Bulletin Board

The Monarch Butterfly

Have you noticed?: the conspicuous lack of Monarch butterflies the past few years? The Monarch is probably the most recognized butterfly in North America. Every year these delicate pollinators migrate to Mexico for the winter, returning to their North American breeding grounds for the summer. But According to recent studies, the number of Monarchs migrating to Mexico are the lowest they have been in over 20 years.

One of the big contributors to this decline in population is the increased loss of the milkweed plant. Monarchs breed only on members of the milkweed family (Asclepias); so without milkweed, we have no Monarch butterflies. With the continual increase of urban sprawl; the need for more farmland - and further to that, genetically altered crops able to withstand herbicides used to kill off all "undesirables" which would otherwise contaminate the crop; and milkweed being labelled as a noxious weed (they contain a toxin which can be harmful if eaten, and the milky sap inside the stem may cause a reaction if it comes in contact with your skin) there is not much room left for the humble milkweed plant.

Also, common milkweed is not an overly attractive plant, so not many people would want to grow it in their gardens. There are however, more that one variety of milkweed - ones more attractive than the common variety. Click here for more info on milkweeds.

Photo Credit: Marisa Gebhardt

Asclepias Syriaca
Common Milkweed

Photo Credit: Marisa Gebhardt

Asclepias Incarnata
Swamp Milkweed

Photo Credit: Martin LaBar via Compfight cc

Asclepias Tuberosa
Butterfly Weed

Links

Monarch Watch - Bring Back the Monarchs

Ministry of Natural Resources

Species at Risk: Insects
Species at Risk: Monarch

The David Suzuki Foundation

Is the monarch butterfly migration fluttering towards extinction?
Citizen scientists can help monarch butterflies
Love monarch butterflies? Get Milkweed!
Help solve an orange-and-black mystery
A flitting tribute to monarchs
Milkweed and monarchs are missing, but you can help!

Other

National Geographic - Migrating Monarch Butterflies in "Grave Danger," Hit New Low
The New York Times - The Year the Monarch Didn't Appear

Emerald Ash Borer

Don't Move Firewood Poster

The Emerald Ash Borer, and invasive insect, was first discovered in North America in June 2002, and is a serious threat to all ash trees. It arrived via improperly treated wooden packing material from Asia.

Despite efforts to control the insect, it has continued to spread, both by natural means, and by human assistance, particularly by moving infected nursery stock, and firewood.

The Emerald Ash Borderer infects and kills all types of ash trees, which are widespread through Canada and the US. In order to help control the spread, people are asked to not move wood, or firewood. In some areas, the movement of firewood is prohibited. For information regarding firewood for camping etc., you can visit the Parks Ontario Websites.

The following websites provide further information on the Emerald Ash Borer, and what to look for.

Ministry of Natural Resources Ontario

Ontario Woodlot Association

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Tree Canada Helps Save Gatineau's Ash Trees

White Grubs

White grubs are the larvae of certain beetles; most commonly the June Bug. Grubs feed on the roots of plants - a particular favourite being the roots of lawn grass.

This causes patches of grass to die off, particularly when lawns become stressed. Healthy plants are more able to combat attacks from insects and diseases, therefore keeping your lawn healthy is the best prevention.

Most June Bug grub damage occurs: August - September in the first year of their life cycle; April - September in their second year; and April - May during their third year. Predatory insects, such as nematodes, can be used to help combat infestations of grubs. Small animals such as skunks, like to eat grubs, and will dig up the dead turf in search of them. Some birds also prey on grubs.

To repair the damage, the area of lawn should be over-seeded. Seeding is best done in Spring or Fall, when the weather is cooler and there is ample moisture for germination and growth.

For further information see:

Health Canada - White Grubs

Healthy Canadians Website

White Grub Pamphlet

Nematodes Fact Sheet

Pesticide Ban

On April 22, 2009, the pesticide ban in Ontario came into effect. The legislation prohibits pesticide use for any cosmetic purposes, on lawns, vegetable and ornamental gardens, patios, driveways, cemeteries, and in parks and school yards.

More than 250 pesticide products have been banned for sale and over 95 pesticide ingredients are banned for cosmetic uses. There are some exceptions to the ban, such as agriculture and forestry, and for the control of some harmful plants and insects.

The best defence against weeds, insects, and fungi, is a healthy lawn. Keeping your lawn well maintained, including: fertilized, aerated, dethatched, and properly watered, will boost your lawn's immune system, enabling it to fend off pests, and to recover from and attacks.

For more information on fertilizing, aerating, and dethatching, click here.

For further information on lawn care, click on the Lawn Care tab.

Additional information on the legislation; on what is exempt; safe disposal of pesticides; available alternatives, and more, can be found on the following websites:

Ministry of the Environment

Newsroom: Ontario Cosmetic Pesticide Ban

MNR - Biodiversity

MNR - Eco Tips

Butternut Canker

Butternut Canker is a fungal disease which enters trough wounds of the Butternut Tree - generally on the lower canopy - killing the inner bark. The fungus gradually works its way up to the upper canopy, killing the branches; then spreads down the trunk of the tree.

Once the fungus has encircled the trunk, the tree dies. Canker sores appear on the branches as white patches with black centres. On the trunk of the tree appear deep gnashes and grooves in the bark, which often ooze a black jelly-like substance in the spring, containing the fungal spores of the disease. These spores may then be spread by insects, and by rain.

Butternut Canker is believed to be of foreign origin, and was first document in the US in 1967, arriving in Canada in 1990. It has spread through Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick - areas of the Butternut's range.

The Butternut Tree is now on the Endangered Species List.

The following links provide more information on the tree, the disease, and on what is being done to protect Butternut Trees.

Rideau Valley Conservation Authority

Tree Canada

Forest Invasive Alien Species

RRCA Butternut Health Assessment Program

Interlock Maintenance

Keep your new brick-work clear from grass clippings, leaves, and other debris. A build-up of organic matter will create a seedbed in which seeds will germinate and grow. As the plants grow, the roots push themselves down between the pavers, causing them to lift and separate.

Using polymeric joint sand between the pavers helps limit the available growing area for plants, and the penetration of roots, but when dirt and debris are left on top of the pavers, the plants will start growing there.

Polymeric sand also aides in the control of insects, such as ants, It is a product which, when activated with water, becomes extremely hard, making it very difficult to penetrate.

There are also special sealers which can be applied to your new brickwork. They leave a glossy finish, for an after-the-rain wet look, but they help protect your investment.

Lawn Care

Most lawn problems are caused by lack of care. Lawns require regular maintenance in order to keep them healthy and green. The best defence against bugs, disease and weeds, is a good immune system, and vigorous growth.

When grass is growing vigorously, it is able to choke out "weeds" which may sprout, and recover from attacks by disease and insects. Furthermore, all tend to prey on the weak. Some key points in obtaining and maintaining this are:

  • Maintain a grass height of approx. 2" (5cms) during the growing season
  • Regular mowing during the growing season (on average every seven days)
  • Do not remove more than two-thirds the total grass height at any one time
  • Regular watering*, with absence of adequate rainfall
  • Fertilize lawn in mid to late spring and again in early fall
  • Aerate lawn when necessary and top-dress with compost (clean and weed-free)
  • In fall reduce grass height to about 1/2" (1cm) and remove fall leaves

Watering

In the absence of adequate rainfall, lawns should be watered every three days, applying approx. 1/2" of water (or about one hour in one location, depending on water pressure. A simple rain gauge cup can be purchased and stuck in the ground while watering to determine the amount of water gathered in a hour, and the subsequent time of watering adjusted accordingly).

The best time for watering is during the middle of the night. Timers are available to enable this, as it is obviously an inconvenient time of day. Alternatively, watering can be done at dusk or dawn. Plants do most of their growing at night, and will therefore absorb water more readily during this time, and are generally dormant during the day to conserve energy. Furthermore, much of the water applied during the day, with the heat and sunshine, will evaporate, instead of being absorbed by the roots.