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Friday, July 31, 2015

What was the creature I saw in my garden?

“There was something flying around the flowers in my garden. Its wings were moving so fast, but it looked too small to be a hummingbird. Do you know what it was?”

Our patron brought in a picture of the little creature they saw in the garden. It looked plump and soft to the touch, with a green and red body and a white underbelly. Its wings were a blur. It appeared to have antennae and a proboscis, so we looked for it in the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders and found it in the moth section.

Our patron’s garden visitor was a hummingbird moth. It’s a member of the moth family that’s active during the day and can be seen from May to September. The hummingbird moth uses its long tongue to feed on nectar from long-necked flowers. Its wings beat so fast that it can produce a hum, still audible but softer than an actual hummingbird’s. According to the U.S. Forest Service website, the moth that our patron saw was a hummingbird clear wing, distinguishable by its red color.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Can you save an overwatered plant?

If your potted plant is looking yellow and wilted even though you’ve been watering it regularly, it’s possible that you’ve been watering it too much. Too much water stresses out your plant, makes it more susceptible to disease, and can cause the roots to rot. Fortunately, you still may be able to save it.

Move the plant to the shade, since it won’t be able to take in all the water it needs to be in proper sun. If the soil doesn’t seem to be drying out quickly enough, you can repot the plant entirely. (With succulents and other plants that need very little water, you can even leave the plant lying out on paper towels or something other absorbent surface while the root ball dries out.)

Make sure that your plant is draining well. If there aren’t drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, you can drill a few or else repot the plant. Mixing in vermiculite can help make the soil less dense.

If you’re concerned about root rot, repot the plant, dispose of the old soil, and sterilize the old pot. (Root rot is caused by a fungus, and you want to be careful to keep from spreading it to other plants. Wash your hands between handling infected and healthy plants.) You can try trimming away the diseased roots (they will be recognizable by their weak, mushy texture) or treating the plant with a fungicide.

We got our information on rescuing overwatered plants from Gardening Know How, Proven Winners, Ortho’s Guide to Successful Houseplants, and The Houseplant Expert: Book Two. Both books are available at the Newton Falls Public Library, along with others like Tovah Martin’s The Indestructible Houseplant.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What does the Newton Falls welcome sign say?

“Can you tell me what the Newton Falls welcome sign says? I know it’s something about churches.”

The Newton Falls Public Library has a Facebook page where people are welcome to post questions. Recently, we saw that someone had posted asking about the town welcome sign. While our librarians remembered the sign, none of us could recall the exact wording.

Because the library had just opened and none of us could go out in town looking for it, we managed to find the answer without leaving the building. First, we looked through some photos from the Local History Room, but we didn’t have any luck there. Then we checked the City of Newton Falls and Newton Falls Commerce Association websites to see if either of them had posted pictures. The Commerce Associate had a picture of the sign on Route 5, which reads “NEWTON FALLS HAS ZIP 44444” and includes a list of local businesses and organizations, but there’s no mention of churches.

We took a virtual tour of the town via the street view option on Google Maps. One of the librarians remembered seeing a welcome sign in the middle of town, so we navigated to the intersection of Broad and Center and there it was. Lettered in orange, the sign says:
“Welcome to our community
Newton Falls Kiwanis Club

Attend the church of your choice.”

Friday, July 10, 2015

What kind of moth is this?

A large moth – about three inches long – was resting on the library’s back door, and we wanted to try and identify it. Its fuzzy-looking legs and body were a rusty orange color and its grey wings were veined with the same shade of orange. Both its body and wings were patterned with ivory markings.  

One of our librarians checked the Moths of Ohio Field Guide on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website while another looked in Butterflies and Moths: A Guide to the More Common American Species by Robert T. Mitchell and Herbert S. Zim. At the same time, we both came across the Regal Moth, also known as the Royal Walnut Moth. Its distinctive colors and markings matched our moth’s exactly.

The Regal Moth is active in Ohio during June and July. While it’s more common in the southern part of the state, it can be found wherever its food sources (hickory and walnut, primarily) are available. The adult moth actually doesn’t eat or drink at all. It only lives about a week, long enough to mate and lay eggs. The larva can grow to be about six inches long, “the size of a small hotdog,” according to the Moths of Ohio Field Guide. It’s called the Hickory Horned Devil after its favorite food and inch-long red spikes. As ferocious as it looks, though, the Hickory Horned Devil is harmless; its spikes are just for show.