Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald ash borer has killed all of my ash trees.

Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) was discovered in Minnesota in 2009. Ever since, it has been expanding its area. Emerald ash borer is an invasive species of beetle that is a highly destructive pest of ash (Fraxinus) trees.

In 2017, Emerald ash borer was discovered about a mile from our property and more extensive infestations where found in 2019. I considered having our ash trees removed at that time but I had other more pressing concerns when the COVID pandemic hit in 2020. With the assistance of the resident woodpeckers, I made positive identification of Emerald ash borer infestations in our ash trees this spring (May 2022) but I had already had suspicions the previous fall.

We have an acre of land with 15-20 ash trees, all of which are infested and dying or are already dead. I requested estimates from several tree removal companies. I chose Davey Tree in South St Paul who will remove the ash trees in January.

Fortunately, only two ash trees are near our house. Neither provides significant shade on the house in the summer, so their loss will be minimal. The other remaining ash trees are clustered on south end of our property. They are largely screened from view by maple trees. However, their loss will be felt because the shaded they provided kept the common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) at bay. I foresee increased effort upon my part to remove buckthorn from our property.

I’ll replace the two ash trees near the house with Kentucky coffeetrees (Gymnocladus dioicus) and the other ash trees with a mix of black walnut (Juglans nigra) and black cherry (Prunus serotina) trees. Black walnut will do well as I am frequently removing saplings from inopportune locations, most likely planted there by the resident gray squirrels. And there are numerous Kentucky coffeetrees in a county park located a few miles away. I was unable to find any black cherry trees while taking Lizzie for a walk through the neighborhood in search of them. I believe I have seen them around, I just don’t remember where I saw them. An article in Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, published by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), states that Minnesota is becoming more suitable for black cherry due to climate change.

I’m grateful none of our oak trees are impacted by pests or diseases. Oak trees provide all of the summer time shade on our house, keeping it significantly cooler during the summer. There is a noticeable difference in temperature between the unshaded and shaded portions of the front yard. On hot summer days, the unshaded portion is 10℉ warmer than the shaded portion. I’ve been keeping a close watch on our oak trees and have been diligently watering them during the drought we have been experiencing for the last two years. Our neighbors have an oak in their back yard that was killed by oak wilt. I intend on contacting Davey Tree to inquire with them what preventative steps I can take to protect our oak trees. I don’t want to lose them.

Nocturnal Critters and Bugs

There is an interesting phenomenon where someone installs a security camera for the first time. A week later, they are alarmed to discover that people are walking through their yard at night and at 1 am every morning a cat sits on the back steps of their house. They post videos to the Nextdoor and Neighbors apps, inquiring about the errant trespassers. Unbeknownst to them, people have been walking through their yard for years because it is a convenient route to get from the basketball court in the city park to the nearest bus stop. And the cat, well, it lives three doors down at the Hendersons and visits every house in the neighborhood.

Most people are unaware of what is going on around them at night because they have their windows closed tight and are night-blinded and night-deafened by their TVs, laptops, or phones. Twenty or so years ago, after our house was burgled for the first time, I approached our neighbors, who we were already on good terms with, about the event. I learned from them that a lot goes on at night when we are sleeping or when we are away from our homes. I learned it was worthwhile for me to keep in contact with them and to pay attention to the comings and goings of people, particularly when we were asleep or away at work or on a trip.

I have several cameras located around our property. I use them because I am curious about what goes on when I am not present to observe. Below are a few videos from those cameras. None involve criminal activity, thankfully, and, instead, feature various animals and bugs.


A raccoon (Procyon lotor) using a tree to climb down from our fence. I’m always impressed with the climbing ability of raccoons.


A centipede (Chilopoda) crawling on the wall next to a camera in our garage.


A spider traversing its web.


A mouse exploring in the garage. This mouse could be the non-native house mouse (Mus musculus), native western harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis), or even a native eastern deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). While I think mice are cute, I’m not sufficiently interested to positively identify them. Besides, by the time I can examine them, Lizzie has mangled them.

Monarch Butterflies and a Hummingbird

While photographing Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) on Easter Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) came by to feed.

A picture of two monarch butterflies on purple coneflowers
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) on Eastern Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)
A picture of a monarch butterfly and hummingbird flying
A Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)

We have a pollinator-friendly yard. Actually, you could say it is pollinator-welcoming. We haven’t ever used pesticides in our yard and, over the 10+ years we have lived here, planted a lot of native flowering plants. We also don’t use weed killers so our lawn is full of dandelions and creeping charlie along with other flowering “weeds”. We keep our lawn mower blade at a height that allows most of those flowering plants an opportunity to bloom. And we have a lot of flowering trees. All in all, our yard is welcoming and supportive of pollinating insects.

Despite all the bees visiting our yard, I have found it is difficult to get good pictures of them. So I was excited when a bumblebee was willing to let me photograph it while it gathered pollen from a flowering tree. Below are some of the photographs.

Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
A bumblebee (Bombus spp.) gathering pollen from a flowering crab.
Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
A bumblebee (Bombus spp.) gathering pollen from a flowering crab.
Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
A bumblebee (Bombus spp.) gathering pollen from a flowering crab.
Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
A bumblebee (Bombus spp.) gathering pollen from a flowering crab.

First Observations of 2019, Part 2

This is a follow up to my First Observations of 2019 post from May.

On Sunday, June 7, around 4 in the afternoon, we heard the first cicadas of 2019. I call cicadas the “hot bugs” because they are the most active when the summer becomes hot. While the temperatures were pleasant on Sunday, I knew we were getting into the hot time of year when I heard the cicadas .

First Observations of 2019

This is the first year in which I recorded the first observations of the year. The following are a few of our observations:

  1. Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) – I heard but didn’t see the first red-winged blackbird in our yard on Sunday, March 31. This was 10 days after others had seen them in the Twin Cities area. I didn’t see or hear a red-winged blackbird again for at least a month. A pair, however, has set up home near us and are regular visitors to our tray feeder.
  2. I saw the first bumblebees on Monday, May 13.
  3. Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) – I saw a female ruby-throated hummingbird flying around our backyard on Wednesday, May 15. A day later I observed a male in our yard. They now visit our feeders numerous times per day.
  4. Kat saw the first monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on Thursday, May 16.


Every year, starting around mid-July, the cicadas emerge to serenade us. We typically have at any given time, what sounds to my ear, to be two or three cicadas in our yard. This year, however, there have been so many that I am unable to count them by listening. And they emerged earlier than usual, with the first being heard at the tail end of June!

An image of a cicada and exoskeleton
A cicada and a shed exoskeleton on a block of wood.

Near a stump in our yard, I counted nine shed exoskeletons and at least one live cicada.

An image of a cicada and cicada exoskeleton.
A cicada and a shed exoskeleton on a block of wood.

While cicadas and crickets aren’t attractive insects like monarch or swallowtail butterflies, I enjoy the buzz of the cicadas and the trill of crickets, especially at night when I have the bedroom windows open.