Monday, July 23, 2012

How to identify and treat poison ivy

I’ve seen several wicked patches of poison ivy growing along trails at several of my favorite hiking spots this summer. Poison Ivy comes in many forms, which is one of the main reasons it can be so hard to identify.  It can grow as a shrub, a vine, or a single plant; and it can grow everywhere.

Leaves of three…?
Poison Ivy always comes in leaves of three. but so do many common plants. 
Here are some other ways to identify it.
  • The center leaf always sticks out more and is slightly bigger than the other two leaves.
  • The two side leaves grow directly from the main stem.
  • The stem is reddish.
  • The leaves tend to be a bright to dark green when viewed from above. When viewed from underneath, they appear lighter and fuzzier. 
  • In spring and summer, the leaves are usually a bright green, in fall they turn red.

Got it anyway?
Here are some natural ways to treat poison ivy:
Aloe Vera Gel- Apply it on affected area to cool and prevent scarring.
Tea Tree Oil- Apply to the affected area to dry out the oil.
Goldenseal Root Powder- This herb draws out the oil and dries it up.  Make a paste and apply it like calamine lotion.  (You can find goldenseal root powder in the bulk section at both Clovers Markets in Columbia.)

Is poison ivy growing in your yard? 
How to get rid of it without chemicals:
White Vinegar- Spray the leaves with undiluted white vinegar, do not soak the ground.  If the plant hasn’t started dying in a few days, reapply.
Boiling Water- Another option if you just have a few stubborn plants or vines in flowerbeds or near walkways.  Take a pan of boiling water and slowly pour it on the base of the plant.  This might take a few applications over a few days, but will eventually do the trick.

If you live on a lot of land, the Missouri Department of Conservation recommends that you leave some for the birds.  The berries and foliage are a popular food for songbirds, small mammals, and deer during fall migration and in winter when other foods are scarce. If you can leave thickets or swags of this plant in remote areas on your property, your wildlife will appreciate it. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Queen Bee still reigns... jubilee!

Jacob and I spent some time in the bee yard this past weekend.  I've seen hundreds of bees clustered on the outside the hive and have wondered if it's too hot in there for them.  We staggered the boxes a bit to help facilitate air flow and added a nearby water source.
This time last year, we noticed that the cells had two or more eggs in them, which indicated that worker bees were laying their own eggs because the queen was either sick, or dead.  The worker bees only produce drones, which are the male bees.  The sole purpose of the drones is to mate with the queen in the springtime.  In the fall, they're kicked out of the hive by the worker bees.  The worker bee population dwindles as it gets cooler, and since the hive isn't packed with bees to keep the temperature above freezing, they are unable to survive through winter.  We discovered this problem just before we left for vacation, so we weren't able to reintroduce a new queen in time.  This was a disappointing setback.  When something goes wrong with one hive, you have to wait almost a whole year to start over again. 
But it's a new year, and our skills are better than they've ever been.  This weekend we saw many of the queen's eggs and larvae.  We hope to add a super (to collect honey for us!) in the next few weeks.