Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife


Carpenter Mimic Leafcutter Bee

~ Profiles of Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~     The carpenter mimic leafcutter bee (Megachile xylocopoides) can be found throughout most of the eastern U.S., although some of the sources I found seem to suggest that it might be more common in the southern portion of its range than […]


Black Swallowtail

~ Profile of Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   The black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) can be found throughout most of the eastern U.S. and parts of the southwestern U.S. They tend to be slightly smaller than the more familiar tiger swallowtails. Black swallowtails are most often found in open areas […]


Zebra Swallowtail

~ Profiles of Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   The zebra swallowtail (Protographium marcellus, formerly known as Eurytides marcellus) is native to the central and southern regions of the eastern U.S. It is more common in the southern parts of its range and less common the further north you go. […]


Eastern Phoebe

~ Profiles of Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   The eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) is the flycatcher most likely to visit our yards. Eastern phoebes are grey to greyish-brown on top and a dirty white underneath. They are smaller than a robin, have a black bill, and often look like […]


Spring Azure

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The spring azure (Celastrina ladon) is a common butterfly that can be found throughout much of the eastern U.S. It is one of the earliest butterflies to appear each year in our region. In Kentucky, spring azures can start flying as […]


Big Brown Bat

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Wildlife ~   The big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) is one of our largest bat species in Kentucky and the eastern U.S. It is slightly shorter than the length of a dollar bill. Its wingspan which is measured from the tip of one outstretched wing […]


Luna Moth

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The luna moth (Actias luna) can be found throughout much of the eastern half of the U.S. It is one of our larger native moths with a wingspan of approximately 4 – 4.5 inches, or about as wide as one and […]


Dark-eyed Junco

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The winter birds have started showing up over the last several weeks and among them are the dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis). Dark-eyed juncos are in the sparrow family and can be found throughout most of North America. Like other sparrows, dark-eyed […]


Eastern Screech Owl

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) can be found in forested areas east of the Rocky Mountains. It is one of our smaller owls – only about as long as a cardinal from the tip of its head to the tip […]


Argiope Spider

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The argiope spider (Argiope aurantia) is a common spider throughout much of North America. Other common names for this spider include: the garden spider, the writing spider, the zig-zag spider, and the zipper spider. In many areas, they are a familiar […]


Common Buckeye

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The common buckeye (Junonia coenia) is a familiar summer and fall butterfly throughout much of the U.S. They are easy to observe because they are found in open fields and gardens, and they tend to fly relatively low. Common buckeyes will […]


Green Darner Dragonfly: A Migratory Dragonfly

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   Dragonflies of various different species are common visitors to flower gardens and patches of tall grass, especially if there is water nearby. (When resting, dragonflies always hold their wings flat and perpendicular to their bodies; damselflies always hold their wings straight […]


Robber Flies

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   Our gardens and yards can hold rich ecosystems with both predators and prey. One group of those predators are the robber flies. Robber flies are in the family Asilidae and can be found throughout the most of the world. Several different […]


Bicolored Sweat Bee

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The bicolored sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens) is a common native bee throughout much of the U.S. It is fairly easy to recognize because its head and thorax are metallic green and its abdomen is striped (usually). White and black stripes mean […]


Carolina Chickadee

~ Profiles of Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~ Carolina chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) are small, inquisitive, and vocal songbirds with black, grey, and white feathers. They are non-migratory and can be found throughout the southeastern U.S in areas with mature woods, including older subdivisions and wooded urban areas. Despite their […]


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) is a familiar visitor to backyards throughout the eastern U.S. Tiger swallowtails are one of our largest butterfly species with wingspans between 3 and 5.5 inches wide. Because they are so large and so […]


Bumble Bees

~ Profiles of Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   There are approximately 250 species of bumble bees worldwide with approximately 50 of those being native to North America. According to Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States, 21 species occur from the east coast to the western boundaries of […]


Not All Flower Visitors are Pollinators

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   We often think of all bees, butterflies, and other insect visitors to flowers as pollinators, especially if we see them actively gathering pollen or drinking nectar. However, that’s not actually true. Not everything that visits a flower is a pollinator for […]


Northern Cardinal

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   Northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), often simply called “cardinals,” are a favorite backyard visitor for many people. Cardinals can be found throughout most of the eastern half of North America. It is the state bird for seven different states (IL, IN, KY, […]


Red Bats

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) is a common bat throughout much of the eastern U.S. It is one of our larger bats at approximately 4-5 inches long. The wingspan of a red bat is between 11 and 13 inches or […]


Downy Woodpecker

~ Profiles of Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   Downy woodpeckers can be found in a variety of habitats throughout Kentucky and the surrounding states. They can often be found in backyards and can be frequent visitors to bird feeders and suet feeders, especially in the winter. In fact, although […]


Goldenrod Crab Spider

~ Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   As the fields turn yellow with goldenrods, it is fun to watch all of the pollinators that are attracted to these abundant sources of late-season nectar and pollen. Goldenrods are a great place to watch butterflies, bees, wasps, beetles, and many other […]


Hoverfly

~ Profiles of Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   When is a bee not a bee? When it is a hoverfly! Hoverflies are flies that look like bees or wasps. Their disguise is very good and casual observers often mistake them for small bees or wasps. Hoverflies, also known as […]


Bumblebee Moths

The bumblebee moth (Hemaris diffinis) is a diurnal moth that mimics a bumblebee with its yellowish or tannish body with black wings. It is also sometimes called a hummingbird moth, but that name is more appropriately given to another species, Hemaris thysbe, which looks more like a hummingbird with its […]


Cicada Killers

~ Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   Cicada killers (Sphecius speciosus) are large, solitary wasps that are active from June until September. There are actually four different species of cicada killers in North America, and this species is more appropriately called the eastern cicada killer. However, since it is […]


Painted Ladies

~ Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   Painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) are common Kentucky butterflies that can be found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. It is often considered the most globally widespread butterfly in the world. Painted ladies are primarily orange and brown with some white highlights. […]


Leafcutter Bees

~ Profiles of Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   Leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.) are solitary native bees. There are many different species of leafcutter bees with over a thousand species worldwide. In North America, there are around 140 native species of leafcutter bees. Unfortunately, I can’t find a good […]


Appreciating the Wide Diversity of Bees

~ Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   If asked to picture a bee, most people will think of a honey bee. A few people might think of a bumble bee, a carpenter bee, or maybe a sweat bee, but they will be in the minority and rarely will anyone […]


White-tailed Deer

~ Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   White-tailed deer are native to much of the U.S. In pre-settlement times they were very common throughout the eastern U.S. However, several factors such as habitat loss, unrestricted hunting, and predation or harassment by dogs, caused the population to decline drastically. By […]


Squash bees

~Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   Every summer, squash and gourds of all sizes and shapes to begin their annual takeover of local gardens and farmer’s markets. While squash and gourds are well-known and much loved, the native bees that specialize in pollinating these plants are less well-known. All […]


Fireflies and Lightning Bugs

~ Profiles of Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   I have always loved watching fireflies and lightning bugs dance in the backyard. They are one of my favorite insects and bring back lots of childhood memories. Even today, I will run outside to watch the first fireflies of the year […]


Monarch Butterflies and Their Migration

~ Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The monarch butterfly is one of the most widely recognized and celebrated butterflies in the U.S. For many of us, the love affair started in grade school when we learned about the monarch’s migration and their giant winter clusters in Mexico. The […]


Help Scientists Learn about Nesting Success

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   Many people put up birdhouses to attract nesting birds. Even without putting up a birdhouse, it isn’t uncommon to find a nest in your yard or at a nearby park. When we lived in town, I frequently had robins build nests in […]


Great Spangled Fritillary

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   Great spangled fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele) are medium-sized butterflies commonly found in meadows, fields, and yards across Kentucky and many of the surrounding states. Its wingspan is approximately 2.5 to 3.5 inches wide. The name fritillary is derived from a Latin word […]


Great Horned Owl

~ Kentucky Pollinator and Backyard Wildlife ~   Great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) are the largest owl found in Kentucky and surrounding states. Both males and females look alike, and their horns are actually just feathers. Great horned owls don’t migrate and a pair will defend the same territory year-round. […]


Southeastern Blueberry Bee

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   The southeastern blueberry bee (Habropoda laboriosa) is a native bee found in much of the eastern U.S. It is approximately a half inch long and looks kind of like a small bumble bee. Like its name suggests, the southeastern blueberry bee forages […]


Spring Peepers

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) are small frogs that can be found throughout most of the eastern U.S. They are very common throughout most of their range. Spring peepers range in color from tan to grey and have an “X” on their back. […]


Early Hairstreak

~ Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The early hairstreak (Erora laeta) is a small butterfly native to Kentucky. It is only a little less than an inch from the tip of one outstretched wing to the tip of the other outstretched wing. In other words, its wings would […]


To Bee Keep or Not to Bee Keep – Repost

~ Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~ It is the time of year when many people begin thinking about becoming beekeepers. I love being a beekeeper and enjoy helping new beekeepers. However, beekeeping isn’t easy. There is a lot of work involved and it isn’t for everyone. One of the […]


Carolina wren

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   The Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is a common visitor to backyards throughout Kentucky and much of the eastern U.S. Both the male and the female look alike. These chestnut-colored, medium-sized, songbirds have a ton of personality and are very vocal. Although you […]


Mining Bees

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   Mining bees or miner bees are some of our earliest native bees to become active in the spring. All of the bees in the genus Adrena are commonly referred to as mining bees. It is estimated that there are over 400 species […]


American Woodcock

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Wildlife ~   The American woodcock (Scolopax minor), also known as the timberdoodle, is a funny looking bird whose mating display represents one of the early signs of spring for many parts of eastern North America. It can be found in young, wet woodlands, especially where […]


Hummingbird Moths and Bumblebee Moths

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   The warm weather this week and the seeds sprouting in my nursery have me dreaming of spring. I also recently started stratifying some milkweed seeds for the nursery, which got me thinking about the bumble bee moths that I enjoy watching each […]


Striped Skunks

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   Skunks may not be the first animal that pops into your mind for backyard wildlife, but they are common visitors to many yards. Because they are active at dusk and during the night, they often go unobserved. Despite their infamous defense mechanism, […]


The Great Backyard Bird Count is Just around the Corner

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   Each year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society host the Great Backyard Bird Count. The count is always held in mid-February. Everyone is welcome to participate in the count and despite the name, you don’t have to do […]


Gray Squirrels

~ Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife ~   Of the three species of squirrels that can be found in Kentucky, the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is the most common. Gray squirrels are native to most of the eastern U.S. They have also been introduced to parts of the western U.S. […]


Tufted Titmouse

~ Kentucky Pollinators & Backyard Wildlife ~   The tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is the only species of titmouse found in the eastern U.S. These curious, vocal songbirds are in the same family as the chickadees. In fact, once upon a time, they were in the same genus as chickadees, […]


Skippers: Common, but often Overlooked Butterflies of Kentucky

Over the last week, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of brightly yellow tiger-swallowtail butterflies. Tiger-swallowtails are one of my favorite Kentucky butterflies and I love taking pictures of them on the milkweed and other wildflowers on our farm. However, there is another group of butterflies that I have […]


It’s Swarm Season Again

Springtime is a busy time for honey bees and beekeepers alike. As more and more flowers and trees begin to bloom, the amount of nectar and pollen available for the bees increases. The queen is also busy laying eggs and the population of bees in the hive is rapidly expanding […]


Hummingbirds that Look Almost Dead but Aren’t

You don’t have to live in Kentucky long to figure out that Kentucky weather can be a bit crazy. Seventy degree weather one day and snow the next? Yep, we can do that. Noooo problem. I know many of our neighbors in Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio claim the same […]


Help Track Hummingbird Migrations

It’s almost time for the hummingbirds to start arriving in Kentucky! In Kentucky, like the rest of the eastern U.S., we only have one common species of hummingbird – the ruby-throated hummingbird. Each year these tiny birds migrate from wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America to breeding grounds in […]


When “Helping the Bees” Hurts

Many of you are probably wondering what I mean by “when helping the bees hurts.” Am I talking about getting stung? While I agree getting stung wouldn’t feel good, that’s not what I am talking about. What I am talking about is much more complex and the “hurt” can have […]


Sulphur Butterflies

Sulphur butterflies are the bright yellow butterflies with relatively few markings that we see in our gardens and other open areas during the summer and fall. Of the medium to small sized butterflies, sulphurs are some of my favorites. There are several species of sulphur butterflies that can be found […]


The Importance of Native Bees

Honey bees have been the focus of much attention over the last several years. Thanks to this increased attention most people now know that honey bee populations are declining and facing many serious challenges. However, the story that is often not told is that of the native bees. The honey […]


The Great Purple Hairstreak

Looking out my front window, I can see an old walnut tree with a couple of clumps of mistletoe in it. Mistletoes play an important role in the environment and I talked about them in my blog on Dec. 1, 2015. As I look at the mistletoe clumps in the […]


A Brief History of Beekeeping

Humans have a very long history of interacting with honey bees. However, before we go into that long history it is important to understand that not all bees are honey bees. While there are thousands of species of bees living throughout the world, only a handful of species produce honey. […]


Not All Pollinators are Insects or Hummingbirds

In Kentucky and the eastern U.S., the animals that pollinate our plants are hummingbirds and a variety of insects (bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, beetles, etc.). However, in the southwestern U.S., Mexico, and further south, there is another major group of pollinators – bats! In honor of International Bat Week (Oct. […]


Saddleback caterpillars

I almost had a really bad experience on Sunday. The baby ducks aren’t babies any more. They have learned to fly and while we’ve caught the drakes and trimmed their flight feathers, we haven’t been able to catch the hens yet. They are too fast and can fly too well. […]


Hoverfly – The Bee that Isn’t

When is a bee not a bee? When it is a hoverfly! Hoverflies are flies that look like bees or wasps. Their disguise is very good and casual observers often mistake them for small bees or wasps. Hoverflies, also known as Syrphid flies or flower flies, are found on every […]


Swarms – What are they and what should you do if you find one

Swarm season started about a week ago. As a beekeeper, this is always an exciting time. First, I’m trying to manage my hives so they don’t swarm. So far, I’m succeeding in that respect this spring. Second, I’m hoping to catch several swarms to increase my number of hives. We caught […]


Mining Bees – Important Early Pollinators

Mining bees or miner bees are some of our earliest native bees to become active in the spring. All of the bees in the genus Andrena are commonly referred to as mining bees. It is estimated that there are over 400 species of Andrena bees in North America. They are […]


From Nectar to Yummy: How Bees Make Honey

Ask someone where honey comes from and the answer will likely be honey bees. Although that’s not a wrong answer, it isn’t completely correct either. Honey bees aren’t the only bees to produce honey. Some of our native bees, like bumble bees, also produce honey but in much smaller quantities […]


Hummingbird and Bumblebee Moths

We learn at a fairly young age that butterflies are active during the day and moths are usually active at night. “Usually,” however, means that there are exceptions. Some moths are active during the day instead of at night like most of their counterparts. Two of my favorite diurnal moths […]


How do honey bees survive the winter?

As the days become cooler and shorter, I see my honey bees out less and less. They’ll come out and fly around on warm days, but they don’t go far or stay out long. There isn’t much for them to do since most of the flowers have stopped blooming. The […]


Bird Poop, Snake Head, and Leaf “Costumes” of the Spicebush Swallowtail

The ghouls and goblins of Halloween got me thinking about mimicry in the natural world. Mimicry is when an animal has evolved to look like something else. The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar provides some of my favorite examples of mimicry among Kentucky’s butterflies. The spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) can be found […]


What are honey bees getting from plants?

As I was working in the beehives this weekend, I began thinking about the different things that honey bees gather from plants and how they use those items. Honey bees primarily forage for three things from plants – nectar, pollen, and propolis. They also sometimes forage for honeydew, but that […]


Kentucky’s Winter Hummingbirds

It’s hard to believe that it is already the middle of October. This year has zoomed by – there are so many things that I wanted to get done this year that I haven’t even started. This weekend’s cold snap served as a reminder that winter really is just around […]


Woolly worms – One of our most recognized caterpillars

It’s almost that time of year again – the time when woolly worms are seen crossing sidewalks and roads in mass. Woolly worms (aka woolly bear caterpillars) are the caterpillars for Isabella tiger moths (Pyrrharctia isabella). Isabella tiger moths aren’t pollinators because the adults don’t eat and the caterpillars eat […]


How do butterflies and moths survive the winter?

According to the Journey North website, monarch migration peaked last week around the Great Lakes. That means it won’t be long before the migration peaks in Kentucky. The monarch butterfly’s migration to and from Mexico each year is a familiar story. But what happens to all of our other butterflies […]


Saving honey bees – one soda at a time

Several times this summer, someone has asked me about bees around a garbage can. Each time the bees were honey bees and the garbage can was a public trash can located outside. The bees are being attracted to the half-drunk sodas that people toss into the trash without thinking about […]


Monarch butterflies: Their migration and how you can get involved

The monarch butterfly is one of the most widely recognized and celebrated butterflies in the U.S. For many of us, the love affair started in grade school when we learned about the monarch’s migration and their giant winter clusters in Mexico. The U.S. has two populations of monarch butterflies – […]


Keeping the hive cool in Kentucky’s hot, humid summers

The last couple of weeks have been extremely hot. High temperatures have frequently been in the 90s and we’ve had a few days with heat indexes over 100 °F. Most of us coped with the heat by retreating inside to our air conditioned homes and offices. But how do honeybees cope […]