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Connecting to Our Food Web

Dedicated to educational resources towards building and sustaining viable food webs and ecosystems
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Welcome to My Jungle - October 2017


It's that time of year when all gardeners need to start thinking about tender perennials and what their fate is to be. Do you overwinter them or do you let Mother Nature shorten their life? How much time do you have? Well not much. In the St Louis Metro East, about 90% of the time, the first frost has occurred by October 27th. The earliest we have had is September 20th and the latest is November 10th, so that means it could happen at any time. There are two major steps to my bringing plants into my unheated, but non-freezing garage to over-winter. I first have to clean out a space to hold all of my containerized plants. That may sound simple, but that space was really convenient for "dumping" stuff over the summer so now I have to find a real home for everything residing there now. The next step is gather up all my pots destined for over-wintering. I will trim and remove all dead leaves and other debris. I fertilize lightly and thoroughly water each pot. Afterwards, I treat each plant with insecticidal soap to manage any aphids, mites or scale. I usually come back after a week and treat them one more time if the frost has held off before moving them inside. I also inspect the plant and soil as thoroughly as possible for any stow-away toads or frogs. You would be surprised how many I find.

I did a little researching and it appears my bald-faced hornet nest is approaching a natural termination. I am still seeing a lot of activity but all the literature suggest a nest life cycle of approximately 5 months. I would love to know how many fertile males and females successfully left the nest over the summer, but I guess I'll just have to assume all went as planned and the population of breeding males and females has increased. My husband and I have already determined that we will most likely not be able to remove the nest intact once the hornets have completely vacated. What we have instead decided to do is to carefully dissect the outer papery covering to expose the honeycomb structure inside and inspect and document what was otherwise hidden. The less fun outcome is the need to replace a window screen and scrub dried pulp off brick and window vinyl. Interestingly enough, they covered the screen with their pulpy substance somewhat like additional screening. From inside, I could see they had chewed holes in the screen from the backside of the nest and just kind of "hung out" in the open space between the screen and the window pane. It gave me a great opportunity to view them up-close from the safety of my bedroom. No matter how much cleaning up I have to do, it was worth it!

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