EAB found in five more southern Iowa counties -- Read more here!

Listen to this May 18 pod cast from "momenough," the second half of which gets at the heart of some of the objectives of Growing Up WILD, Environmental Experiences, and other outdoor education efforts for young children – the real meaning of free play and the important role nature plays.

Welcome to my garden! 

Landscaping and Gardening for Wildlife

Iowa is currently considered the most altered state in the nation. It is somewhat troubling to even write that statement. Fortunately many Iowan’s are being creative and working towards the protection of our native plants and animals. Observing wildlife isn’t only achieved in parks and preserve areas, your backyard can also be a place for observation and discovery. Over 100 species of birds may utilize your backyard habitat as well as numerous butterflies and other animals, such as bats, squirrels, and snakes.

Landscaping for wildlife in your backyard is great for those interested in observation but is also an opportunity for natural insect control. Good habitat for natural insect predators like bats, purple martins, dragonflies, tree swallows, and bluebirds can help rid you of mosquitoes, grasshoppers and others. A single bat can eat 3,000 to 7,000 insects each night. Snakes can eat up to five mice a week and should be considered in your habitat planning.

Your wildlife habitat can also be more cost-effective than vast lawns. Native plantings require little care once established and saves money because they do not require mowing. Native plants are adapted to the climate making them much hardier than non-native plants.

In order to landscape for wildlife in your backyard, first you need to understand habitat. A habitat is the place where an animal or plant normally lives and is often characterized by a dominant plant form or physical characteristics like a forest or stream habitat. Some species are adapted to living in only one type of habitat. The wildlife you attract will depend not only on the type of habitat existing in your yard, but also on the habitat in the surrounding area. It is always best to work with the dominant habitat in your area.

Wildlife have four basic needs for survival that are the building blocks of habitat; can anyone guess what those might be?


Every species of wildlife has its own food requirements which can vary with age and season. Several types of food can easily be provided in your backyard habitat. Fruit and seed bearing trees and plants are important, such as oak trees and sunflowers. Shrubs and grasses provide year-round forage and browse plants. Planting a variety of plants can provide food in all four seasons.


Water is essential for all wildlife and should be provided year-round if possible. Wildlife prefers moving water but bird baths are acceptable, but need to be cleaned and freshened regularly. During the winter months, you could use a heated birdbath, pond, or even a heated dog dish.


Shelter is necessary for protection from predators and adverse weather. It is critical during the breeding season when animals are trying to raise young or when animals are trying to rest or sleep. Ideal cover involves dense vegetation from vines, shrubs, and large conifers, like spruce or red cedar. Conifers are not deciduous and remain green year-round and are excellent for providing cover in all four seasons. Shelter can also be provided by structures such as rock and brush piles and bird and bat houses.


All wildlife species have different space or territorial requirements. For example, a pair of nesting bluebirds need about five acres of grassland with scattered trees (more than a typical backyard can provide). In contrast, house wrens have small space requirements and a pair can easily be attracted to a small backyard.

More tips and hints to think about when planning your garden to attract birds on this presentation.

Learn more:

Most importantly, landscape your yard with realistic goals for attracting different wildlife species and research their requirements.

Check out these photos taken in 2012-2014 of native plantings in a suburban yard in Iowa. These plantings were started in 2008.

Native Plant Landscaping

These are four important elements that animals need to survive and are all dependent on each other. If any component of habitat is missing or is affected significantly so that the arrangement for the individual animal or population of animals is no longer suitable, there will be an impact. Over time this impact may be significant. There are additional limiting factors beyond those of suitable food, water, shelter, and space. Disease, predation, pollution, accidents, and climatic conditions are other factors which can impact plant and animal populations.

Loss of any element of habitat will have impact on the animals living there and the components of habitat must be in an arrangement suitable to the needs of the individual animals or populations of animals in order for the animals to survive.

Books to help you plan:

  • Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to create beautiful native landscapes, by Sally Wasowski
  • Landscaping with Wildflowers: An Environmental Approach to Gardening, by Jim Wilson
  • Bird Gardening Book: The Complete Guide to Creating a Bird-Friendly Habitat in Your Backyard
  • The Butterfly Book: An easy guide to butterfly gardening, identification, and behavior, by Donald and Lillian Stokes, Ernest Williams
  • Your Backyard Wildlife Garden: How to Attract and Identify Wildlife in Your Yard, by Marcus Schneck

More links:

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It's Baby Season
"Stuff" happens and sometimes the wildlife parents and young become separated -- sometimes this is normal -- but how do you know.  Check out these links to learn more!
Raptor Viewing Etiquette

We should all observe good raptor  viewing etiquette, not only during the nesting season, but also during this time of migration. 

Remember that raptors are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and bald and golden eagles have additional protections under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Upcoming Programs and Opportunities

GreenWorks! grants available from Project Learning Tree for those that have attended a professional workshop. Deadline September 30. Learn more here.

June 11 & 12  Iowa Trails Summit on June 12 with an optional training day on June 11. Click here for the agenda. 
June 17-19    Outdoor Journey program for girls at Springbrook Conservation Education Center near Guthrie Center. More info here
June 18 & 20    Hunter Education Course, sponsored by Marion County Sportsman's Club, Marion CCB, and Iowa DNR. Online registration only. http://reservations1.usedirect.com/IowaWeb/  
June 24-25  Taking STEM Outside: WILD Project-based Learning in Your Schoolyard at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens, registration deadline June 17registration Fee: $75* (Includes lunches, materials, and 1 license renewal credit; or $150* for 1 EDEX graduate credit), offered through Heartland AEA
July 7-9    Outdoor Journey program for girls at Hickory Hills Park south of Waterloo. More info here
August 5-7    Outdoor Journey program for girls at Springbrook Conservation Education Center near Guthrie Center. More info here!  
September 10 & 12    Hunter Education Course, sponsored by Marion County Sportsman's Club, Marion CCB, and Iowa DNR. Online registration only. http://reservations1.usedirect.com/IowaWeb/  
October 21  RiverWorks Discovery, a program of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, high school student conference, Who Works the River, is job-oriented towards river related careers 

Who Am I? for the week of 25 May

So, let’s get down to it. Put on those thinking caps, grab your friends and family, and let’s play! Remember — no cheating!

    • I like to hide in crayfish burrows,
    • I live around prairies and grasslands,
    • I eat anything I can swallow,
    • I am an endangered specie in Iowa, and
    • I sound like a snorting hog.
What am I? Make your guess, and then go here for the answer and more interesting facts
Did you get it right?! If not, no worries — you’ll have another chance next week!

In the news...

“Woodpecker-flecked ash trees are a great calling card when investigating an insect infestation. The damage symptoms on ash trees are very visible during the winter months. Woodpeckers feed on more than EAB, but when we find woodpeckers focusing on ash trees in an area, it’s a red flag that begs for further investigation,” said State Entomologist Robin Pruisner of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

We urge Iowans to be vigilant, reporting suspicious symptoms in Counties that are not yet known to be infested to a member of the Iowa EAB Team. And we continue to urge citizens to keep firewood local, don’t pack a pest to a new area,” said Mike Kintner, IDALS EAB and Gypsy Moth Coordinator.

The Iowa EAB Team provides EAB diagnostic assistance to landowners and includes officials from Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the USDA Forest Service.

The Iowa EAB Team strongly cautions Iowans not to transport firewood across county or state lines, since the movement of firewood throughout Iowa or to other states poses the greatest threat to quickly spread EAB and other plant pests. Most EAB infestations in the United States have been started by people unknowingly moving infested firewood, nursery plants or sawmill logs. The adult beetle also can fly short distances, approximately 2 to 5 miles.

The next window for preventive treatment measures (trunk injection, soil injection, soil drench, or basal trunk sprays) will open early spring 2015 (mid-April to mid-May). If a landowner is interested in protecting a valuable and healthy ash tree within 15 miles of a known infestation, they should use the winter months to have landscape and tree service companies bid on work, and these bids can be reviewed before next spring.

Please contact Iowa EAB Team members to have suspicious looking trees checked in counties not currently known to be infested. The State of Iowa will continue to track the movement of EAB on a county-by-county basis. Before a county can be officially recognized as infested, proof of a reproducing population is needed and an EAB must be collected and verified by USDA entomologists.

To learn more about EAB and other pests that are threatening Iowa’s tree population, please visit www.IowaTreePests.com.

Check these out!

Iowa Young Birders - Check out this group formed in 2011 to help young people experience the joy and wonder of finding, seeing, and identifying birds!  The Iowa Ornithologists Union is helping to sponsor birding field trips for young people age 8-18 in conjunction with their spring and fall meetings. Check out the details and the Iowa Young Birders website for other field trip opportunities! <jealous!>

Healthy and Happy Outdoors - Learn more about this new Iowa Department of Natural Resources initiative here. Register with the program and record your outdoor activities in Iowa parks and recreation areas with each recorded activity a chance to win outdoor gear in a drawing.  The site also has a search feature for finding outdoor activities in Iowa.

Visit MyCountyParks.com to check out a park or wildlife area you might want to explore managed by one of Iowa's 99 county conservation boards! Look here for events and activities, too!