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Fun & Interesting Facts

Fun & Interesting Facts This page is all about fun facts and interesting tidbits about the birds, butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies etc.,  your wildflower garden can bring! Everyone loves 'em but not all of us know the facts about these incredible creatures? Here at the Vermont Wildflower Farm we'd like to tell you about them and the charm, beauty and benefits they can add! On this page you'll find the facts, both fun as well as educational. You can attract these wonderful and beneficial creatures by adding a wildflower garden to your yard!Wildflower gardening is not only easy and beautiful, it can be beneficial to you, nature's creatures and the environment!


THE HUMMINGBIRD
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How do hummingbirds eat?
Hummingbirds are very small birds with a high metabolism. A great deal of energy is spent flying, so they must feed almost constantly. Hummingbirds can consume up to 50% of their weight in sugar (nectar solution) each day. They usually feed on nectar and insects. Hummingbirds actually lap up the nectar with their tongues. A lot of people think that hummingbirds have a hollow tongue like a straw. Their tongues do have grooves on the sides that collect nectar. When the bill constricts, the hummingbird can swallow the nectar from flowers and feeders. Hummingbirds are able to perch and will do so at feeders regularly. Because they fly so much, they have poorly developed feet. They can barely walk at all. The hummingbird is much more comfortable in flight.
Feeding Hummingbirds
It is important to keep any nectar feeder clean and filled with fresh solution.
Hummingbird flight
The flight of hummingbirds is amazing to watch. They are able to fly up, down, forward, backward and sideways. They can stop in midair. Hummingbirds are famous for their aerial display. Some displays are courtship displays; other displays are aggressive. Hummingbirds fly great distances when they are migrating. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird migrates approximately 600 miles across the Gulf of Mexico.
Hummingbird song
Hummingbirds lack a true song. Instead, they vocalize chirping notes. Most calls are short buzz trills and chirps. Hummingbirds' wings 'buzz' or make a whirring sound while the birds are in flight. This sound is referred to as a "wing whistle." Birds frequently vocalize to attract a mate.
What hummingbirds?
There are about 16 species of hummingbirds in the U.S. and Canada. It was traditionally thought that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were the only Hummingbird found east of the Mississippi River, however, recent bird banding research has documented 11 other species of Hummingbirds in the east. While most of these are wandering vagrants, sightings of the Rufous Hummingbirds have become much more frequent during the past few years. Check with your local Wild Birds Unlimited store for birds that have been sighted in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: How can I attract hummingbirds to my yard?
You can attract hummingbirds by planting red flowers or bell shaped flowers and putting up a hummingbird feeder. You can tie some red ribbons to the pole where the feeder hangs. Use a four-part water to one-part sugar solution to fill the feeder. You need not add any color or vitamins to the nectar solution. Hummingbirds can also be attracted to a reliable water source such as a mister or dripper.
Q: What more can I do to attract hummingbirds? I know they are here, but they don’t come to my feeder. During nesting time hummingbirds may not be as likely to come to feeders. They are feeding insects to their young. Once the young have left the nest and during the fall migration you will probably noticed increased activity at your feeder.
Q: Will I keep the hummingbirds here if I feed them into the fall?
Remember, it is not necessary to take down feeders to force the birds to fly south. They will migrate. If hummingbirds are sticking around, it could be because they
are sick or injured. Some experts recommend leaving the feeder up with a spot light (150 watt bulb) on the feeder to keep the nectar from freezing). Amazingly enough some hummingbirds are still able to find insect larvae in the bark of trees. It is not necessary to ‘fly’ the birds south. Nature is nature and is never a guarantee that all birds will survive.
Q: What do I put in the hummingbird feeder?
Four parts water to one part sugar. Use only table sugar and never honey or artificial sugars.
Q: How often do I clean my feeder?
Clean your feeder every three to four days. Use only warm or hot water and a soft brush to clean the feeder.
Q: What can I do to keep ants off my feeder?
An ant trap can be purchased. Ant traps are designed to keep ants that crawl up a pole onto the feeder from actually entering the feeder. The ant traps do not necessarily work if ants are jumping from trees onto the feeder.
Q: Can I put Vaseline on the feeder to keep ants and bees from landing on the feeder?
It is not suggested that Vaseline be used because it is too likely that the greasy substance could get onto the birds and make it hard for the birds to clean their feathers properly.

MONARCH BUTTERFLY
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In addition to being beautiful, monarch butterflies have an amazing life cycle. Many people—students, naturalists, scientists and others—have made it their lifes work to study them in North America. Monarchs feed on Milkweed and have been reported to feed on 27 of them, but they undoubtedly feed on other flowers as well. Adult monarchs drink nectar from many species of flowers. Nectar contains sugar, which serves as the main energy source for monarchs. Monarchs have an effective chemical defense to protect them from predation; when they eat milkweed, they sequester the poisonous cardiac glycosides in the milkweed. Cardiac glycosides are poisonous to vertebrates; as a result, most monarchs face little predation from frogs, lizards, mice, birds and other species with backbones. Their bright colors also serve as a warning to predators that they contain these poisonous chemicals.Monarchs are in the butterfly family Nymphalidae. Members of this family appear to have only 4 legs, but they really do have 6; their front pair of legs is greatly reduced in size and tucked up under their head.

Frequently Asked Questions


Q. How can I attract monarch and other butterflies to my yard?
You can attract the Monarch by adding Milkweed to your yard as well as a wildflower garden for them to feed on. You can also add butterfly feeders and butterfly houses for them to drink and rest.
Q. Are they poisonous to humans?
No, unless you plan on eating them.
Q. Where can I find butterfly feeders and houses and how do I use them?
You can find both of these items at the Vermont Wildflower farm or your local garden centers. Butterfly feeders are shapely garden ornaments as well. You fill them with water. Butterfly houses can be hung from garden poles or from trees in your garden area. They contain a shelter with perches which allows the monarch to rest and stay out of site of predators.
Q. Does the Monarch have any predators if it is poisonous?
Yes, Several species of birds—most particularly black-headed grosbeaks and black-backed orioles—can eat adult monarch butterflies in the overwintering colonies. While grosbeaks are relatively insensitive to the cardiac glycosides, the orioles have figured out which parts of the monarch bodies are safe to eat and avoid the most poisonous parts. Grosbeaks and orioles can kill more than 10% of the total monarch populations in a winter.
Q. Why don't some Monarchs migrate?
There are continuously-breeding populations throughout the New World tropics and the Caribbean that remain in the same place throughout the year.
Q. Where are Monarchs found?
Monarch butterflies are found throughout the U.S., in southern Canada, Caribbean Islands, Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific Islands.
Q. How long do Monarchs live?
Adult monarchs in summer generations live from 2-5 weeks; those that emerge in late summer and early fall can live up to 8-9 months to survive the trip to and from their overwintering sites in Mexico.
Q. Are Monarchs threatened?
The Monarch themselves are not threatened but monarch migration is a threatened phenomenon as designated by IUCN Invertebrate Red Data Book.

THE DRAGONFLY
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A dragonfly is any insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera. It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body. Dragonflies typically eat mosquitoes, midges and other small insects like flies, bees, and butterflies. They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams, and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs", are aquatic. Dragonflies do not normally bite or sting humans (though they will bite in order to escape, for example, if grasped by the abdomen); in fact, they are valued as a predator that helps control the populations of harmful insects, such as mosquitoes. It is because of this that dragonflies are sometimes called "mosquito hawks" in North America. The life cycle of the dragonfly, from egg to death of adult, varies from six months to as much as six or seven years. Female dragonflies lay eggs in or near water, often in or on floating or emergent plants. Most of the life cycle is spent in the larval (naiad, aka nymph) form, beneath the water surface, using internal gills to breathe, and catching other invertebrates or even vertebrates such as tadpoles and fish. In the adult (flying) stage, larger species of dragonfly, can live as long as four months. Dragonflies are the world's fastest insects and, although estimates of their speed vary wildly, most credible authorities say they are capable of reaching speeds of between 30 and 60 km/h (19 to 38 mph). A study showed that dragonflies can travel as much as 137 km (85 mi) in one day. Dragonflies have excellent eyesight due to their eye structure. Their compound eyes have up to 30,000 facets, each of which is a separate light-sensing organ or ommatidium, arranged to give nearly a 360°Field of vision.
It was recently discovered that dragonflies employ a particular optical illusion, termed motion camouflage, to stalk other insects that invade their territory. The research suggests that a dragonfly can move in such a way as to project itself as a stationary object while speedily attacking its victims. These findings illustrate for the first time how dragonflies use complex camouflaging techniques during aerial combat. Dragonflies can be single winged or double winged and come in a variety of colors. There are approx. 5000 species on every continent with the exception of Antartica. There are approx. 450 different species found in the United States.

SONGBIRDS
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A songbird or oscine is a bird belonging to the suborder Passeri of Passeriformes (ca. 4000 species), in which the vocal organ is developed in such a way as to produce various sound notes, commonly known as bird song. There is evidence to suggest that songbirds evolved about 50 million years ago. This 'bird song' is essentially territorial in that it communicates the identity and whereabouts of an individual to other birds and also signals sexual intentions. It is not to be confused with bird calls, which are used for alarms and contact, and are especially important in birds that feed or migrate in flocks. Although many songbirds have songs which are pleasant to the human ear, this is not invariably the case.
Songbirds are on a decline in the United States, especially the Eastern seaboard and is due in part to the decline in habitat and food supplies. Creating a wildflower garden or meadow will increase your population of songbirds and create the environment that they are slowly loosing.

BUMBLE AND HONEY BEES
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Bumblebees are among the most endearing and familiar of our insects. The sight and sound of bees droning methodically from flower to flower is a quintessential part of a summer’s day. Sadly, changes to the farmed countryside have not been kind to our bumblebees. The reason that bumblebees have declined in the countryside is simple. Bees feed exclusively on pollen and nectar, and there are far fewer flowers in the countryside than there once were. Wildflower gardens now provide a valuable flower-rich refuge in an impoverished landscape, and as a result have become a stronghold for some bumblebee species. Bumblebees and honeybees are social insects: they live in a colony. Bees are four-winged insects, usually with a sting. There are over 12,000 species, but only about 600 of them are social in habit. Among the social bees are the honeybee (or hive bee) and the bumblebee. The bumblebee is round and furry and moves around slowly. The honeybee has a more streamlined body and moves around much faster (about 15 miles/hour). Most bees are pacific unless you disturb them. The weather often affects the temper of bees. On windy and cloudy days, when they are unable to search for nectar and pollen, bees will be more aggressive. Bees have five eyes. Two large compound eyes and three simple eyes. Bees can perceive movements that are separated by 1/300th of a second. Humans can only sense movements separated by 1/50th of a second. Bees can't recognize the color red, but they can see ultraviolet colors. Honeybees fly 55,000 miles and visit 2 million flowers to produce one pound of honey. In one trip, a worker will visit between 50 and 100 flowers. Honeybees communicate with each other through a dance "language". Bumblebees live in small nests and therefore never swarm. They are larger and stronger than honeybees and more adapted to fertilize plants in which the pollen and nectar lie deep, as in red clover. They are also able to work in colder weather than the honeybee. Bumblebees don't produce a lot of honey, just enough to feed their young, but are an integral part of pollination! When bumblebees sting they do not lose their stinger and die like honeybees. The only natural enemy of a bumblebee is a skunk! Bet you didn't know that!

LADYBUGS
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There are nearly 5,000 different kinds of ladybugs worldwide and 400 which live in North America. A female ladybug will lay more than 1000 eggs in her lifetime. A ladybug beats its wings 85 times a second when it flies. Aphids are a ladybug's favorite food. Ladybugs chew from side to side and not up and down like people do. Ladybugs make a chemical that smells and tastes terrible so that birds and other predators won't eat them. If you squeeze a ladybug it will bite you, but the bite won't hurt. The spots on a ladybug fade as the ladybug gets older. During hibernation, ladybugs feed on their stored fat. Ladybugs won't fly if the temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The ladybug is the official state insect of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee. The male ladybug is usually smaller than the female.
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