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This column is part of a series of excerpts from subjects recently presented at the Saturday Gardening Series, a spring program of educational classes taught by Master Gardeners affiliated with The Ohio State University Summit County Extension Office.
GREATER AKRON — Master Gardener Priscilla Kiehl, of Akron, demonstrated the art of concrete leaf casting to seminar participants. Leaf castings are made with ready-mix cement and other ingredients that are layered on a large living leaf that is placed face down on a mound of sand in a tub. On a flat surface or in a box large enough to fit the leaf, place a mound of damp sand.
Gently remove leaf and cover the mound with plastic wrap or dry cleaner bags, then replace the leaf, face down, on top of the plastic-covered mound. Next, take a palmful of the mix and place it on the top of the leaf. To hang the casting on a fence or railing, use a small piece of 16-gauge wire cut approximately 2 inches long, twisted to make a loop with tails.
Cover the leaf with plastic loosely, or a damp cloth if it’s a warm day. Concrete leaf castings can decorate your dinner table as well as your garden. For more information, call the OSU Summit County hotline Tuesdays or Thursdays between 9 a.m. Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener, with a B.A.
Cyclocross started in Europe more than one hundred years ago when cyclist were looking for a way to stay fit in winter. Cyclocross requires the power of a sprinter, the speed and endurance of a time trialist, the bike-handling skills of a mountain biker and the tactics of a road racer.
It is not surprising that cyclocross has become the fastest growing part of the sport of cycling in the U.S.
Events foster a festive atmosphere and encourage everyone to have fun while racing as hard as possible. Wait… Did Someone Mention Summit Ladybugs?Have you ever been on a mountain and seen hundreds, possibly thousands, of ladybugs crowding on a rock or log? For only a several months during every year, typically during Spring months, the convergent ladybug becomes a voracious eater of aphids.
The convergent ladybug is the most common species of ladybug in North America, and as such has many places to choose for hibernation locations. Mountain-bound convergent ladybugs are not typically in swarms during these in-flight migrations.
It is during these periods of summit swarms that mountaineers most frequently notice the ladybugs. It is unknown exactly why many convergent ladybugs seek out high elevations, but many people speculate it is because high mountain summits are located far away from most primary predators such as other insects, birds, and spiders.
These locations later become covered for many months by Winter snowpack, insulating them from the harsh sub-freezing winds and temperatures that would otherwise kill them. So the next time you find colonies of ladybugs converging on on a summit, just remember it is a natural occurrence that should be treasured and enjoyed while it lasts.
I assume you were not wearing a red shirt with black polka dots, or else biting by the ladybugs might have been the least of your concerns. Here is a link to a site that encourages people to send in their photos of ladybugs so they can track where different species still are, since the ladybug population is suffering lately.

November 2-4, 2011- Strength-Based Grant Writing Workshop, Priest Field Pastoral Center, Kearneysville, WV, with Alice Ruhnke and Trish Hatfield. The best leaf castings are made with leaves that are deeply ribbed on the underside. The plastic wrap must extend out from the edges of the leaf, as this keeps the concrete from coming into contact with the sand. Begin working the mixture toward the edge of the leaf, but not quite to the edge.
Place this loop in the back of the leaf a small distance from where the stem would join the leaf. It can be sealed with a concrete sealer or painted with latex house paint diluted 1:1 with water. Once the concrete is cured and sealed, the casting can be used as a serving dish for finger food as shown in the photograph at far left. Photo Credit: "thephotohiker"Who Cares About Ladybugs?Technically, and contrary to popular belief (at least in North America) ladybugs are not true bugs at all. Although the convergent ladybug can survive for long periods on other substances such as pollens, nectars, flower petals, and soft plants, aphids are an integral food source for the life cycle of the convergent ladybug.
Like adults, larval and pupal convergent ladybugs require consumption of aphids to ensure survival. As the aphid-feeding season ends towards late Spring, many convergent ladybugs remain in those areas and find hiding places such as under leaf litter or under logs for which to begin hibernation. Photo Credit: "mbjakusz"Head For The Hills!During late Spring and early Summer, many convergent ladybugs begin migrating towards mountainous areas.
Occasionally, they will land on ground to consume pollens and nectars as a means to fatten up their bodies for survival during hibernation. Where there is one ladybug there is usually hundreds if not thousands congregrating nearby.
Photo Credit: "CalebEOC"Time Flies (And So Does A Ladybug)Those interested in seeing this unique high elevation phenomenom should do so while the opportunity presents itself. Some days might occasionally be warmer than normal, and during those periods some mating will occur as the beetles temporarily become active again. To paint, brush on the paint color and quickly wipe it off with an old cloth. Davis is certified as a Master Gardener under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension. After Catholic farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for assistance with getting rid of the menacing insects, legend claims that beetles came from the sky and began eating all of the crop-damaging insects. The beetles have been around for many millennia, with the earliest identifiable fossils of ladybug ancestors dating back to the Cretaceous Period (between 144 to 65 million years ago). Without aphids as their primary food source, female convergent ladybugs reabsorb their eggs within their bodies rather than laying them.
This is yet another reason that adult convergent ladybugs seek areas of large aphid populations; it ensures the survival of the species. Many others will migrate away from the feeding areas to find similar low elevation locations for which to begin hibernation. The trek is not a graceful, straightforward type, as wind currents and air temperatures greatly influence migratory patterns. However, once they find their desired high elevation summits they tend to swarm en masse and form colonies.

During late Summer and early Autumn, as the weather becomes rainier and temperatures cool, many of the convergent ladybugs leave the high mountain summits in favor of lower elevations.
Later, after temperatures become warmer during late Winter and early Spring, the ladybugs begin to emerge and migrate back to their Spring aphid-feeding and reproducing areas, restarting the cycle. To add another color, repeat the steps above. Many scientists prefer referencing the names ladybird beetle or lady beetle as identifying names, rather than the more widespread and less accurate ladybug moniker.
The farmers, believing their prayers were answered by the Virgin Mary herself, nicknamed the saviors “Beetles of Our Lady,” which later got shortened down to ladybugs. With aphids as their primary food source, female convergent ladybugs can each lay 200-1000 eggs during one Spring season. Not all adults reproduce during aphid-feeding periods; some will wait until the following Spring to do so. Winds help propel the flights of convergent ladybugs, pushing them higher and closer towards higher elevations.
Most of these mountain summit goals range between 6000’-8000’ elevation, but some might be as high as 10000’ elevation (or possibly higher) depending on current conditions. In many instances, they migrate to sub-alpine areas within 2000’-5000’ elevation, only to hide under leaf litter, in or under logs, or other secluded locations for which to spend the remainder of their diapause in a dormant to semi-dormant state. Place more concrete on top of the twist so just the circle remains exposed. If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then this article might be suited for you.
However, for the purposes of this article, the more common and recognizable (at least in North America) ladybug name will be referenced. In fact, there are over 5000 species of ladybugs, approximately 450 of which are native to North America. Adult convergent ladybugs prefer feeding in areas of large aphid populations, to increase egg laying potential. As the aphid-feeding season ends, the species begins migrating towards potential hibernation locations. However, once the ladybugs reach air temperatures of approximately 55°F they need to stop flying, triggering a temporary free-fall until their bodies can warm up enough to continue the migration.
This timeframe represents the beginning of diapause, which is the nine-month period of hibernation process for convergent ladybugs. In such areas of large aphid populations, it is not unusual for an adult convergent ladybug to consume an average of 22 aphids per day. This causes a sort of repetitive oscillation effect, the side-view of which would look like a sine wave.
Many within the species will begin mating during this first stage of diapause, and larger colonies have greater chances for successful mating.

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