The calendar says there is still another month of summer but the leaves have started to fall here at the Arboretum. This is not unusual, certain tree like Black Walnuts and Japanese Cherries often start to shed leaves this month. The weather this summer has been on the mild side with only three consecutive day of above 90 degrees. This makes it a bit easier not only the plants but the staff as well.
For several years there has been concern about the dropping populations of honeybees and monarch butterflies. I am happy to report we have a honeybee colony somewhere in the arboretum or nearby. Presently there are bees mass feeding on the Staghorn Sumac flowers at the base of the main trail. There are hundreds of bees there during the mid-morning. You can stand close by and hear them buzzing. It would be neat to find the hive.
The monarchs on the other hand are sparse. We encourage the growth of native milkweeds to provide habitat for the butterflies and yesterday I saw a female laying eggs in a milkweed clump. If any of these butterflies mature they will attempt to fly to Mexico where all the monarchs over winter. Next year successive broods of the insects will move north in search of milkweed as this is the only plant they breed on. The loss of milkweed in the environment is now considered the largest threat to their population.
In other insect related activities, Widener University Professor Kate Goodrich and her students Allysa and Gina have been surveying the insect pollinators in our mostly native plant meadow. Hopefully they find a large diversity of insects. The more diverse the insect population is in an environment the greater the number of birds that can be supported. Providing a healthy environment and the opportunity for students to study it are a core mission of the Taylor Memorial Arboretum.