How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Gardening in Florida in the month of May

I think the summer heat and rains have started here in Florida. As a gardener I love when it rains. There is nothing better for the garden than a nice soaking rain. It is a lovely feeling to walk around the garden and look at all the plants after a good rain and see how lush and green everything looks. It is particularly nice to see after many months of our Florida dry season. Although by most standards I don’t think it is ever really dry in Miami Florida. I think the rainy season has started early this year. They say that is good as far as hurricanes. I don’t know whether it is La Nina but rains early supposedly keep the hurricanes away. Let’s hope so. I have experienced several hurricanes since I moved to Miami. The worst was Hurricane Andrew. Hurricane Katrina and Wilma also did some serious damage to my yard. A huge coconut palm broke off and landed in the middle of my water garden. I would have rather my roof blown off. Anyhow I really don’t want to think about hurricane season yet, but it will be here before we know it. Right now the afternoon rains have been pretty frequent and as a gardener I know my garden loves it. The butterflies in the garden this year are amazing. The Long Wing Zebra have been tearing through the Passiflora vines. As a beekeeper hoping that hive #2 has made a new queen, I haven’t been too happy with the rains. I am trying to decide whether I should go into my hives tomorrow morning. It would be an awesome Mother’s Day present to find that hive Queen Right. I really should check on it because I added a frame of brood last weekend and I need to see if they are building queen cells on it. I hope they haven’t, and that I have a laying Queen. There’s been a plant that has been growing in the garden that I thought was Spanish Needle (Biden Alba). I have explained before that Spanish Needle is actually a weed but the butterflies and bees absolutely love it. I stopped again this week and got more seeds and sprinkled them around the hives. Well the plant that I have been watching, thinking that it is Spanish Needle, is not at all. It looks like it could be a Native Sunflower of some sort. I haven’t identified it, but here is a picture. It has been very lush and green and has thrown legs and is spreading like a ground cover. This week I noticed little yellow composite flowers.
One of my favorite flowers in the garden is my Water Hibiscus. I got this plant many years ago when I use to travel down to the Keys on business. I found it in the garden shop at the Sears store. There were two gentlemen that ran the garden shop and they always had some unusual plants to choose from. I bought this and have loved it every year when it blooms. I also call it a marijuana hibiscus. If you look at the leaves you can see the shape, and it resembles a marijuana leaf. I have never tried smoking it (haha), but I enjoy the thought that I have an illegal looking plant in my garden. If it weren’t for the big red flower people might get the wrong idea.
I also bought some replacement plants for a few plants that didn’t seem like they were going to survive. I had planted a white Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) in the center among the Pink Pentas. It totally died. Believe it or not but Butterfly Bush does not do well in the South Florida environment. I potted a Pink Butterfly Bush in a container so that I could better control the water and sun. We will see if that helps it survive. I remember years ago I had planted a Purple Butterfly Bush in the flower bed on the east side of the yard. It thrived beautifully. In fact it was quite invasive. I know some species of Butterfly Bush can be invasive. I remember I eventually took that plant out because of its invasiveness. I wish I had that problem now. I have not been able to get Butterfly Bush to grow well in my garden for years. Anyhow, I took out the butterfly bush and replaced it with various shades of Pink Pentas. They seem to like the spot in the garden.
I bought some beautiful annual flowers that I placed in a container. They really won’t survive our heat in a few months, but they were so pretty that I couldn’t resist. It is a plant called “Cotton Candy” Agastache. It smells delightful!! It’s scent is a mix of cotton candy and mint. The flowers are pink and delicate and the bees absolutely love it. I am sure they can’t resist the smell. I can’t resist when I go by but to stop and smell the flowers. I also bought some pink Cone Flowers. I just couldn’t resist and wish some of these beautiful annuals would grow in South Florida. I will get great pleasure from them for the few months that they survive! I am pleased the garden is doing well and is alive with many flowers and pollinators. I have noticed that everything seems to be flowering very well. I think that with all the pollinators in the garden they are helping my plants and increasing their blooms.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beekeepers Win Ban on Monsanto's GMOs in Poland

Monsanto's Mon810 corn, genetically engineered to produce a mutant version of the insecticide Bt, has been banned in Poland following protests by beekeepers who showed the corn was killing honeybees. Poland is the first country to formally acknowledge the link between Monsanto's genetically engineered corn and the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that's been devastating bees around the world. Many analysts believe that Monsanto has known the danger their GMOs posed to bees all along. The biotech giant recently purchased a CCD research firm Beeologics, that government agencies including the US Department of Agriculture, have been relying on for help unraveling the mystery behind the disappearance of the bees. Now that it's owned by Monsanto, it's very unlikely that Beeologics will investigate the links, but genetically engineered crops have been implicated in CCD for years now. Take action!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mexican Flame Vine

Here is a video that I took of the Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confuses).  The Mexican Flame vine is a favorite vine to have in your yard if you have a butterfly garden.  It has very bright orange flowers and attracts many pollinators.   I have been trying to get this vine to grow up my palm tree but haven’t had much success.  I put some netting on the tree to guide the vine but still with no success.  When I cleaned up the yard a few months ago I pulled most of the vine out of the flower bed.  It was growing everywhere except up the palm tree.  Now the vine is growing at the base of the palm tree and I am hoping that it will continue to grow up the tree.  I have been guiding it and I think that it seems to be going where I want it to.  I took some of the runners that are trying to grow again in the flower bed and planted them on the white trellis along the fence.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Checking on Splits again and again!

I started my original splits on March 14th.  Hive #2 is still not Queen Right.  I am starting to get a little worried.  The last time that I went into the hives was on 4/20.  At that time I did find queen cells on bar #3 and #6.  I added another bar of eggs and brood at that time.  Yesterday when I went in to check, I still didn’t see any signs of a laying queen.  Sometimes I have difficulty as a new beekeeper seeing the eggs.  I don’t know if it is just that I have old eyes, or if it truly can be difficult to see them sometimes.  I haven’t figured out whether I see them better with my contact lenses or glasses.  If I can’t see them I usually can see different stages of brood and larvae.  I do know that there were no signs of any eggs, larvae or brood.  The Queen cells were open on #3 and the bees were busy cleaning them out.  The bar that I put in on 4/20 didn’t have any signs of queen cells. 

 I called a mentor that I discovered on one of the beekeeping forums.  She is out in Santa Fe, NM.  Kate has been a great help to me.  There is a very large TBH beekeeping population in NM.  I wish there was one here in Miami.  Les Crowder is one of the experts in TBH beekeeping.  He is well known in the beekeeping community, especially TBH beekeeping.  He gives many classes, and lectures around TBH beekeeping.  He is in the process of writing a book on the subject.  I cannot wait until it is published to have as a reference.  I am going out to New Mexico on May 18-21st to take one of the certification classes that Les Crowder offers.  His website is  I cannot wait to travel out there.  I have never been to that part of the country.  The pictures on the internet look so beautiful.  I am hoping that I learn a lot. 

 I spoke to Kate after I went into the hives. She helped me understand what might be going on in my hive.  The weather could definitely be a factor in my queen less hive.  It has been raining frequently here in Miami.  In fact, the last two weekends in Miami have been very wet.  Earlier in the week I was worried about my new queen as it was rainy from Saturday through Wednesday.  I was wishing it would stop raining as I knew I had a queen wanting to go on her Virgin flight.  It has been approximately 28-30 days since I added the eggs and brood to the hive.  Maybe with the weather being so rainy it delayed her being able to take her virgin flight.  Kate said it might just be early and hopefully when I go back into the hive next weekend I will find a laying queen.  Another positive sign is that I didn’t see any more queen cells being made and the bees looked good and busy.  She also told me to look for areas that the bees are cleaning out in preparation for the queen to start laying.  I didn’t know to look for that but I did see the bees busy in the old queen cells.  So we will see what happens next.  The rest of the hives looked good.  The growth was slower than normal but the weather has been very rainy.  I was able to harvest a little more honey, which is always a nice bonus.  I did add one more bar of mostly eggs and some capped brood to hive #2.  If there are queen cells next week then I know I am still not Queen Right. 

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