Ask the Ex­perts

How birds sur­vive storms, when to dead­head cone­flow­ers and more.

Birds & Blooms - - Contents -

QI have two large but­ter­fly bushes and no but­ter­flies. There are petu­nias nearby— do some plants re­pel but­ter­flies? Melinda: Both petu­nias and but­ter­fly bushes are but­ter­fly fa­vorites. I’ve found that the num­ber of winged vis­i­tors to my plant­ings varies from year to year, depend­ing on the pre­vi­ous win­ter, wind pat­terns and other en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors. If this is a yearly prob­lem, con­sider plac­ing a flat stone in a sunny spot in the gar­den for but­ter­flies to warm up and recharge. Sink a bucket of damp sand in the gar­den and add a pinch of sea salt or wood ash. This pro­vides a gath­er­ing place for but­ter­flies to lap up some needed min­er­als.

QBees and but­ter­flies cov­ered this plant, which I’ve been told is a but­ton­bush. How big does it get? Can I buy it at a nurs­ery? Holly Harnly MYERSTOWN, PENN­SYL­VA­NIA

Melinda: As you ob­served, but­ton­bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is a fan­tas­tic pol­li­na­tor plant. It reaches 12 feet tall and is hardy in Zones 3 to 11. Fra­grant white flow­ers de­velop into ball-shaped fruits that per­sist into win­ter. Look for it grow­ing nat­u­rally in marshy and wet ar­eas. At a nurs­ery, you’ll find na­tive species and com­pact va­ri­eties like Sugar Shack, Ping Pong and Fiber Op­tics. Grow but­ton­bush in full sun to part shade. Q Should I dead­head my cone­flow­ers? Mike Ho­man TOPEKA, KANSAS

Melinda: You’ll have an im­pres­sive dis­play of flow­ers whether you dead­head them or not. Re­mov­ing faded flow­ers al­lows new blooms to shine and cre­ates a ti­dier ap­pear­ance. So it de­pends on how much ef­fort you want to ex­pend for your de­sired re­sults. Stop dead­head­ing in late sum­mer to al­low seed­heads to de­velop. The seeds pro­vide food for the birds and win­ter in­ter­est in the land­scape. Just be aware that you’ll have lots of seedlings sprout­ing from fallen seed in spring.

Q Bee guards didn’t keep bees away from my sugar-wa­ter feed­ers, so I took them down. The bees came back once I put the feed­ers up again. What else can I do? Teresa Cri­h­field ELKVIEW, WEST VIR­GINIA

Kenn and Kim­berly: Try us­ing a saucer­style feeder that keeps nec­tar far­ther away from the feed­ing ports. If you’re still hav­ing trou­ble, re­duce the nec­tar ra­tio to 5 parts wa­ter to 1 part sugar. Clean any spillage off feed­ing ports af­ter re­fill­ing the feeder, and move your feed­ers into the shade. (Bees and wasps pre­fer to eat in sunny ar­eas.) Avoid us­ing pes­ti­cides, pe­tro­leum oil and cook­ing oil on feed­ing ports—they’re harm­ful to th­ese im­por­tant pol­li­na­tors and hum­ming­birds.

Q Do birds that have mul­ti­ple broods in a sea­son re­use the same nest? Liza Penis­ton AU­GUSTA, KANSAS Kenn and Kim­berly: de­pends on the species. In gen­eral, most multi­brooded birds do not re­use the same nest be­cause the ma­te­ri­als aren’t durable enough to last through more than one brood. There are some ex­cep­tions, though. Barn swal­lows may re­use an old nest, clean­ing out some of the de­bris from the first brood and adding a new layer of mud to the rim. Other song­birds oc­ca­sion­ally re­use a nest if it’s still in good shape. Large birds like ea­gles may re­use the same nest, but th­ese species raise only one brood per year.

Q I saw this bird hop­ping around on lily pads in a swampy area at Kens­ing­ton Metropark in Michi­gan last Au­gust. I thought it might be a greater yel­lowlegs, but my sources show that bird with an up­turned bill, while this one’s bill is slightly down­turned. What is it?

Philip Goode NORTHVILLE, MICHI­GAN

Kenn and Kim­berly: Your first guess was close! Although it’s not a greater yel­lowlegs, it is a re­lated bird, the soli­tary sand­piper. Smaller than ei­ther the greater or lesser yel­lowlegs, soli­tary sand­pipers are also a lit­tle darker and have shorter, greener legs. The white ring around the eye is a good mark. Th­ese birds live up to their name: Other kinds of sand­pipers of­ten fly around in flocks, but soli­tary sand­pipers are usu­ally seen one at a time. In Au­gust in Michi­gan, this bird would have been mi­grat­ing south from breed­ing grounds in Canada.

Dawn Corbin HOP BOT­TOM, PENN­SYL­VA­NIA

East­ern tiger swal­low­tail on but­ter­fly bush

It Amer­i­can robins may have up to three broods in one sea­son.

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