Category Archives: Toxicity

The Real Light Show

After more than half a century, Lenox Square announced that it will discontinue its 4th of July fireworks show. [12]   Since it’s about as close as we get to tradition, we will miss it.  Goodbye Lenox Square – it’s been fun.

So now what are you going to do on the 4th?

A suggestion is to enjoy a free light show in your own back yard without all the noise and pyrotechnics.  Beginning in late May through the end of July fireflies (lightning bugs) will visit your yard if the conditions are right.  Turn out the yard lights, sit quietly and watch.  It’s quite a show.  There have been nights in mid June where our trees, shrubbery and lawn were flashing with hundreds of them.

Fireflies in south Georgia – photo: Jud McCranie

You know this – you used to collect them in a glass jar with air holes poked in the lid and a bit of moist paper towel in the bottom  to keep them safe until you released them.  It’s much more fun than a bazillion dollar fireworks show and it lasts a lot longer than 15 minutes.

Georgia has more firefly species (56!) than any other state, each having its own distinct flash. Males flash while flying; wingless females sit on vegetation and emit their own light signals, which the males cue on. [6]  They prefer warm, fairly wet weather, and in this part of the country they tend to appear in May, June or July.  [7]

Photo Wikimedia Commons: NEUROtiker

Fireflies hibernate in winter during the larval stage, some species for several years.  Some do this by burrowing underground, while others find places on or under the bark of trees. They emerge in the spring.  Help keep them safe: no pesticides on your lawn and please don’t spray for mosquitoes.

Learn a little more about fireflies including synchronous fireflies (hundreds flash in unison) by checking out the links below.

Mysterious and little known organisms lie within walking distance of where you sit.  Splendor awaits in minute proportions. – E. O. Wilson

References and Additional Information

[1]  Silent Sparks – The Wonderous World of Fireflies – Sarah Lewis, Princeton University Press
[2]  Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs – Lynn Frierson Faust, UGA Press
[3]  Georgia DNR – Out My Back Door:  Fireflies Create Sparkling Backyard Wonderlands
[4]  National Park Service: Synchronous Fireflies
[5]  The Smokey Mountain Hiking Blog: The Synchronous Fireflies of Elkmont
[6]  AJC – Charles Seabrook:  Blinking fireflies are icons of Georgia summer nights
[7]  Firefly.org Fifty Questions
[8]  Smithsonian Magazine: 14 Fun Facts About Fireflies
[9]  [Boston] Museum of Science:  Firefly Watch
[10]  Wikipedia: Firefly
[11]  Wikipedia: Elkmont, Tennessee
[12]  AJC – May 3, 2017
[13]  National Park Service – Congaree National Park: Synchronized Fireflies at Congaree

Ready for Spring?

Even though it’s been a mild winter, about this time of year we begin thinking of warmer weather and dressing up the yard with annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees.  As you ready your yard for Spring, we offer these thoughts:

Native Be

Native Bee on Blueberry

  • Plant with wildlife in mind (this is, after all, a blog about wildlife) – insects, pollinators, birds and critters.
  • Include plants that provide nectar, pollen and food.   We’ve compiled a list of suggested perennials for your yard that work well here in Peachtree Park.
  • Plant for all seasons – aesthetics for you, and food and shelter for wildlife year-round.
  • Leave dead stems from plants like River Oats, ornamental grasses, Goldenrod, and Joe Pye Weed in place all winter since the seed heads are valuable for the birds, and hollow stems are used by small native bees.  Since we’ve started gardening this way, we’ve realized that our yard is as attractive in the winter as it is in the other seasons (see our post Brown is Beautiful).

    Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

    Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

  • Make more butterflies by including host plants for their caterpillars: e.g. Pipevine for Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars and milkweed for the Monarch butterfly.
  • Use mostly native plants when you can.  No need to be a purist, but natives have lots of advantages and there are many wonderful native plant alternatives for common non-natives.
  • Expand diversity in your yard.  The more diverse, the greater the variety of insects (food for birds) and native bees that you will attract.  And, correspondingly, the greater the variety of  birds and critters you will attract and support.
  • Reserve areas for nesting and hiding.
  • Don’t use pesticides and don’t spray for mosquitoes.  Build a healthy ecosystem and encourage nature to control pests.
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird - Archilochus colubris Peachtree Park, Atlanta, GA - July 13, 2016

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Don’t buy plants that were treated with lethal chemicals, especially neonictinoids – support local growers who know their plants’ histories.  If you live in Atlanta, there’s a list of suggested growers below.

Nearby Toxin-free Plant Suppliers :

We contacted a few plant suppliers in and near Atlanta and came up with this short list of those who get it.  That’s to say they understand the dangers of chemicals, including neonictinoids, and avoid them either by growing their own plants or screening growers for you.  These sellers are doing the right thing.  It’s good to support them.

If you shop at a big-box store, ask which plans are toxin-free.  They may or may not be able to answer your question, but at least you’ll let them know that it’s important to you.

Credits:

Thanks to  Nearly Native Nursery  for their list of native plants as alternatives for non-natives.