“Butterflies for Science?” was the invitation I emailed my friend. “YES!” she answered, “I want butterflies for my classroom. How do we do it?”
Here’s how we DON’T do it: No kits of generic caterpillars mailed 2nd Day Air with tubs of larval food paste (a “proprietary mixture of vitamins, proteins, and fats”). No butterflies released into the wild without regard to the calendar or what plants are outside.*
Our butterflies are a name brand! The Gulf Fritillary. Our caterpillar food is the real thing, the ONLY thing: this butterfly’s particular larval host plant. There would be no new Gulf Fritillaries without it.
Don’t forget the stick! It’s the escape ramp for thirsty and clumsy critters. The goal of a Mosquito Bucket of Doom is to kill mosquito larvae. The goal is NOT to kill bees or ants or birds or fireflies or skinks or chipmunks, or anyone else who falls into the bucket.
Lately, I’ve heard from three friends that they’ve pulled dead squirrels and birds out of their buckets. I asked if they used sticks in the bucket. No.
A stick is essential in every Bucket of Doom. It’s an escape ramp for creatures to climb up to safety.
After I posted the Do-It-Yourself Mosquito Bucket of Doom (link), I realized two things: 1) I should have called the project a “Doom-It-Yourself,” and 2) Not everyone is excited about displaying an ugly bucket in their yard.
But, now I know that a Mosquito Bucket of Doom need not be ugly. Or even be a bucket. Nearly any water-tight, wide-mouthed container will do.
Personally, I’m fine sharing my yard with an ugly bucket that still advertises the 30 pounds of kitty litter it once contained:
Mosquito season is here! Instead of spraying pesticides onto our entire yards—and onto fireflies, ladybugs, bumblebees, and butterflies—why not just kill mosquitoes?
But wait, first: let’s PREVENT mosquitos from breeding in our yards. Here’s an infographic (link) from the CDC to remind us of the free and easy common-sense ways to do this, like removing standing water in toys, saucers and gutters.
And then, why not try a Mosquito Bucket of Doom? It’s cheap, it’s safe, it works.
“Are you home now??” texted my neighbor. ”I think there’s hundreds or thousands of bees making a nest in our pine tree as we speak. It’s crazy!!”
To me, it wasn’t crazy: it was perfect. Two friends had already witnessed this very thing in their yards recently, and I was jealous. So I texted back: “It’s swarm time!”
By the time I got to my neighbor’s yard, all the bees had gathered in one spot, AS one spot: one big blob of buzzing, crawling, and flying creatures, at about 30 feet up the tree. They looked like a giant dollop of bubbling goo about to drip from a branch.
A honeybee swarm!
I am grateful my neighbor knew what to do: call me, and I am grateful I knew what to tell her: call a swarm-catcher.
Today’s Front Yard Nature: an inchworm on a Black Cherry seedling. This is how nature is supposed to work: native plants = caterpillar food. No one was eating the equally tiny seedlings of exotic bush honeysuckle in the same porch crack.
My nearest mature Black Cherry tree is blocks away, but every summer, birds poop the purple-painted seeds onto the driveway, the yard and the cracks in the porch. This too, is how nature is supposed to work. I toss the exotic weeds to shrivel in the sun, but I plant some of the natives in cups to grow, or to give away, or to plant somewhere else when nobody’s watching.
Black Cherry / Prunus serotina is one of the Prunus species on the National Wildlife Federation’s native plant finder for my zipcode. The list states that it can feed 320 species of caterpillar, but right now, this particular Black Cherry is only big enough to support *one.*
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Bio: Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world. She writes about everyday marvels amid everyday habitat loss, and her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, Stonecrop Review, The Fourth River and other journals. Her forthcoming book is Paradise in a Parking Lot: Unlikely Stories from Urban Nature.
To squeeze a Sycamore ball is a seasonal pleasure, and the season is now. Now is when last year’s clusters of Sycamore seeds start to fall and to fall apart. For the next few weeks, they’ll disintegrate into drifting piles of loose, fluffy achenes: Sycamore “snow.”
To squeeze a Sycamore seed-ball is oddly satisfying. Call it a Contemplative Practice. Call it fun or sick or weird, but try it.
The Sycamore Squeeze is one way to get to know Where—and When—you are.