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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Pollinators
swallowtail butterfly
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Butterflies Spread Cheer

I am seeing more butterflies this summer than I have in recent years. As I walk my property, I see monarchs, swallowtails, buckeyes, hackberry, painted ladies, cabbage whites, and more. This year I even saw a viceroy while mowing! Although there are many reasons for the increase in butterflies this year, I'd like to think that my choice of plants has helped. Adult butterflies suck necta...

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Kim St John Butterfly Habitat at Wildlife Prairie Park

Butterfly Gardening

If you love butterflies, you could also put in a butterfly garden habitat in your own yard. You don't need a lot of space to attract our native butterflies. There are two different types of plants you can grow for butterflies: nectar food sources and larval food sources. Nectar sources attract the adult butterfly. Many different types of flowers will serve as a nectar source. Av...

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Bee on purple cone flower

Native Pollinators Are Important for our Food Supply

When it comes to pollination, honey bees get a majority of the attention. However, many insects play a role in pollination. What is Pollination? Pollination occurs when pollen grains move between two flowers of the same species, or within a single flower. There are many ways that flowers are pollinated, including wind and animals. According to the website...

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Red admiral butterfly on Mexican zinnia on 9-17-12
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Butterfly Gardening

Butterfly Gardening Butterflies are such beautiful creatures and watching them flit from plant to plant brings joy and relaxation. This is why butterfly gardening continues to grow in popularity. Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, explains how to attract more butterflies to your own backyard. "There are two different type...

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Bee on purple cone flower
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Bee-nificial Bees!

Beekeeping is an increasingly popular backyard hobby. It also fits the growing trend to protect pollinators, which are so important to our food supply. There are many different types of bees. Bumble bees are the only truly social bees native to the United States. They are important pollinators and according to a University of Minnesota entomology website, are used commercially to pollin...

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Diablo ninebark exfoliating stem
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The Tough and Durable Ninebark

I recently removed a larger overgrown, and invasive, burning bush in my yard and replaced it with an elderberry and a couple ninebarks. Trends in the gardening world include using easy to grow, dependable plants with unusual features. There is also a push to use more native plants, especially those that attract beneficial pollinators. Ninebark meets all of these criteria. Nineba...

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IMG 0869
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The Incredible Edible Elderberry

I have always loved elderberries. As a kid there was an elderberry bush outside my bedroom window. I waited patiently each summer for the first berry clusters to ripen. I'd eat them right off the plant whenever I walked or mowed past the delicious, though tart, fruit. This fall we removed a burning bush from our yard because it was overgrown and terribly invasive (new seedlings are ever...

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ameren bees

Don't Panic over Honey Bee Swarms

Ameren Illinois workers found a hive a nearly 1,000 honeybees during a recent substation inspection in Pekin. Thanks to the work of their employee, also an avid beekeeper, the hive and bees were safely removed and relocated. A picture is shown on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/AmerenIllinois . Bee swarm and hive discoveries...

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Native Habitat Resources

I attended a Pollinator Conference recently in Rock Island, IL and learned of several resources that are available for those wanting to develop native habitats and attract more pollinators. First, here are a few questions to consider before getting started... What other plants are already there? Are there invasive or other undesirable plants there that need removed? In par...

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Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) with Regal Fritillary butterfly
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Pollinators

You'd have to be living under a rock not to know that pollinator decline is big news right now. I've learned through meetings and other reliable sources that many factors contribute to this decline. Below are some facts I've found useful and interesting. What is Pollination? Pollination occurs when pollen grains are moved between two flowers of the same species, or within a single flower. Ther...

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Red admiral butterfly on Mexican zinnia on 9-17-12
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Butterfly Larvae Food Plants

Efforts to save the monarch butterfly are everywhere with many people pledging to plant milkweed for monarch larvae to eat. There are two different types of plants you can grow for butterflies: nectar food sources and larval food sources. Nectar sources attract the adult butterfly and many different types of flowers will serve as a nectar source. Providing larval food plants is where b...

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Silver maple flowers in the spring.

Allergenic Plants

If you are an allergy sufferer, spring often brings sniffling, sneezing, and watery eyes. One culprit is pollen from flowers of trees, shrubs, grasses, and weeds. Though most of these bloom for just a short period each year, something is almost always blooming. In early spring, the trees and shrubs are blooming. In summer the main pollen source is from flowering grasses. In late summer and fall, w...

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Bee on purple cone flower

Bee-nificial Bees!

Beekeeping is an increasingly popular backyard hobby. It also fits the growing trend to protect pollinators, which are so important to our food supply. There are many different types of bees. Bumble bees are the only truly social bees native to the United States. They are important pollinators and according to a University of Minnesota entomology website, are used commercially to pollinate cro...

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Bee-neficials: It's all about the bees this year

May brings us our fifth gardening trend for 2014: Bee-neficials: It's all about the bees this year . News on bee and other pollinator populations is everywhere this spring. Obviously, pollinators are an essential requirement for many of our favorite food crops. Pollination is a process that takes place in a flower to transfer pollen from the male the female flower part, thus pro...

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Breaking ground for a new butterfly house at Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria on December 6, 2012.

Butterfly Garden at Wildlife Prairie State Park in Peoria

Volunteers broke ground on December 6th for a new butterfly house at Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria. Pictured at the ground breaking are University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners Lee Maki (right)and Bonnie Hunt (second from right); Jason Boerger, Wildlife Prairie Park General Manager; and a volunteer Cat operator from the Edwards Demonstration and Learning Center. A group of Peoria County...

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swallowtail on sweet william

Are there less butterflies this summer?

I've heard several comments this summer about butterfly numbers being less than in previous years. One reader reported that she has had hardly any butterflies in her butterfly garden since the drought began. Why is this happening? I am not an entomologist, but from what I've read I wonder if the warm spring has more to do with it than the current drought. Certainly the drought and other...

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