In Your Yard

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Monarchs Eat in East Lansing during Trip to Mexico

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
East Lansing monarch butterfly sips nectar from an area zinnia

Each fall, monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) from East Lansing fly south to the Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. Butterflies that mature during the late summer in East Lansing and other habitat east of the Rocky Mountains migrate thousands of miles south to overwinter in the Mexican bioreserve before heading north again in the spring. They get as far north as the Great Plains before laying their eggs and dying. The Great Plains’ offspring of the East Lansing original butterflies then continue the species’ migration north, back to the northern habitat.

BWL Easements Missing

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL) which supplies electrical power to a large section of East Lansing, appears to be lacking legal easements for its power lines, at least in a number of older neighborhoods including Glencairn and Oakwood. This unexpected discovery has been made by homeowners demanding to see copies of written easements before allowing BWL’s contractors to come onto their properties and cut vegetation.

Deer Encroachment and Damage in East Lansing Neighborhoods

Thursday, August 21, 2014
Ray Vlasin shows the damage caused by deer to a tree in his yard

On June 19th representatives from seven neighborhood associations came together at a meeting hosted by the Harrison Meadows Association. The other six neighborhoods participating were Walnut Heights, The Crossings, Shaw Estates, Whitehills, Abbott Parkside, and Pinecrest. They heard from Cathy DeShambo of East Lansing Public Works who is leading the city’s response to problems caused by growing deer herd size and encroachment into the residential neighborhoods of the city.  These problems include health and safety concerns and widespread property damage.

With Deer Come Tick-Borne Diseases

Wednesday, August 20, 2014
A field team associated with Dr. Hickling collects and analyzes ticks

This is an interview between Alice Dreger for ELi and Dr. Graham Hickling, an ecologist at the University of Tennessee who specializes in emerging wildlife diseases and their interface with humans and domestic animals. Hickling is a former resident of East Lansing and he continues to collaborate with faculty and students from Michigan State University to conduct annual fieldwork in Michigan. This interview, conducted by email, has been lightly edited for clarity with the final version approved by the interviewee.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The "Committee of the Whole" of the Board of Water and Light (BWL) met tonight and decided against conducting any discussion with old-growth East Lansing neighborhood associations about their concerns regarding the extent and type of cutting being done by Wright Tree Service, the contractor for BWL. As a consequence, trimming and removal of trees will resume first thing tomorrow morning.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014
BWL Tree Cutting in East Lansing

On Monday, August 18, representatives from the Board of Water and Light (BWL) met with members of East Lansing’s Oakwood and Glencairn neighborhoods at Hannah Community Center to discuss community concerns over BWL’s tree trimming and tree removal program in old-growth neighborhoods. At the meeting, Dennis Louney, First Ward Commissioner of BWL, assured those in attendance that BWL would not be doing further cutting until a better system has been established. Residents specifically asked for a compromise to save as many trees as possible.

Hawks in East Lansing: Signs of a Healthy Ecosystem

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Imagine my surprise when, one day this week, I was watching the songbirds at my birdbath when this fellow swooped down to get himself some lunch! I'm not sure what, if anything, he caught, but he stuck around for the yard for a while, hunting by alternately staying still and silent and then suddenly bursting into activity to try for a kill. Based on a careful review of Peterson's bird books, as well as consultation with a colleague who birds in a serious way, we suspect this is a juvenile cooper's hawk, or a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk.

Sex in the Backyard: An ELi Exclusive Report

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sexual reproduction is very old and is the best part of what separates us from blue-green algae. In fact, sexual reproduction is about 1 billion years old compared to, say, the 6-year-old mole on the right side of my face. A fairer comparison is modern humans; we clock in at about 200,000 years (depending on who you read). If modern humans are the proverbial "blink of an eye in geological terms," then sexual reproduction comes in at 5,000 blinks, or about an hour on a treadmill. In other words, a very long time. No wonder we are so into it.

City Provides Parkway Planting Tips

Friday, August 24, 2012

We thought it would be helpful to follow up our article on "Planting Your Parkway" with answers to common questions about parkways (the green strip commonly found in East Lansing between the sidewalk and the curb). For these, we turned to Todd Sneathen, Director of Public Works for the City of East Lansing.

Sneathen confirmed that the city has rights to the parkway but that property owners are responsible for basic upkeep of the parkways in front of their properties. Property owners can plant flowers in the parkway if they want, although they should keep in mind that occasionally somebody has to dig in the parkway for things like electrical, gas, or water lines.

Some of the trees you'll see in parkways have been planted by the city, and some have been planted by homeowners. In the spring and fall, when funding permits you may see City workers planting trees to replace removed trees. The city follows the "Right Tree, Right Place" philosophy of planting. The idea is not only to pick a tree that will thrive, but also to pick one whose thriving will not damage sidewalks and curbs and will not cause problems for utilities.

Student Organic Farm Offers Delights

Thursday, August 23, 2012


The MSU Student Organic Farm is offering its many delights every Thursday from 11 am to 5 pm on Farm Lane, just in front of the MSU Auditorium. The student-run farm stand offers fruit, eggs, flowers, honey, vegetables, and herbs. They are also now taking orders for organically-raised pork. Products are certified organic. Sales will continue weekly through the end of October.

Big Year for Painted Ladies

Monday, August 6, 2012

Who needs the Kardashians when you've got these babies grabbing onto your seeds? For whatever reason it was a big spring for Painted Lady butterflies. In looking up this species, I discovered that the genus name is Vanessa and the subgenus is Cynthia. This is a large butterfly with black and white corners on deep orange wings. While there are no Vanessa or Cynthia Kardashians that i know of, the Kardashians do seem to generally be deep orange with black tips. And yes, I do know that butterflies actually feed on nectar. I don't know what Kardashians eat, but perhaps seeds.

Plant Your Parkway: Attract Goldfinches, Honeybees, and Neighbors

Monday, August 6, 2012

You know that funny strip of land that comes between your sidewalk and your curb? That's officially called a "parkway" or "right-of-way." Technically the city has rights over it, although you the property owner are responsible for the upkeep. What a deal! The upside of this is that you don't have to keep it full of grass or weeds. You can actually plant flowers.

Visit the Lively East Lansing Farmers' Market

Monday, August 6, 2012

The East Lansing Farmers' Market is the hoppin' place to be every Sunday, 10 am - 2 pm. The market, in Valley Court Park (behind Crunchy's) features a wonderful array of locally-grown delights, including garlic, eggplant, tomatoes of many varieties, sweet corn, mint, Thai basil, runner beans, and even pumpkins (early!).

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