Seattle Life in the Yard

Sustain biodiversity: garden with native plants.

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Life in the Yard

Life in the Yard is the lity at the end of Seattle hence seattlelity. I really love this yard I get to live in; it is as though we live in a tiny piece of Northwest forest. I can look out any window and see big red-cedars or native shrubs or both.
Each morning when I fetch the newspaper and breath in the fresh smells of this tiny forest, I hear birds of different species in addition to our resident family of crows – robins, flickers, song sparrows, chickadees and many I am unable to identify. The resident Eastern gray squirrels make little chirpy sounds too and they are really busy this time of year with chasing and mating and nesting; they are quite the entertainment for me and our adopted dog, Cody.
This wasn’t really a tiny forest when we bought this property and moved here in the summer of 1992. I have developed my knowledge about managing this yard and the things that grow here by submitting to the overwhelming presence of these amazing red-cedar trees. The things that were planted here were the standard popular alien landscaping plants and invasive alien volunteers, some of which had formed impenetrable thickets. There was a lawn here when we moved here but over time I realized how pointless it was to maintain a garden style so alien to our climate, ecology and the gifts that these trees give to this tiny footprint of forest floor. The added plus was that we got rid of the lawn mower and the annoying chore of weekly lawn mowing – ugh!
I have found amazing, delightful native plants that simply love to share this tiny forest with these big trees and the work required to maintain the yard is minimal and simple compared to what we used to do. I have gotten many wonderful plants from the excellent annual Snohomish Conservation District bare root native plant sale and from, my favorite native plant nursery, Tadpole Haven, which has occasional open house days to sell to the public. Tadpole Haven, recently got a big media plug from Cisco Morris and I was so thrilled to see them get that special attention because they provide such an important service of making good quality native plants available for ecosystem gardeners. The Washington Native Plant Society should be having their spring sale fund raiser soon, in early May, with details on their website.
The transition of this yard to a tiny piece of Northwest forest has given so much to the life in this yard.

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Invasive New Bug

Sharon J. Collman (WSU Snohomish County Extension) has posted information about a little red invasive beetle and I thought some of you might be interested in keeping a look out for it. It was found & identified last spring and now is about the time it could start to show up if you are going to see it. The wordpress link below has a good picture.
I asked permission to pass on her information and she said yes, so here is what she had posted to an email group I subscribe to: >>>>>

Last spring, a lovely red but devastating, new leaf beetle invaded Bellevue.
This invasive species was reported to the WSU Plant Diagnostic Laboratory and sent to the Washington State Department of Agriculture by an alert citizen. This beetle is known from Europe and Turkey and may be Mediterranean in origin. It has been restricted to seven northeast coastal states since the early 1990s, but until last spring was not recorded anywhere west of those states. It has overwintered successfully at both locations in Bellevue. The two reporting households are two miles apart and neighbors in the north location also have seen the beetles on their plants.

The beetles are reported to be strong fliers so they could spread quickly. On the upside of this insect, they emit amusing little squeaks, or perhaps a chorus of protest, when handled. Photos and more information can be found at . From there click the link to a more comprehensive fact sheet with more photos by Eric LaGasa, WSDA, and WSU faculty Todd Murray and Jenny Glass.

This beetle represents no threat to most landscape plants as it specifically feeds on lilies (not daylilies) fritillaries and some native species of lily relatives, and less frequently, members of the nightshade family (e.g. potatoes). They will likely have the most impact on the cut flower industry, lily growers, lily exporters, lily hobbyists and possibly some of our related native plants such as Solomon’s seal. Also, the damage from beetles may trigger an increase in pesticide use.

One of our two alert citizens said that the beetles began crawling around his lilies on May 18th, and were already mating and laying eggs; the other citizen says she’s also seen them mating and laying eggs. Both are collecting samples so we can determine what their life cycle will be in our area. In the east, they are reported to have 2 generations per year.

The collected beetles also will be sent to Canadian scientists who are studying the genetics of this beetle to determine if they came from separate populations (and thus different origins), or if they came from the eastern states. They are trying to trace the route of movement of this invasive species.

WSDA is trying to determine just how far this beetle has spread in the Bellevue area. Homeowners or growers should inspect their plants for the beautiful bright red little beetles, or their red eggs. Soon their larvae, which cover themselves with their frass (bug poo) and look like little bags of slime, should also be visible. Feeding damage to lilies includes scraping off the leafy surface or chewing from the edges of leaves. The scraped leaves then wilt or “melt” away.

It may be that this population of the red lily beetle is small enough that with some vigilance the population can be eradicated. It will take the efforts of everyone to delineate this population and stop the spread of this beetle. There is no funding for government intervention.

To help us determine the extent that this beetle has spread, anyone finding the red lily leaf beetle is requested to report it to Eric LaGasa (, phone: 360-902-2063), or Chris Looney, (, phone: 360.902.2042)Washington Department of Agriculture (email:, phone: 360-902-2063), or Sharon J. Collman, WSU Snohomish County Extension (email:, phone:
425-357-6025). Be reassured that this is a safe action with no negative consequences and no blame will be assigned. <<<<<

Wow. Keep your eyes open for these little buggers and we can be good citizen scientists if we find and report.
All the best.