Category Archives: Pollinators

When Bees Ignore Blossoms

As a rule, bees will snub flowers that are low in nectar and pollen. Even favored blossoms like cherries can be lacking and the bees are evidently able to detect (nobody quite knows how) blossoms with low levels of these important substances. Sometimes this is because other bees have already been there and done that. There is some evidence that foraging bees leave behind a scent marker that other bees can sense. A study done at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California found that when bees approached flowers, then flew away without foraging, the rejected blossoms had about half the nectar of an average bloom.

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Posted in composting, Early Crops, Easy Care Perennials, Growing Berry Crops, Pollinators, Soil, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Weed Control | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Milkweed Magic

The warm season butterflies live for just a few weeks, long enough to lay more eggs. The spring cycle repeats twice more before the autumn-born fourth generation appear in September and October. These are the travelers, living for as much as 8 months and voyaging as far as Mexico. This still seems little short of magical to me. Years ago, my family spent summers on Cape Cod in an old artist’s studio. The windows were warping with age, and mine couldn’t quite shut, so a trumpet vine had wiggled its way into my bedroom. There was a chrysalis on one wandering arm and I was blessed and fascinated to watch a Monarch emerge in a matter of seconds from its little case. It flexed its wings, which expanded in the sunlight, then flew off through the open window, sparking a lifelong delight in the natural world. Continue reading

Posted in Easy Care Perennials, Garden Prep, Pollinators, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Winterizing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Friendly Fungi To The Rescue

Perhaps best known among gardeners as the leading source for kits for growing edible mushrooms, Fungi Perfecti is also the place to look for help for beleaguered bee colonies. Since 2014, Paul Stamets has been working with entomologist Dr. Steve Sheppard, head of the Washington State University APIS Molecular Systematics Laboratory, exploring ways in which specific fungi may prove beneficial for honey bees. So far, for example, they’ve found that worker bees resist viral diseases and live longer when fed extracts of certain polypore mushrooms, perhaps in part because such extracts provide B vitamins and a wider range of phytochemicals, micronutrients, and myconutrients than the simple sugar syrups bees are usually fed. Another research effort involves introducing a fungal insect pathogen (Metarhizium spp.) to hives infested with Varroa mites. Bees easily groom away the fungal parasites, which prey heavily on the Varroa mites. Check the website for ongoing information about this and other fascinating fungal projects. Continue reading

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When Ladybugs Might Bug You

When spring arrives and the air warms up, Korean ladybugs awaken and try to get back outside. For some folks, finding what might feel like an invading army of redcoats on the windows can trigger attempts to get rid of them. However, hungry ladybugs eat their weight daily in pests like aphids and whitefly eggs, and these little ladybirds can be terrific garden helpers. Put outside too soon, they’ll simply die for the lack of edible insects. Instead, tuck these beneficials away until spring is truly here. Continue reading

Posted in Gardening With Children, Moss, pests and pesticides, Pollinators, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living | 4 Comments