Insect Year in Review 2021, 2022-01-03
Hot Sheets Habitat, 2021-11-19
Documenting Insect-Plant Interactions, 2021-10-29
Presentation: Creating Urban Habitat, 2021-02-04
Home of the Wild, 2020-05-13
Pollinator Safari: Urban Insect Gardening with Native Plants, 2019-06-08
Charismatic Mesofauna, 2019-02-12
Pollinator Gardens, for Schools and Others, 2015-02-20
NYCWW Pollinator Safari of my Gardens, 2014-06-14

Links

Eventbrite registration page
NYC Wildflower Week

Hot Sheets Habitat

A mating pair of NOID Dolichopodidae, long-legged flies, in my backyard, September 2018

My garden is registered as both a National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat and Xerces Society Pollinator Habitat. The insects have certainly gotten the message. During 2021, I’ve been able to document 14 different species of insects mating in my garden.
  1. Acanthoscelidius acephalus, minute seed weevil
  2. Epitrix fuscula
  3. Harmonia axyridis, multi-colored lady beetle (introduced)
  4. Eumerus
  5. Orthonevra nitida, wavy mucksucker
  6. Syritta pipiens, compost fly (introduced)
  7. Toxomerus geminatus, Eastern calligrapher fly
  8. Toxomerus marginatus, margined calligrapher fly
  9. Xenox tigrinus, tiger bee fly
  10. Jalysus, stilt bug
  11. Lygaeus kalmii ssp. angustomarginatus, Eastern small milkweed bug
  12. Hylaeus modestus, modest masked bee
  13. Xylocopa virginica, large Eastern carpenter bee
  14. Danaus plexxipus, monarch butterfly

Coleoptera, beetles

Acanthoscelidius acephalus, minute seed weevil

Mating pair of *Acanthoscelidius acephala* in *Oenothera biennis* in my front yard, July 2021

Epitrix fuscula

Mating pair of leaf beetle on Solanum along my driveway, August 2021

Harmonia axyridis, multi-colored lady beetle

Mating pair of *Harmonia axyridis*, multi-colored lady beetle, on *Asclepias syriaca* in my garden, June 2021

Diptera, flies

Eumerus

Mating pair of *Eumerus*, hoverflies, in my front yard, October 2021

Orthonevra nitida, wavy mucksucker

Mating pair of *Orthonvera nitida*, wavy mudsucker syrphid flies, on *Ageratina altissima* in my front yard, November 2021

Syritta pipiens

Mating pair of Syritta pipiens on Pycnanthemum muticum along my driveway, July 2021

Toxomerus geminatus, Eastern calligrapher fly

Mating pair of *Toxomerus geminatus*, Eastern calligrapher syrphid fly, in my front yard, October 2021

Toxomerus marginatus, margined calligrapher fly

Mating pair of Toxomerus marginatus on Erigeron annuus in my front yard, July 2021

Xenox tigrinus, tiger bee fly

Mating pair of *Xenox tigrinus*, tiger bee fly, outside my porch screen, August 2021

Hemiptera, bugs

Jaylsus, stilt bug

Mating pair of Jalysus on Solanum along my driveway, August 2021

Lygaeus kalmii ssp. angustomarginatus, Eastern small milkweed bug

Mating pair of *Lygaeus kalmii* ssp. *angustomarginatus*, Eastern small milkweed bug, on *Ascelpias syriaca* in my garden, June 2021

Hymenoptera, Epifamily Anthophila, bees

Hylaeus modestus, modest masked bee

Mating pair of *Hylaeus modestus* on *Boltonia asteroides* in my front yard, August 2021

Xylocopa virginica, large Eastern carpenter bee

Mating pair of *Xylocopa vorginica* on *Clethra alnifolia* in my backyard, August 2021

Lepidoptera, butterflies

Danaus plexippus, monarch butterfly

My garden is also registered as a butterfly and monarch habitat, and monarch waystation. It proved its worth this year. I observed multiple couplings, in addition to the usual egg-laying. Pair of monarchs mating in my garden, August 2021

Related Content

Flickr photo album

iNaturalist: Insects mating in my garden during 2021

Links

Sunday 6/23: Pollinator Safari: Urban Insect Gardening with Native Plants

Me hosting the NYCWW Pollinator Week Safari in my Front Yard. Photo: Alan Riback

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be hosting a pollinator-focused garden tour and citizen science workshop in my garden for Pollinator Week, in association with NYC Wildflower Week.

Event Details

Date: Sunday, June 23, 2019
Time: 1-4pm
Location: Brooklyn, NY, corner of Stratford Road and Matthews Place
Cost: FREE!
RSVP: Eventbrite

1-2pm: I’ll be focusing in using iNaturalist to observe and identify insects in the garden. Create a free account on iNaturalist, and install the app on your smart phone. I’ll show you how to make observations in the garden with your phone!
2-4pm: We’ll explore the garden, see examples of how to garden for insects and pollinators, look at insect-plant associations happening in the garden, and, optionally, make observations with iNaturalist.

These times are a rough guide. You can drop by any time.

What can you see?

With roughly 200 NYC-native species of trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers, my garden hosts scores of native insects that use these plants throughout the year.

I’ve been documenting these residents and visitors on iNaturalist. Here’s what I’ve seen in June over the years:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?month=6&order_by=observed_on&place_id=125348&subview=table&taxon_id=47120&verifiable=any

My garden is registered with several programs dedicated to creating and preserving habitat:

  • National Wildlife Federation: Backyard Wildlife Habitat # 141173, May 2011
  • Xerces Society: Pollinator Habitat, June 2012
  • North American Butterfly Association: Butterfly and Monarch Garden and Habitat, July 2017

Related Content

2014 Pollinator Safari

Related Posts, , ,

Links

Megachile, Leaf-Cutter Bees

A leaf-cutter bee removes a segment from a leaf of Rhododendron viscosum, swamp azalea, in my urban backyard native plant garden and wildlife habitat (National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat #141,173). You can see other segments – both completed and interrupted – on the same and adjacent leaves.

Like carpenter bees, Leaf-cutters are solitary bees that outfit their nests in tunnels in wood. Unlike carpenter bees, they’re unable to chew out their own tunnels, and so rely on existing ones. This year, I’ve observed a large leaf-cutter – yet to be identified – reusing a tunnel bored in previous years by the large Eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica.

They use the leaf segments to line the tunnels. The leaves of every native woody plant in my garden has many of these arcs cut from the leaves. The sizes of the arcs range widely, from dine-sized down to pencil-points, reflecting the different sizes of the bee species responsible.

Tiny arcs cut from the leaves of Wisteria frutescens in my backyard.

I speculate that different species of bees associate with different species of plants in my gardens. The thickness and texture of the leaves, their moisture content, and their chemical composition must all play a part. I’ve yet to locate any research on this; research, that is, that’s not locked up behind a paywall by the scam that passes for most of scientific publishing.

Although I’ve observed the “damage” on leaves in my garden for years, this was the first time I witnessed the behavior. Even standing in the full sun, I got chills all over my body. I recognize now that the “bees with big green butts” I’ve seen flying around, but unable to observe closely, let alone capture in a photograph, have been leaf-cutter bees.

As a group, they’re most easily identified by another difference: they carry pollen on the underside of their abdomen. A bee that has pollen, or fuzzy hairs, there will be a leaf-cutter bee.

An unidentified Megachile, leaf-cutter bee, I found in my garden.

Another behavior I observe among the leaf-cutters in my garden is that they tend to hold their abdomens above the line of their body, rather than below, as with other bees. Perhaps this is a behavioral adaptation to protect the pollen they collect. In any case, when I see a “bee with a perky butt,” I know it’s a leaf-cutter bee.

When they’re not collecting leaves, they’re collecting pollen. Having patches of different plant species that bloom at different times of the year is crucial to providing a continuous supply of food for both the adults and their young.

An individual bee will visit different plant species (yes, I follow them to see what they’re doing). And different leaf-cutter species prefer different flowers. All the plants I’ve observed them visit share a common trait: they have tight clusters of flowers holding many small flowers; large, showy flowers hold no interest for the leaf-cutter bees.

Related Content

Links

BugGuide: Genus Megachile

Gardening with the Lepidoptera

Tomorrow, Sunday, June 12, my garden will be opened for its second tour of the season: the Victorian Flatbush House (and Garden!) Tour, to benefit the Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC). Earlier this week, I wrote about the transformation of the garden over the six past years, since we bought our home. Today, I’m providing details about one part of that transformation, one which is easy to replicate on a small scale, even in a tree bed or on a balcony.

After readying my backyard native plant garden for its debut tour for NYC Wildflower Week in May, I decided to complete the requirements to register my garden as a Certified Wildlife Habitat (#141,173) with the National Wildlife Federation. With over 80 species of native plants, I easily met three of the four requirements: shelter, food, and places to raise young. All I lacked was water, a requirement satisfied by placing some birdbaths and a terra-cotta cistern.

On Friday, May 27, I mounted the plaque on the entrance arbor.
Certified Wildlife Habitat sign

The morning after I put out this welcome mat, I saw butterflies visiting a vine in the garden. I was puzzled, since the plant wasn’t blooming yet. Closer observation revealed that they were laying eggs on the vine.

Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail
Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail, ovipositing on Aristolochia tomentosa, Wooly Dutchman’s Pipevine

At first, I thought they were Papilo troilus, Spicebush Swallowtail, a species I’ve encountered before. But one of my tweeps, Marielle Anzelone, id’d it as Pipevine Swallowtail, a lifer butterfly for me. Upon researching the species, I was somewhat relieved to learn my confusion has some scientific basis: both the Spicebush and Pipevine Swallowtails, along with several other species, are members of a mimicry complex. As described on BugGuide, “members of this complex present a confusing array of blue-and-black butterflies in the summer months in the eastern United States.” The arc of orange spots on the underside of the hindwind, clearly visible in the photo above, is a key to distinguishing this species from other members of the complex.

The other key was the host plant. Of course, Pipevine Swallowtail would lays its eggs on Pipevine, in this case,  Aristolochia tomentosa, Wooly Dutchman’s Pipevine. This plant was a rare find; I’ve never seen it offered again, or elsewhere. A few years ago, I visited Gowanus Nursery – my favored retail source for native plants in Brooklyn, even New York City – and asked if they had any Dutchman’s Pipe. I was hoping for A. macrophylla, a species with huge leaves, and a Victorian gardener’s favorite. They had some Aristolochia, but neither of us could id the species. Adventurous gardener that I am, I took a chance and brought home a quart specimen with a few, thin stems and small leaves. When it eventually bloomed, I was able to id it.
Aristolochia tomentosa, Wooly Dutchman's Pipe

A few years later, the plant is huge, with dense foliage, though the leaves have remained small. It keeps reaching upward several feet, self-supporting its lax stems, and climbing into the cherry tree above it. It serves to screen the composting area from the rest of the garden. I think the mature growth of this plant, rather than the habitat plaque, is what attracted the butterflies to my garden, and select this plant as a host.

Eggs, Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail
Eggs of Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail on Aristolochia tomentosa, Wooly Dutchman’s Pipevine

Where I could find them, the eggs were laid only on the young leaves and petioles of fresh growth. This growth is abundant on the mature plant. The eggs are small, especially compared to the depth of the “hairs” of the plant. I suspect laying the eggs on young growth is critical to successful feeding by the young caterpillars. As they get larger, they can manage the larger, coarser hairs and leaves of more mature growth.
Empty eggs, Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail
Empty eggs of Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail, on Aristolochia tomentosa, Wooly Dutchman’s Pipevine. Leaf removed from the vine and U.S. quarter coin provided for scale.

Just five days later, on June 2, the eggs hatched. Newborn caterpillars!
Eggs and Hatchlings, Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail

One day after they hatched, I found a group of four little caterpillars on the underside of a different, but nearby, leaf. Two days later, the group was down to three, and three days later, only two caterpillars were left on the leaf. The feeding damage visible in the photos is distinctive: other leaves on the vine have showed signs of feeding, or other uses, but nothing like the fine ragged edges left by tiny little mouths. I haven’t caught them in the act of feeding; I wonder if they feed at night, to avoid detection when active, and remain hidden during the day?
Caterpillars, Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail
Caterpillars, +2 Days, Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail
Caterpillars, three days after hatching

I’ve lost track of the caterpillars now. The vine is dense, with layers of foliage, and many twisting stems. I’ll watch for feeding damage to try to locate and photograph some of them again as they get larger. I’ll also look for chrysalises; catching them emerging as butterflies would be fantastic luck.

Aristolochia tomentosa is native to eastern and southern North America.
Map of native range of Aristolochia tomentosa

Battus philenor hosts on all species of the genus, so its range covers most of North America.
Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail, Distribution Map, BAMONA

So, how is any of this “easy to replicate”? While flowers provide food to, and the plants shelter, adult butterflies and moths, a host plant meets three of the four habitat requirements: shelter, food, and a place to raise young. Most native plant species are known to host something. Both Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) and the international HOSTS Database from the Natural History Museum in London are online resources you can use to discover Lepidoptera-plant host associations.

A single container of a grass or sedge on a balcony can provide habitat. The whole of the cumulative impact of scores, hundreds of such micro-habitats will be greater than the sum. Even in urban settings, we can create opportunities for nature to return and thrive, and by reconnecting with it, we thrive as well.

[goo.gl]

Related Content

Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail, Flickr photo set
Aristolochia tomentosa, Wooly Dutchman’s Pipevine, Flickr photo set

Links

Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail, BugGuide
Battus philenor, Pipevine Swallowtail, Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
Battus philenor host plants, HOSTS: World’s Lepidopteran Hostplants Database

Aristolochia tomentosa Sims, woolly dutchman’s pipe, USDA PLANTS Database (Synonym: Isotrema tomentosa (Sims) Huber)
Isotrema tomentosum (Sims) H. Huber,  NY Flora Association Atlas (Does not list as present, let alone native, in NY)

The Years Have Been Kind

This Spring has been a season of garden anniversaries for me. Six years ago, my partner and I bought our home in Flatbush. In the first month after closing, I began weeding, composting, and envisioning the gardens. Five years ago, I started this blog to document what I was doing and record my explorations.

It’s also been a season to celebrate the gardens. Last month, for New York City Wildflower Week (NYCWW), I opened my native plant garden for a garden tour for the first time. This Sunday, June 12, the gardens will be opened again, this time for the Victorian Flatbush House Tour, to benefit the Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC). And in May, I registered my garden as a Certified Wildlife Habitat (#141,173) with the National Wildlife Federation.

My original vision for the backyard native plant garden is largely realized. I’m close to completing development of the planting beds. The shrubs and perennials have grown and spread; there is little bare ground. Unlike me, the garden looks better than it did six years ago. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

Slideshow

By view of the garden

Entrance from the driveway.
Backyard, view along the back path
Arbor Entrance

View West, toward the back of the house.
Backyard, view toward the house
View West

View North, toward our next-door neighbor.
Backyard, view away from garage
View North

View East, toward our back neighbor.
Backyard, view away from the house
View East

View South, toward our garage. The entrance from the driveway is to the right.
Backyard, view toward the garage
View South

Related Content

My Garden

Links

NYC Wildflower Week
Victorian Flatbush House Tour, Flatbush Development Corporation
Garden for Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation