October was an incredibly productive month of an incredibly productive year. Our nearly final numbers for our second year show us having directly helped 150 individuals and organizations thus far, with most of that help in the form of garden installations and consultations. Undoubtedly, our organization has touched and been touched by many more people through conversations, volunteer workdays, and excited new gardeners and ‘adapters’ paying it forward. Generous donors have contributed $8672 this year on Patreon, and those donations continue to make this Community Supported Ecology possible. This money not only helped bring native plants and ecological education into our communities, it has also supported three local native plant nurseries in Michigan.
Speaking of Patreon, we have received an incredibly generous offer from a supporter here in Ann Arbor. They are going to match all of the new monthly and yearly support we receive in the last two months of this year! Become a supporter now and effectively double your support for the first year. Your support will becoming increasingly important as our efforts expand into more cities.
Lastly, we will be contacting those who have signed up for fall and winter consultation in the coming weeks. Please be on the look out for our email so we can set up a time to talk.
It’s our first newsletter! Thank you all for joining us in this adventure toward building a Community Supported Ecology. In our newsletters we will share updates on our efforts, book recommendations; and some easy, beginner friendly tips on ecologically appropriate and productive gardening. Overall, this newsletter is for YOU! Let us know what you think of it and what we can do to make it more helpful to you.
We take this idea of Community Supported Ecology very seriously (while still being irreverent and fun, because who likes a crankypants?). We are all in this together: top to bottom, side to side and all around. Being human, being animal, being of the Earth, inextricably binds each and every one one of us to one other and to all of life around us. This is a truth that does not require great leaps of the imagination to experience, and feel and know. So let’s support each other and support the ecosystems that allow us to experience the great joy and wonder of being alive!
As this is our first newsletter, please forgive all of the awkwardness of design. We are not first-rate email newsletter makers. We are ecologists! But we will get better at this, especially when we aren’t planting 10 gardens a week. Your patience with us is greatly appreciated. So without further ado…
The MLive article, Lose the Lawn, really blew up Adapt in September. Since then, we’ve had over 100 requests for services, 45 new supporters on Patreon, and 55 people join our volunteer list. Whew!
This year, we’ve built 35 gardens including a large pollinator garden in Manistee, consulted with over 40 people on their own landscapes and native gardens (including one who created her own version of Adapt – shout out to Theresa and Oregon Nature Alliance in Oregon, WI!), and had our first plantings with volunteer help. Thanks to all of you who have volunteered! It’s been wonderful to meet and work alongside you. We have 20 more gardens to plant before we give away our fall garden kits in two weeks.
One of our volunteer leaders, Jonathan Parker, has also been engaging groups including the Inter-Cooperative Council at Ann Arbor to discuss transitioning large areas of lawn into native plantings.
Inspired? Take a photo and post to social media with #CommunitySupportedEcology
We have to use this first opportunity to recommend what we think is the single most important book one could read if they are just starting into learning practical ecological restoration: Nature’s Best Hope, by Douglas W. Tallamy. Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware, has done elegant and ground breaking research on the importance of native plants for promoting insect abundance, especially for Lepidopteran species (butterflies and moths). This book takes you on a short history of conservation efforts in the United States, and then clearly spells out the current problem and possible solutions. (cheat sheat: plant native oaks, cherries, willows, asters, goldenrods and sunflowers). This book is an absolute must have in everyone’s library. Pick yourself up a copy and get an extra for a friend!
Leave the leaves!Just a reminder that fallen leaves are a normal part of the seasonal ecological processes that sustain life through the winter – a cover of leaves as it naturally falls provides cover for overwintering animals and food for microorganisms, and adds organic matter and fertility to the soil. Of course, since many of us live in urban and suburban environments, it’s important to remain mindful of places where leaves can safely remain (garden beds, naturalized areas, lawns) and places where they should be cleared for our own safety (storm drains, gutters, sidewalks). And remember, brown is a color! Enjoy the autumn!
All of the work we do is possible only because of our supporters on Patreon. Please become a supporter today and help fund our mission of building Community Supported Ecology
The diversity of life is amazing, filling every nook and cranny that the world has to offer. Every plant species, via its own random evolutionary walk, has come up with a winning pattern that enables the next generation a chance. They are sticky or glossy, grooved or smooth, long or plump, big or small. It seems there is an infinite variety of form and function, just waiting to cause awe. Digging into this variety fills me with energy and wonder, peace and joy. Here is a little random walk of my own from this years seed collection. [seeds collected, measured and catalogued by Jonathan Parker, Molin Nature Area.]
Explore the winter garden and you might find a brown foamy case attached to a twig, stem or fence post. These are Mantis ootheca and they contain hundreds of young.
Mantids are ferocious
Mantids are an ancient and ferocious predator. Still and green as a bean pod, their large eyes follow you. Their raptorial legs bristle with thorns, poised motionless in the air. They pre-date T. Rex in the fossil record. Mantids know what they’re doing. When another insect stops to drink from a flower or nibble a leaf, they strike like lightning, piercing their prey with their thorny arms. Their muscular legs are powerful enough to kill a hummingbird and mantids have been observed eating the larvae of monarch butterflies. Here’s how they do it:
While doing unrelated experiments in a local field, Jamie Rafter from the University of Rhode Island noticed that mantises would gut monarch caterpillars before eating them. It’s not a delicate process. After grabbing a victim, the mantis starts nibbling at it, chews open a hole, and lets the guts fall away. Around 40 percent of the caterpillar goes to waste.
This isn’t typical behavior for the mantis. Rafter showed that when they captured the non-toxic caterpillars of the greater wax moth or the European corn borer moth, they ate everything, guts and all. They only left 14 percent of these meals, and even then, only because bits of blood would messily dribble away when they ate.
I have mixed feelings about Mantids. Unfortunately, those we encounter in Michigan are almost certainly non-native. The European mantis (Mantis religiosa) was introduced accidentally in New York in 1899, and the Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia) was introduced near Philadelphia around the same time.
Historic records show there many have once been a native species in Michigan, the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). It is only 2″ long compared to the 4″-6″ size of the introduced mantids. It may have disappeared as it was outcompeted, and it may have always been rare in these parts as we are on the northern edge of its range. However, recent iNaturalist observations have found the Carolina mantis in Detroit and Washtenaw County, plus some in Toledo, Fort Wayne, and Chicago. It may be that they are extending their range to include Michigan again as the climate warms.
Mantids are widely considered a beneficial garden predator, but they are simply a predator, devouring anything they can catch – bees and butterflies, tree frogs, hummingbirds and spiders. Mantids will eat anything that moves. While these large and fierce predators are fascinating to watch, are they a healthy part of the ecological balance in a native Michigan garden? Do we remove their crunchy brown cases as a non-native species or leave them be?