From the monthly archives:

December 2008

Creating Habitat for Pollinators

by Lorraine on December 9, 2008

Here is the final installment of Casey’s article.


You may also want to provide nesting areas for pollinators.  Native bees do not nest in colonial hives, they usually live and nest independently.  For the most part, native bees are not known to sting.  If you see a wasp hive on your property, they can be dealt with as the homeowner sees fit (wasps are primarily are not plant pollinators, and instead are more carnivorous).  Structures such as wood blocks with holes, twig bundles, brush piles, and undisturbed even bare ground can provide nest sites for native bees. 


For butterflies and moths, usually providing the right plants will provide the proper food and substrate to encourage reproduction.  If you see caterpillars eating your native plant leaves, consider it a good thing!  Most adult butterflies and moths will feed from many different flowers, but their larval stage (caterpillars) are often restricted to a few plants.  For example, tiger swallowtails will only lay their eggs on willows or sycamores.  The caterpillars will only feed on these plants, then will pupate, and become flying adults. 

Planting flowers with a long, tubular shape is a sure way to attract hummingbirds.  Consider penstemons, sages, monkeyflowers, and fuschia.


Most pollinators will utilize a water source, such as a birdbath.  Just be sure they are able to enter and exit safely.  Also, be sure to eliminate or minimize pesticide use on your property, since there can be collateral damage to many beneficial insects, including pollinators.


Please consider creating pollinator habitat in your yard this fall.  Hosting pollinators on your property has many benefits for you, native plants and wildlife, your garden and crops, and the ecosystem as a whole. 


For more information visit:


For more information on attracting pollinators or on any type of conservation planning, contact the

USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service at (805) 386-4489 or stop by our office at 3380 Somis Rd., Somis, CA.  We are co-located with the Ventura County Resource Conservation District.


The Importance of Pollination

by Lorraine on December 8, 2008

Here is the third part of Casy’s article about what is pollination and why it is so important for not only for reproduction of plants, but for the planet, itself.

Part III


Hosting native pollinators can increase production in your garden and on your farm, will increase the amount of other wildlife on your property, and will provide beauty and enjoyment.  Native pollinators are best adapted to utilize native plants.  By providing native plants, you will attract the pollinators to your property.  The trick is to keep them there.  The way to do this is to plant a mixture of plants that provide flowers at different times of the year, so there is always something flowering.  Some plants to consider include yarrow, California rose, elderberry, coyote bush, mulefat, sycamore, willows, oaks, monkeyflower, California fuchsia, sages, coffeeberry, toyon, buckwheat, native grasses, and wildflowers.  Just be sure to get locally native plants!  There are many places to find these plants and seeds in the area, including Matilija Nursery, S&S Seeds, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Theodore Payne Foundation, and Albright Seed Co.  Native plants are often close to the same price as common landscaping plants. 


Fall and winter is the best time to plant natives, so now is time to start planning.  These plants can replace traditional landscaping and lawns, or can be added into existing landscaping.  Native plants can also be planted around farms in hedgerows.  It is important to remember that most California native plants are drought tolerant and too much water after the plants are established could damage them.  Native plants also do not need fertilizer.  Remember to plant plants with similar environmental requirements together such as the amount of sun, soils moisture, and soil type.


Casey Burns, Biologist; USDA

Natural Resources Conservation Services


Native Pollinators

by Lorraine on December 5, 2008

Here is the next section of Casy’s article regarding the importance of bees and other insects that help to pollinate plants to be able to grow, produce and thrive.



Seventy-five percent of the plants in the world need or are assisted by pollination to reproduce, including alfalfa, almonds, apples, avocados, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, pears, plums, squash, strawberries, sunflowers, tomatoes, and watermelons.  Without pollination, the fruit and the seed in many plants do not develop properly.  Crops produce lower yields or nothing at all, and wild plants are not able to start the next generation.  Additionally, insect pollinators are often the base of the food web for other native wildlife, primarily birds.  If pollinators were to disappear, there would be havoc in the food supply and the natural world. 


As with the honeybees, many of our native pollinators are at risk.  The primary threats include habitat loss and mortality from pesticides.  But the good news is that there are simple ways to enhance habitat for pollinators on your property.  From natural habitat restoration, to a native plant hedgerow, to even a few native plants in your yard, to artificial nesting structures, there is something everyone can do.


Casey Burns

Biologist USDA



Bees, Pollinators and Native Plants

by Lorraine on December 4, 2008

For the next several days, I will be sharing a very interesting and informative article written by Casy Burns who is a biologist with the USDA.   Casy came across my blog some time ago and he had  written a comment in it regarding one of my posts.

I asked him if he would be interested in sharing his knowledge about Native plants and other topics regarding the environment on my blog and he sent me the following article.

This is really a very interesting topic regarding bees and the importance that they serve to agriculture and the issues that are confronting their ability to thrive.   And Casey also discusses importance of preserving our native plant communities for the benefit of wildlife and the environment.

Casey Burns

Biologist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service


October 8, 2008



If people think of pollinators at all, most people usually think of honeybees.  In the last year, there have been many stories in the news about the precipitous nationwide decline of European honeybees.  Something is causing these non-native bees to die off in large numbers.  The cause is unknown, but the result is more predictable – the loss of the primary pollinator of many crops.  With the future of the honeybee uncertain, now is the time to consider the benefits of other pollinators, such as native bees, flies, moths, butterflies, beetles, and even birds and bats.


A pollinator is an animal that moves pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female stigma of a flower to accomplish fertilization.  Pollination is a necessary step in the sexual reproduction of flowering plants, resulting in the production of offspring that are genetically diverse.  The pollen and nectar from the flowers are used by bees as food, and the resulting pollination is a byproduct of the pollinator foraging. The plants provide food for the pollinators, and in turn they are assisted in their reproduction. You may have notices female bees with loads of pollen on their legs.

To be continued:


Gophers & the Hawaiian Style Band

by Lorraine on December 1, 2008

Awright, there’s no avoiding making more gopher cages.   I promptly dug up the three Salvias and re-potted them in the original plastic containers which I had saved.   You know?   Recycling?   I knew that digging them up wouldn’t hurt them, since I had only planted them the previous week and this needed to be done, otherwise the gopher would kill them.

Then I went to the hardware store and bought some chicken wire and persuaded myself that I would be up to the challenge of making more gopher cages.   At least I didn’t have to make 200 again which was a consoling thought as I only had to make a few this time, at least that’s what I’m hoping.

I hauled out my trusty folding table into the driveway.   Got my wire cutters, gloves and water.   No Merlot this time although I certainly thought about it but instead I listened to music.

I  love Hawaiian music, slack key guitar and what’s really cool, “Jiamiian” music.  Kinda of a mixture of Reggae and Hawaiian music and I grooved away, (No Hula) happily cutting and rolling the chicken wire until I had enough cages to deal with my rodent problem.

Then I replanted the Salvias in their new “cages”, watered them a bit and felt assured that the toothy varmints couldn’t reach the roots.

During the same weekend, I put in a few more new plants in the area between my driveway  and my neighbors’ driveway.  This isn’t a very large area and I didn’t get to it last Winter when I did the my garden originally, so I decided to do something with it now.  Naturally, in my choice of plants, I included some Salvias and one of my favorites, Coyote Mint (Mondardella odoratissima)and Blue-Eyed Grass (sisyrinchium bellum) which are both low growing and very attractive with their flowers.

It’s complete now and I’m hopeful that I will be successful with this new area, as I haven’t had good luck with plants that I’ve tried to growthere before.   Other than some Lions Tail, everything seems to die.   I’m wondering if the problem might be the three trees in the area or if possibly the Lions Tail isn’t compatable with other plants.

I dunno.   I’ll just have to see what happens.

I also over seeded the area with some wildflower seeds as well and I noticed today, there seems to be some seeds that that are sprouting in the main garden, which I had previously seeded a week ago. I’m surprised to see anything so fast, but obviously the rain helped them along, followed by a warm, sunny day.