About Katy Pye

Author of YA novel ELIZABETH'S LANDING, TRACKING THE FLASH: MY LIGHTHOUSE TRAVEL LOG, and a pollinator gardening workbook: I SPY! WHO'S USING MY GARDEN?. Blogger on the environment and young people acting for change. Facebook & Linkedin: Katy Pye-Author

Habitats

It’s World Habitat Day. Don’t you love these “recognition” days, helping us remember and think about important stuff? Well, maybe some aren’t so monumental, but Habitat/habitat, regardless of where and how you live, is the biggest issue we’ve got. It covers everything. Continue reading

World Bee Day – Celebrate the Wild!

Whirly bee image by Katy Pye

Happy World Bee Day!

Wow! Are there more than honey bees out there and are they ever busy. Wild bees all over the world are pollinating all kinds of plants that benefit not only us, but every ecosystem.

Sam Droege of the USGS Bee Identification and Monitoring Lab put together this terrific slide show celebrating native bees. The images are from the lab’s permanent research collection.

 “25 Facts About North American Wild Bees.” How many of these facts are news to you? I counted 7. Most interesting to me are #4, #13, and #21.

Like all pollinators, native bees are in trouble – even more so than honey bees. What can we do to help these often over-looked wonders? Plant the native plants of your area, not cultivars, if possible. Check online for native plant societies in your area. They will have lists.

Confession: my yard has lots of non-native plants the bees love, but there’s no way of knowing whether they contain the level of nutrients the bees need to be their best. We’re working to add more straight native plants so all our pollinators (and other critters) benefit. 

It’s a day to open our eyes and ears and give a big nod of gratitude to these insect “workhorses” of the planet.

Here are a few photos of the wild bees active in my yard during spring and summer. I’m still learning species, so not all are identified.

Bombus vosnesenskii-Yellow-faced bumble bee on ceanothus
photo: © Katy Pye

Bombus vosnesenskii – Yellow-faced bumble bee on Sparaxis tricolor
photo: © Katy Pye

Bombus melanopygus ssp edwardsii – black-tailed bumble bee
photo: © Katy Pye

5-spot flower with Sweat bee-exact species not identified
photo: © Katy Pye

unidentified native bees on poppy
photo: © Katy Pye

Ok, not a bee, it’s one type of syrphid fly. But they are just as good a pollinator (if not better). They are great predators, too. Their larvae eat 1000 aphids each as they grow! Since it doesn’t have its own day, let’s celebrate them today, too! 
photo: © Katy Pye

I Spy! Who's Using My Garden: A Pollinator Garden Workbook

 

 

Painted Lady Day in the I Spy! Garden

Two days ago, I spotted a single Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterfly sunning on a pile of wood chips. With all the rain we’ve had, seeing even one butterfly is an early treat.

Stepping out this afternoon, dozens of butterflies filled the sky, buds, and blooms on our rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and New Zealand tea trees (Leptospermum). Traveling north from the Mojave desert up to the Pacific Northwest, some Ladies (and their gents) have veered off their normal interior CA migration route to skim along the coast. Ours may not mirror or rival the Southern California explosion, but I’m ecstatic!

Here on the Northern CA coast, the nights have been cool, so native spring-flowering plants are slower to get started. My manzanitas and huckleberry are coming along, but not getting a lot of action. So far, honey bees from the neighbor’s hive and the native “Yellow-faced” bumble bees ( Bombus vosnesenskii) are the only active bee species I’ve seen around the yard. Hover flies are busy, though. Everyone love the rosemary, grevillea, and teas. Anna’s hummingbirds have been here all year, and they’re now having to share resources with the Allen’s.

Bombus vosnesenskii on Allium variety
Allen’s hummingbird Photo: Katy Pye

Are you seeing Painted Ladies or other butterflies already this spring?
If you want to contribute your P.L. sightings to science, check out this project at Iowa State University: vanessa.ent.iastate.edu

I Spy! Butterfly watch station by puddling pond Photo: Katy Pye

Take an I Spy! video tour.

Puddling pond for butterflies: sand, water, and a sprinkling of salt. Sticks for perching. Aging banana added later. Males need added minerals to help with sperm development.

Host and Nectar Plant Preferences of Vanessa Butterflies
from: www.butterfliesandmoths.org

Butterfly common name – scientific name; Host plants; Adult food = host and nectar plants

Red Admiral – Vanessa atalanta Nettle family (Urticaceae) including stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), tall wild nettle (U. gracilis), wood nettle (Laportea canadensis), false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), pellitory (Parietoria pennsylvanica), mamaki (Pipturus albidus), and possibly hops (Humulus); Prefer sap flows on trees, fermenting fruit, and bird droppings; visiting flowers only when these are not available. Then they will nectar at common milkweed, red clover, aster, and alfalfa, among others.
Painted Lady – Vanessa cardui More than 100 host plants noted; favorites include thistles, hollyhock and mallow (Malvaceae), and various legumes (Fabaceae); The Painted Lady prefers nectar from composites 3-6 feet high, especially thistles; also aster, cosmos, blazing star, ironweed, and joe-pye weed. Flowers from other families that are visited include red clover, buttonbush, privet, and milkweeds.
West Coast Lady – Vanessa annabella Mallow family (Malvaceae) including tree mallow (Lavatera), globe mallow (Sphaeralcea), bush mallow (Malvastrum), mallow (Malva), alkali mallow (Sida), checkerbloom (Sidalcea), and hollyhock (Althea); Flower nectar.
American Lady – Vanessa virginiensis Plants in the sunflower family everlasting (Gnaphalium obtusifolium), pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea), plantain-leaved pussy toes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), wormwood (Artemisia), ironweed (Vernonia), and burdock (Arctium); Flower nectar almost exclusively, including dogbane, aster, goldenrod, marigold, selfheal, common milkweed, and vetch.

Want to start your own I Spy! garden watch? Download a free poster or link to lots of gardening and pollinator ID resources section from my new workbook, I Spy! Who’s Using My Garden? A Pollinator Garden Workbook.

World Wildlife Day 3-3-19 “Life below water”

Gallery

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Today is World Wildlife Day and we’re celebrating life beneath the surface, especially oceans. What we do and don’t do, especially on land, makes a huge difference under the seas. Continue reading

I Spy! Fall In The Pollinator Garden

9-16-18 I Spy glasses-HBe & HBr copy

Walks in my pollinator garden are always “I Spy” adventures. I’m tracking which pollinators are using the plants, flowers, and extra water and food resources I’ve provided. These include two hummingbird feeders. A few days ago another group of “I spy” eyes locked onto the feeders . . . honey bees. Maybe they’re from a wild colony or domesticated bees from a neighbor’s box. Either way, a scout made it back to the hive to do its boogie, woogie, waggle dance and map out the way to a sugar fest in my yard. Continue reading

Pollinator Week 2018 ~ It Takes a Neighborhood

painted lady on sunflower 'Choco Sun'-Katy Pye

Painted Lady on ‘Choco Sun’ sunflower

It’s the middle of National Pollinator Week. We’re headed for the heart of summer and peak pollinator activity. I hope things are buzzing, fluttering, and chirping at your house these days. They are around here. Spring and early summer are my favorite seasons with pollinators scouting out and feasting on our garden and local wildland flowers. Each bloom contributes to the lives and renewal of some of the most valuable and vulnerable species on the planet. 

So, I was dismayed when my daughter told me someone was stealing sunflowers from her wildflower/pollinator patch. We decided her best response was to turn upset into an educational opportunity. She put up a poster I’d designed for an event and added a Please Don’t Steal sign. We made packets of California poppy, sunflower, and hollyhock seeds she collected last year and put them in a “Take one” box in her front yard. The neighbors were delighted. 
Continue reading

Happy Earth Day! Let’s Make Every Year a Year of the Pollinators.

Last year on Earth Day I was raising a sign for rational thought and action in the March for Science. This year, I’m spending it on my knees in my garden planting for pollinators. All pollinators: bees, birds, butterflies, moths, flies, bats, beetles – indeed all flying insects face increasing risks each year from habitat loss, pesticides, climate change, and disease. 

Last week’s House of Representative committee amendments to the proposed Farm Bill would seriously weaken the Endangered Species Act, allowing the unrestricted use of pesticides, many proven to harm or kill the species we depend on.

There are many ways to counter pollinator losses. Certainly, politically, but also by making your home, garden, and behaviors pollinator friendly. 

Katy Pye pollinator panel 4-22-18 @200

Find information on pollinators

The Xerces Society 

Pollinator Partnership

Native Bees of North America: Bug Guide

Butterflies and Moths of North America

Monarch Joint Venture

Audubon: How to Create a Hummingbird-Friendly Yard

U.S. and Canadian native plants by state and province

Florida Sea Turtles in Irma’s Path

Photo: pixabay

On the heals of devastating hurricane Harvey in Texas, Irma barrels toward Florida this weekend, putting thousands of people, domestic animals, and wildlife, including endangered sea turtles, in jeopardy. Sea turtle rehabilitation facilities that care for injured turtles have been working ’round the clock, preparing for the worst.

According to Dr. Charles Manire, veterinarian and director of research and rehab at Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, FL, past experience proves there’s no safe place in Florida for sea turtles in a hurricane—especially corkers like Irma. In this video he anticipates the Center turtles’ move well inland to the Georgia Aquarium.

Texas Aftermath

I visited the University of Texas’ non-public facility, Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas, Texas while researching my novel, Elizabeth’s Landing. Unfortunately, the facility sustained severe damage, but I was glad to hear the wildlife in its care and the staff were unhurt. 

ARK facility during my visit in 2010. Photo: Katy Pye

Other key nesting and conservation facilities like Padre and South Padre Islands south of Corpus Christie escaped a Harvey hit.

HOW HURRICANES AFFECT SEA TURTLES

Off shore

Destructive impacts of a hurricane begin before the storm reaches shore. The storm’s wind energy mixes warm surface and deeper cold waters, lowering salt levels. Wave size increases, damaging underwater formations and stirring up tremendous loads of sand from the bottom. The food web for numerous species can be altered, short and long-term.

Storm’s landfall

Relocating sea turtle eggs is done but it is delicate, even under ideal conditions. Once the storm hits land, storm surges have deadly impacts on existing nests or nesting turtles. Eggs can drown or become exposed, scattered, and destroyed. Adult or emerging hatchlings are also at high risk.

Loggerhead sea turtle coming onshore to lay eggs. Photo: NOAA

However, according to Joe Scarola, a biologist for Ecological Associates Inc., a company that monitors sea turtle nests, Irma’s timing comes when the majority of eggs this season have already hatched. Nesting season continues through the end of October in Florida, so there’s a chance more eggs will be laid. Still it’s hard not to imagine thousands of recently hatched, 2″ turtles aren’t having a harrowing experience in today’s raging seas.

The very good news is it’s been a banner year for Florida sea turtle nests. Loggerhead Marinelife Center reports over 19,000 loggerhead, green, and leatherback nests on four beaches it monitors. Other groups also report many more nests in their regions.

Rehabilitating and protecting sea turtles is very expensive. Please consider a donation of any size to the organizations working valiantly to save them. Find one in your area here.

NOTE: If you come across eggs or stranded sea turtles of any size, report them to a local wildlife authority or sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation organization.

Stay safe.

World Sea Turtle Day 2016 – Where the Babies Go

sea-turtle-1229714_640adj

Sea turtle conservation continues to make progress, but most species are still in deep trouble around the world. Understanding the turtles’ entire life cycle is critical to moving these species away from extinction. Until recently, we had little to no data on where the babies went after hatching.

New technology and dedicated scientists have now cracked the case. In celebration of World Sea Turtle Day, I recommend this illuminating video produced by Changing Seas. Babies found!

 

Sea Turtle Flesh & Eggs Serious Health Threat

Kemp's ridley nester

Kemp’s ridley nester

Nesting for many sea turtles is going well this season — a thumbs up and huzzah to everyone, working to aid, repopulate, and love these wonderful creatures. 

On the downside, poaching activities for sea turtle eggs and meat continues in Asia, Mexico, and countries like Costa Rica, where volunteers were seriously threatened last month by a gang perhaps linked to drug trafficking. In some cultures, sea turtles, like other wild (many threatened or endangered) species’ parts or eggs are believed to have aphrodisiac properties when consumed. Apparently, there are risks (of more than a belly-ache) in that special Saturday-night-delight meal. 

Slaughtered Vietnamese sea turtle trade

Up to eight tons of dead endangered sea turtles were seized in central Vietnam in Dec. 2014 , after 4 tons where of the same were confiscated in November 2014. They cost abt. $9US each from fishermen and, turned into jewelry that can sell for $34+/- each piece.

Changing or creating newer, healthier beliefs of any sort is difficult. Perhaps news out of Popular Science (written by Jason Tetrowill send winds of change around the globe: sea turtles can be dangerous to your health and to the health of those you love.Along with Salmonella and e Coli, Tetro reports: 

“One of the bacterial genera found within the turtle microbial population is Vibrio. It’s best known for V. cholerae species, the cause of cholera. But another species, V. parahaemolyticus, has been growing in prevalence across the globe. It causes gastroenteritis, wound infection, ear infection and has the potential to cause scepticemia. A third species, V. alginolyticus is less concerning as a pathogen but has caused close to 10% of Vibrio infections at least in one American study.” Jason Tetro

Electron scanning microscopy of V. parahaemolyticus cells attached to the shell of a crab. Photo courtesy of Carla Ster and Rohinee Paranjpye.

Electron scanning microscopy of V. parahaemolyticus cells attached
to the shell of a crab. Photo courtesy of Carla Ster and Rohinee Paranjpye.

And some of these diseases are resistant to antibiotics, leading, in some cases, long-term implications for the patient. Bacteria that may cause illnesses in people  live on the outside of sea turtles, too.

As research on sea turtles continues, it’s time to get the word out, to shift to new belief systems. Someone, please, find a an invasive weed and spread the word it’s the new, better Viagra. May bundles of otherwise useless vegetation sway, drying in the breeze, in once sea turtle slaughter huts.