Category Archives: Soil

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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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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More Manure, Less Ecological Destruction

In its natural environment, peat moss is highly acidic and nearly sterile, but by the time it is dried and baled, it can harbor spores of fungal diseases that has proven to be dangerous to handlers. Nursery workers are warned by law to wear double gloves and micron filtration masks when handling peat moss. The gardener is not told anything, yet those who handle peat moss regularly are at risk for fungal pneumonias and other illnesses. Worst of all in my mind, peat moss is not a renewable resource. Bogs are delicate, intricate environments that host a great and beautiful diversity of living fauna and flora. When bogs are destroyed by peat mining, companies are now forced to “restore” them, but to date, the artificial, “managed” bogs never achieve the biodiversity of the original habitat. Continue reading

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Saint Patrick’s Day, Or Maybe Not

Print PDFOf Lilac Leaves And Planting Peas When I was a young gardener, I recall being told that the proper time to plant peas was on Saint Patrick’s Day. It stuck in my mind because I learned this bit of … Continue reading

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