Apr 022013

Contest Entries

During each calendar month, Spore Lore will accept postings of residential wildlife habitats to Spore Lore’s facebook page, Habitat It and They Will Come.

click to post your Habitat of the Month entry

Click to post your Habitat of the Month entry.

Contest entries must include:

1) The name of the garden habitat.

2) The 4 components of wildlife habitat:





3) At least one picture of the the wildlife habitat.

Entry Awards and Contest Winners

All Habitat of the Month Contest entries will receive a “Habitat It!” bumper sticker.  Habitat of the Month, as in the The Winner, will receive a signed copy of Tony McGuigan’s book, Habitat It and They Will Come.  The month’s winning habitat will be chosen from a review of Comments (facebook) posted to the entry AND ALSO from Tony’s impression of the contest entry.  In the case of a tie, two (2) winners, both declared “Habitat of the Month” will be announced.

Contest entries (postings to the facebook page Habitat It and They Will Come) will be accepted till noon (Pacific treefrog time) of the 28th day of the month (26th day for February).  Contest winners will be announced by 6PM (Pacific treefrog time) on the 30th day of the same month (28th for February).  Contest winners will be announced primarily at Spore Lore’s website (sporelore.com\Blog\Habitat of the Month Contest) and at Spore Lore’s facebook page (Habitat It and They Will Come).

To receive your contest entry “Spore Lore” sticker, and/or receive a book if your habitat is chosen as Habitat of the Month, please email your postal address to habitatofthemonth@sporelore.com; please include the name of your habitat in your email.

Please enter your garden habitat one time only.  However, if significant changes have been made to the habitat and/or significant documentation (like pictures!) of the habitat is available, then the same habitat may be re-submitted as a new contest entry. 

Create wildlife habitat and have fun.

Post your habitat to Habitat of the Month.

Good Luck!

Fine Print — Other Rules

There is no cash value for any contest rewards or contest prizes.

Participants/Entrants of the Contest give Spore Lore permission to leave contest posts on Spore Lore’s facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/HabitatItAndTheyWillCome, and to post Contest entries and Contest winner announcements to Spore Lore’s facebook pages (Habitat It and They Will Come, Spore Lore, and Tony McGuigan), as well as Tony McGuigan’s/Spore Lore’s other social media sites (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube) and Spore Lore’s website (sporelore.com).   Spore Lore reserves the right to use the winner’s name (if provided in the contest entry), habitat name and habitat location (if provided in the contest entry),  for publicity purposes only in connection with the Contest and for no other reason.

Spore Lore is not bound to announce contest entries/winner/winners. 

GOVERNING LAW: Contest governed by the laws of California and subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations. Accordingly, all issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules, or the rights and obligations of the Contestant and Sponsor in connection with the Contest, shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the State of California, without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules (whether of the State of California or any other jurisdiction). The Contest is void where prohibited by any applicable law. Contestants, by participating in this Contest, hereby waive and release, and agree to hold harmless Spore Lore and all of its respective officers, directors, employees and representatives and agents, from and against, any and all rights, claims and causes of action whatsoever that they may have, or which may arise, against any of them for any liability for any matter, cause or thing whatsoever, including but not limited to any injury, loss, damage, whether direct, compensatory, incidental or consequential, to person, including death, and /or property, arising in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from their acceptance, possession, use or misuse of any prize, or their participation in this Contest, or any prize-related activity. By participating in this Contest, Contestants agree to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of Sponsor. Except where prohibited by law, by accepting a prize, winner agrees that Spore may use the winner’s name, address (state), photograph, likeness, and/or prize information for advertising, publicity and promotional purposes and to the use of statements made by or attributed to winner relating to Spore Lore or to this Contest and grants to Spore Lore any and all rights to said use without further notice and/or compensation except where prohibited by law.

Dec 042012
Tony’s last conversation with Monica Mannequin.

First a video  re “Planting Salvia spathacea next to Monica Manzanita Mannequin 2 of 2”,  then some  pics of “Monica Manzanita  Mannequin animal habitat installation” (below the video):

Planting Salvia spathacea next to Monica Manzanita Mannequin 2 of 2 (video):

Monica Manzanita  Mannequin animal habitat installation and planting Salvia spathacea (pics):

The west end of Cacti Caverns is cleared of lavarock.  The west end of Cacti Caverns is cleared of lavarock.  The “Monica” (species name) manzanita (Spanish for “little apple”) shrub will be planted on top of Cacti Caverns’ terra cotta flat roofing tiles.


The lower tile is slide under the top tile.The lower tile is slide under the top tile to make room for Monica Manzanita Mannequin animal habitat.   Poor quality soil (high percentage of adobe clay) is removed to make room for planting (better quality) soil.


Tony’s last conversation with Monica Mannequin.  Tony’s last conversation with Monica Mannequin.   Note the wavy wood grain, identifying the mass as a tree root burl.  The “nose”,  or upright projection (Hey, work with me here!), is the base of the trunk, which starts out a straight grain.


Monica Manzanita threaded through Mannequin.  Monica Manzanita threaded through Mannequin.   Soon critters will inhabit the inside vaulted ceilings and come and go through Mannequin’s crevices.   A pole planted next to MMM serves as a handhold while traversing the walk path.


Monica manzanita a month after being planted.Monica manzanita a month after being planted.  Looks happy to me!  Not over watering is probably the biggest challenge this manzanita shrub will offer here in California,  where it is a native plant.


Monica manzanita 2 months after planting. After two healthy months, the typically very slowly growing shrub looks to be establishing itself.  Grape Overpass is sporting bunches of green grapes that will ripen in a couple of months.


Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) planted next to Monica Manzanita Mannequin habitat.Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) planted next to Monica Manzanita Mannequin habitat.   The salvia, like the manzanita, is also a native plant that will thrive in the dry hydrozone garden bed.


Both hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) next to Monica Manzanita Mannequin habitat.Both hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) pose for a photo op next to Monica Manzanita Mannequin habitat.  The critters will be happy!, especially in years to come when the manzanita tree canopies its undergrowth of hummingbird sage.

Happy animal habitat installations.  See you tomorrow.



Dec 032012
Hummingbird Salvia (Salvia spathacea) shows off Tony and his camera gear before being planted.

First a video  re “Planting Salvia spathacea next to Monica Manzanita Mannequin 1 of 2”,  then some  pics of “Cacti Caverns animal habitat installation” (below the video):

Planting Salvia spathacea next to Monica Manzanita Mannequin 1 of 2 (video):



Cacti Caverns animal habitat installation and Planting Salvia spathacea (pics):

Roof view of Cacti Caverns animal habitat installation in 2010 (2 years old).Roof view of driveway property line in 2010: From street, 1) sunflowers are growing in Canyon Wall Oasis (large cavity in ground), AND 2) cacti grow above Cacti Caverns.  Note that the lavarock continues past Cacti Caverns to THE WORLD (especially if you are a tiny critter!).


Close-up of Cacti Caverns  in 2010.  Close-up of Cacti Caverns  in 2010.  Low profile above ground.  Several small sheltered cavities below ground.  Note the applewood tunnel in foreground and the 3-stack thick curved clay roofing tile tunnel in rear.  All earthworks are critter approved!


Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) shows off Tony and his camera gear before being planted.On with the show!  Let’s get this Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) planted and shoot some film.


The hummingbird sage will be planted between Cacti Caverns and Monica Manzanita Mannequin.  The two hummingbird sage will be planted between Cacti Caverns habitat and Monica Manzanita Mannequin habitat.  Truth be told, the salvias are actually planted above one of Cacti Caverns buried roofing tile cavities.


Pics and captions from Tony’s new book, Habitat It and They will Come of Cacti Caverns animal habitat installation (pics):

The property line along our driveway in 2008 -- not much animal habitat!Figure 4.52  Property line before Cacti Caverns installed.  Zeroscape for miles and miles and miles.  Time to change that.  Cacti Caverns will provide a little greenery, a little nook and cranny, a little Life is what you make it! to this property line.


Cacti Caverns' canvas cleared of lavarock -- ready to receive art!Figure 4.60  Planks held in place by rebar.  The sturdy barricade will keep the rock in place during work.  A worthwhile effort.  Cascading creative ideas and manipulation of the moonscape into Cacti Caverns wonderland won’t have to be interrupted to replace rock landslides.


Underground cavities installed in Cacti Caverns, which continues to the left.Figure 4.72  Flat Clay Roofing Tiles resting on tunnel.  Gaps on both sides of the rounded log section will shelter          (fill in critters of your choice)        .  Note shovelful of soil used to anchor tile in place; the soil will be washed down to settle both sides of the tile.  Lavastone will rest directly on the tile’s flat surface.


Cacti Caverns habitat installation completed.  Lots going on underground!Figure 4.88  Wala!.  Retaining wall planks and rebar supports removed.  We’re finished!


2011 -- A garter snake crawls out of Cacti Caverns to announce, "This animal habitat rocks!"Figure 4.94   Three Years Later.  next pages  Cacti Caverns has matured.  The cacti have grown paddle upon paddle upon paddle, a delicate flowering ivy has spread throughout, and Sea Creature has silvered (aged gracefully, they say).  Wood destined for the garden (in background, out of focus) awaits its turn alongside Cacti Gardens.  A wary garter snake has crawled out of the thicket of ivy and cacti, and rests on the fencepost.  Even more exciting than the snake itself (in our garden!) was watching it retreat from my pestering photography down into the ivy-obscured entrance of the applewood tunnel.


Happy animal habitat installation.  See you tomorrow.



Feb 022011
The new Olympic-sized swimming pool at Critter Convention Center.

Garden Log (what I did):

1. Installed an underground watering hole habitat, called Dano’s Great Newt Grotto.

Trellis habitat, House Finch Hideaway.

Trellis habitat, House Finch Hideaway. The subterranean habitat, Dano's Great Newt Habitat, was installed while the Center Pole posthole was being backfilled.

You, the Habitat Gardener (reflections):

Center Post (2 posts) in ground, yet to be backfilled.

Center Post (2 posts) in ground, yet to be backfilled. The posts were dug in on the back side of Captain Cicada's Buried Treasure, a buried wood pile animal habitat. The adobe soil in the foreground is from the posthole digging and covers the small hill's topsoil.

1. The celestial heavens were so kind to me the other day.  Dan and I were on our way to completing an awesome garden project — a 6-post two-tier trellis built to grow food and provide privacy.  We had just lowered the Center Post (which is actually 2 posts; see House Finch Hideaway — Completed ) into its hole when the noontime lunch whistle blew.  Dan was off to follow his stomach’s commands.  Cool!, now I have some time to throw in a habitat up against the center posts before the area is backfilled.  A quick search of material caches and I was back with a toilet tank top, a small piece of flagstone slate, two old kitchen tiles, a water-catching boulder, and a bucket lid.  Habitat here we come!

The habitat's tiolet tank top will catch and hold water.

The habitat's toilet tank top will catch and hold water.

Water.  So often when building a habitat, I include a focus of making water, or at least moisture, available for garden critters.  Perhaps I am so drawn to water because one of my strongest passions in building animal habitats is to increase amphibian populations in residential gardens.  And amphibians LOVE, thrive, and do water well (pun accepted!).  This habitat’s major water feature is a toilet tank top rescued from a dumpster.  “Help, help, please help!”, I faintly heard coming from the bottom of a commercial renovation project’s 10-yard dumpster.  So I took the beautiful uncracked enamel critter swimming pool home with me and vowed to incorporate it in a habitat.  Alas, Toilet Tank Top is delivered to the soil and its critters while Dan is off at lunch.  A little water in the upside down lid helps me install it level (to hold the most amount of water possible).

The new Olympic-sized swimming pool at Critter Convention Center.

The new Olympic-sized swimming pool at Critter Convention Center.

The enamel coated top side of the toilet tank lid seals the pottery and enables it to hold water.  The underside of the lid, which is pictured holding water, will absorb some of that water because it is not enamel coated.  But that’s okay — moisture-loving critters, like insects, snails, slugs, salamanders, frogs and toads, will seek out that cool dampness in the dryer months.

I stand on the upside down lid to press it into the adobe soil at the edge of the posthole and up against the Center Post.  It sets in firmly and gives me confidence that it will hold at least some water, that is, stay level, for a long time.

Flagstone and kitchen tile cover the habitat's grotto.

Flagstone and kitchen tile cover the habitat's grotto.

Now to protect the top of the swimming pool to keep it from completely filling with soil.  Some soil will likely backfill into the swimming pool, and that’s okay, but we would like some of the upside down toilet lid’s volume to be available for water.  Completely sealed off would not be good either — the critters would think the pool is closed.  “Oh man, we always come on the wrong day!”  A small piece of flagstone slate and kitchen tiles are the strong, non-biodegradable materials I come up with to protect the habitat’s pool of water.  Two kitchen tiles are used to add strength and to provide another crevice (between the tiles) that critters can take advantage of.  Sure there’s a gap between the tiles and the slate but we’ll deal with that shortly.  For now, we’re sitting pretty because the swimming pool was just upgraded to a grotto.  How European!  The subterranean pool, or grotto, will shelter and feed many a microbe and larger critter that had never dreamed of travelling to such places.

Water-holding boulder sits above the grotto.

Water-holding boulder sits above the grotto.

Now to cover the small gap between the tiles.  And I just happen to have a bucket lid that will cover that gap.  One good thing about the plastic lid is that it will last a zillion years. Sure, some people would cringe about burying plastic in the garden but I figure that the trade-offs here are worth it.  If it never breaks down, then some critters will have shelter security.  If it does break down, then we are doing our part to return this human-made atrocity to the soil.  Hey, why get out of bed in the morning if your rationalization system is not intact?!  And now back to the plastic bucket lid on top of the kitchen tiles and the flagstone slate.  Yes!, the bucket lid turns out to more helpful than I thought it would be.  Not only will it cover the gap, but also it is a coaster (like a table coaster protecting delicate wood) for the brittle tile and crackable slate.  Now a good-sized rock, AKA boulder, can be stacked on top of the grotto, tiles, and slate.

Leveling the boulder to hold water.  Wood frame protects the tile.

Leveling the boulder to hold water. Wood frame protects the tile.

Multi-tasker boulder will 1) keep the materials below it securely in place because of its heavy weight, 2) provide temperature modulation to the habitat, and 3) hold a smidgen of water in the small indentations on its top surface. That’s pretty much the bulk of the habitat, but now I want to take measures to protect this underground waterhole, this subterranean grotto.  Because it’s underground, or hidden, foot traffic could easily kick it apart by accident. I grab a couple of fireplace logs and frame the exposed tile corner.  That sits pretty but why leave things up to chance?

Firewood log staked with gap awaiting compost fill.

Firewood log staked with gap awaiting compost fill.

I take the extra time to secure the downhill side of a log with a hefty wooden stake pounded into the ground.  The stake is surely very secure BUT I missed my mark. The stake is a couple of inches away from the fireplace log instead of snugly up against it.  Once again, THE PROBLEM IS THE SOLUTION (a permaculture axium).  In other words, there’s good to be found here so why not go with that?  Lucky for me, I sometimes take my own advice.  I snug the firewood log up against the post to expose a gap alongside the habitat.  That gap, or couple of inches “off”, will now allow me to throw in some nutritious compost soil. There will be more good soil for the jasmine vine I will plant above this habitat.

Jasmine vine planted above Dano's Great Newt Grotto.

Jasmine vine planted above Dano's Great Newt Grotto.

Time to plant the jasmine vine that will grow up Center Post and create a thicket on the trellis.  The grotto habitat is nearly complete except for planting and cosmetic issues.  The jasmine vine’s roots will help secure the “hillside” of soil and help tie together the habitat’s elements.  Perhaps those roots will find the grotto and drink its water — hard to say because the roots will not develop in the intended air cavity of the habitat.  In the end, though, I vote that the jasmine will be a happy camper as a result of the grotto habitat.  If nothing else, the poop factor will benefit the jasmine — there will be so much poop (that feeds the soil) from the snails and slugs that come to vacation at the grotto.

Compost soil is strewn over the habitat and surrounding area.  The jasmine vine is wiggled into position next to the boulder and surrounded by as much compost soil as will stay on the little hill of Captain Cicada’s Buried Treasure.  Forget-me-not plants that were moved to the side for protection are returned to the hill, above the habitat.  Some bamboo stakes are pounded into the ground and strung together to make small fences to protect the area from foot traffic.  Lastly, old straw mulch is used to keep the compost soil and plants in place.  Also, the old straw mulch will keep the area moist and humus-rich as it breaks down.  The decaying straw is a habitat unto itself!

Dano's Great Newt Grotto habitat is buried under old straw mulch (left).

Dano's Great Newt Grotto habitat is buried under old straw mulch (left). Grape cuttings at a post's base for the trellis habitat, House Finch Hideaway.

What a great day!   A habitat within a habitat day.  Hard work and looking forward to my vacation.  See you at The Grotto.

……………………………………………………. Tony

Jan 142011
Last season's artichoke is overwintering insect habitat.

Garden Log (what I did):

1. Scattered red and white clover seeds and fava beans on Straw Bale Recliner Bed in front garden.  Harvested potato crop soil from The Bog; see http://sporelore.com/food-forest-gardening/caterpillar-winter-resort-next-to-our-front-door/.

2. Pruned the gravenstein apple tree in our front yard.

3. Staked up rotting artichoke stalks (last season’s crop).

You, the Habitat Gardener (reflections):

red and white clover seeds with fava bean

Red clover (small brown), white clover (small yellow) seeds with fava bean (large flat).

1. A light, misty rain this afternoon.  Time for me to get another crop in the ground.  Last season’s green mulch supplies are still on hand; might as well use the seeds up while they are still viable.  Found paper bags with fava bean and both red and white clover seed in our cold storage (sealed plastic bin in unheated shop).  Perfect!  The fava bean will both enhance the soil and provide veggies in the spring.  The red and white clover will also nitrogen fix the veggie bed’s soil AND the insects will love the flowers.  Bees and other polinator insects will be buzzin’ in the front garden — our little pollinator helpers to ensure all those fava bean flowers develop into pods.

fava bean, red and white clover on straw mulchThe front veggie bed was just recently half planted with garlic cloves.  It was then covered with a light mulch of old straw.  Even though that straw mulching was mostly to protect the garlic starts and the new soil that was used to plant the garlic, the entire bed was mulched with straw — even the unplanted half of the bed was mulched.  I figured that the straw layer over the unplanted half would bulk up the organic matter in the bed and be ready and waiting for a new crop.  Well, now that new crop is here.  I mixed all three seed types (fava, red and white clover) in a large bowl and sprinked them out onto the bed’s unplanted half, the half alongside the sidewalk.

potato soil harvest from The BogA thin layer of soil over the beans and seeds will suffice as “planting” them.  Luckily, the rich soil from our harvested potato crop is avalable to throw over the planted bed.soil layer over beans and seeds on straw

I’ll feel lucky when the garlic on the other half of the bed comes up.  We used straw to mulch over the planted cloves and soil layer.  The expected hard rains demanded that the soil be covered, that is, not exposed and vulnerable to harsh rainfall.  The downside of that mulch is its insulating nature — the weak winter sun will have to warm both the straw mulch and the garlic to germinate it.  So, for this half of the bed, the fava bean crop, we are not mulching over the soil.

2. Pruning time for our dwarf Gravenstein apple tree.  We want to encourage the tree to provide fruit low to the ground — no sense in having to pull out a ladder just to pick an apple.  So hard to prune this already small tree but our patience will be rewarded some day with a full-figured, strong-limbed, laden apple tree. The prunings were chopped into small bits and placed around the trunk; every plant is entitled to its decaying minerals.  Just a hunch, but I bet that the tree, and perhaps its co-existing fungi, will appreciate dead wood of a similar species, if not from exactly the same plant.

chop and drop at base of apple tree

Chop and drop at base of apple tree. Note the limb prunings left as small apple tree "wood chip" mulch.

Lastly, the base of the tree was chopped and dropped.  In other words, the resident dandelion (has been living for many months) and a new arrowhead plant was chopped at their base, BUT NOT PULLED.  Doing so, the plants’ roots will die back and leave loose organic matter in the soil.  Yummy!, says the tree’s roots.  The greens left on the wood chip surface will mulch the surface, with the organic matter in the leaves feeding the top layer of soil.  Then the “weeds” will grow back, Tony will chop them again, over and over and apples and apples again.

artichoke bed on Dragon Spine Ridge3. I once heard that artichoke plants ought to be cut to the ground in winter in preparation for the spring’s new growth.  Well, another “ought to” that I am not getting to.  I have enjoyed witnessing the full cycle of these enormous thistle-like plants.  Up. up, and up grow the stalks, bulking thicker and thicker as they grow.  Heavy duty veggies!   Then, the joy of the flower bud, which is the “artichoke” itself.  And sometimes I don’t want to harvest that bud.  I egg on the magnificent flower that follows.  Come butterflies, bees, wasps, beetles, and all pollen lovers to Artichoke’s purple carpet in the sky.  But, alas, the end is then near. The flower dies back, bleaches silver in the sun, and becomes a highrise insect commune.  But beware — spiders are the landlords and the rent they charge will suck the life out of you!  Soon the entire shrub-like plant, both stalk and spent flower, takes on a sun-scortched, wind-twisted tangle of gracefulness.  Art in the garden.  And all I did was plant an artichoke plant.  And, the best is yet to come.  This decaying artichoke stalk is both GARDEN SCULPTURE and HABITAT.

decaying artichoke stalk holding nursery tagA couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the plastic nursery tag for the Green Globe heirloom artichoke planted on Dragon Spine Ridge had fallen away from the plant’s base.  Not wanting to throw away the tag because the perrenial artichoke lives on, I thought to stick it into the plant’s spent stalk.  Amazing how nicely the pointed tag cut into the vertical fibers of the old stalk.  Wow!, that’s habitat material.

Last season's artichoke is overwintering insect habitat.

Close-up of old artichoke stalk. Note the thick vertical veins of the stalk. The stalk's pulpy interior seems the perfect insulated over-wintering habitat for insect eggs and larvae.

If the thin plastic nursery tag could penetrate the artichoke’s stalk so easily, you can bet for sure that some insects have bored holes into this plant.  Sure, some of those insects will thrive inside the plant stalk to emerge, as larva or adult insects, and eat next summer’s artichokes.  But, we have plenty to share.

If we focus on growing biodiversity, and not just this plant and that plant, we will have strong gardens.

Stay warm in your over-wintering habitat.


Jan 102011
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on redwood driftwood

Garden Log (what I did):

1. Cold here in Sebastopol, California — well at least for us — with the growing season nearly dormant.  We finally got some garlic starts in the ground about a month ago in the front veggie bed along the sidewalk.  Maybe this week I’ll plant fava beans there to grow SOMETHING.

2. Harvested hachiya persimmons from a neighbor’s tree.

3. Inspected Salamander Swimhole’s vitality.

4. Discovered brown marmorated stink bugs on a piece of driftwood in the front garden.

You, the Habitat Gardener (reflections):

1. Our garlic crop in the front bed will be ready next late spring, just in time for us to plant sunflowers.  We get garlic; the critters will reap the sunflowers.

2. The persimmon that was left on Oak Pedestal last night is half eaten.  A long deck screw holds the persimmon in place and secure from strong critters, like a squirrel, that might want to eat the persimmon elsewhere.  The long screw’s head was snipped off, then that end was impaled into the oak limb’s crotch, leaving the pointy  end of the screw skyward.

Top view of Oak Pedestal feeder with partly eaten persimmon.

Top view of Oak Pedestal feeder in winter garlic bed with partly eaten persimmon.

Oak Pedestal feeder -- side view

Side view of Oak Pedestal feeder in winter garlic bed.

So easy to screw an apple, a persimmon, a tough piece of food onto the screw and thwart thieving critters.  Ha!, I am smarter for once.

Oak Pedastal Feeder and SF leaves

Top view of Oak Pedestal feeder surrounded by a summer crop of sunflower. The black oiled sunflower seeds are bagged birdseed. How fun to place some seeds on the sunflower leaf platters. Note the up-ended deck screw (in the oak limb crotch), which is used to secure apples and other food offerings.

3.Salamander Swimhole, which seemed a lost cause because of foul water (see my November 27, 2010 entry: http://sporelore.com/residential-habitats/garden-pond/) is clearing.  The magnolia tree’s leaves have all fallen for a month now so the pond is no longer being overwhelmed with fresh organic matter.  Algae is growing faster now that more sunlight is reaching the pond; the magnolia leaves were shading the new pond water.  Just-visible microbes are whirling about in the water and the potted plants are showing new growth.  The pond will thrive, with luck in time for a pacific tree frog to want to lay eggs in it this spring.

4.  Brown marmorated stink bugs ( Halyomorpha halys) are in the insect family Pentatomidae and are known as an agricultural pest in their native range of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  Yes, they are not native to our California soil.  But they are so cool!  Given the species’ alien trait, I’d rather they didn’t exist in our garden BUT three bugs on one small piece of driftwood means there are probably many others entrenched in our neighborhood.  What’s a sustainability-minded Master Habitat Landscaper Apprentice like me to do?  Nothing, that’s what.  Sure, I rather the garden be full of native insects to work the garden and provide food for higher tropic animals.  But perhaps alien pollinators (or non-pollinators) will feed some of those higher tropic animals, i.e., animals more sophisticated/more developed.  An insect meal might just be an insect meal to a hungry woodpecker during these food-is-sparse short days of winter.

A couple of cool facts about these alien-to-California brown marmorated stink bugs: a) They are actually bugs!  “Bug” is often a lay term for “insect”, but “true bugs” are only one order of insect, like “beetle” is another order of insect.   b) Stink bugs get their name from a smelly fluid emitted from their thorax when threatened.   I was lucky to get the bugs pictured (below) without getting sprayed — surely their sluggishness from the cold was in my favor.  c) The term “marmorated” is derived from Latin for “marbled”.  Close inspection of the seemingly “brown”/dull-looking wing tips and exoskeleton’s back plates (pronotum, esculetum, elytron) reveals magnificent design and color.  Sure wouldn’t want to be an ant when that steel-plated star cruiser crawls overhead.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs on redwood driftwood Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs on redwood driftwoodBrown Marmorated Stink Bug on redwood driftwood

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on redwood driftwood Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on redwood driftwoodEnjoy all things, stinky or not.