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Native bees: These bees plastic-wrap their brood cells

Photo of colletes validus

Do you love blueberries? Then you should love the genus Colletes of native bees! These are one of several types of native bees that collect pollen from both highbush and lowbush blueberry flowers. Colletes validus has an elongated, narrow head that helps it fit into the tight flower opening where it eats nectar and collects pollen that will be transferred…

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Native bees: Mason bees are fantastic pollinators

Photo of a blue mason bee

Mason bees might be the best pollinators of all bees. Instead of wetting pollen and putting it in pollen sacs like honeybees, mason bees are covered in hair that collects pollen as they move around, searching for nectar. They can certainly carry a lot of pollen and significant pollinators for apple, cherry and plum trees. (Try…

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Native bees: The true sweat bees

Photo of a hover fly on a zinnia

We’ve all been outside drinking a pop at a picnic, when these little black-and-yellow creatures start flitting around and trying to get into the drink. “Sweat bees,” someone will say, shaking his or her head. “They’re so annoying.” Learning about bees as we put together the bee identification spinner for the new Pollinator Paradise addition,…

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Native bees: Exotic honeybees and their Apidae family

Photo of a long-horned bee

We’ve talked about the ways that native bees differ from honeybees (read that here) and how great of pollinators they are (read that here), but how do you identify native bees? There are seven known families of bees worldwide, and six live in North America: Andrenidae, Apidae, Colletidae, Halictidae, Megachilidae and Melittidae. The family Stenotritidae only…

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Will these winter storms affect birds that have come north?

We had a call yesterday that someone found a dead robin. Talking to a local birder, a friend of his found a group of eastern phoebes that had all died. The birds that stay in Iowa through the winter are adapted at finding food, but those that migrate and come back to find spring storm…

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Osprey Diaries: Home sweet new home

“On the road again. I can’t wait to get on the road again.” The song kept rolling through my head as I sat in beautiful South America, watching the waves roll on the Atlantic Ocean. My wings were just itching to start flying the 4,000 miles that would take me back to my beloved breeding…

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Common moths in Iowa

Photo of a white-lined sphinx moth

Moth balls. Moths flying out of old trunks in the attic. Moths escaping from bags of bird seed. Dusty, brown, uninteresting moths. The stereotypes about moths aren’t really true, because there are many moths in the world, and in Iowa, that are actually quite neat. Learn about a few that you will be able to…

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2017-18 Monarch overwintering numbers released

Graph of monarch populations

Each winter, pollinator enthusiasts anxiously await monarch population numbers as eastern populations overwinter in the forests of Mexico. In early 2016, we were excited as monarch populations jumped from 1.13 hectares of land covered by overwintering monarchs to 4.01. It was the first rise in population for five years. But in 2017, the numbers dropped…

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