Posts Tagged ‘pollination’

A Quickie on Pollination

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There can’t be anybody left who doesn’t know about our pollinator crisis. I was saddened recently when an experienced beekeeper who is profoundly attentive to her bees told me that she lost a third of her hives over the last year. It can’t be overstated that our friend over millennia, Apis mellifera, is in deep trouble and therefore so are we.

This makes our remaining pollinators even more important. Everyone recognizes bumblebees and knows that they are active pollinators,  and in my area most people recognize the coal black stylish looking carpenter bee.  Unfortunately, they recognize it because they think it is a danger to their houses and tend to reach for spray the minute they see it.  Carpenter bees are active pollinators and adapted to our area and spraying them is a really, really bad idea under most circumstances, but when I did a search on them to find a photograph, I was horrified to find that almost all  the hits that I found were about exterminating them and advised application of “residual pesticides,” i.e. pesticides that leave residues which kill for a long time after they are sprayed.  This is sick stuff, in my view, especially since it kills large numbers of other species.  On the other hand, I own a house with exposed wood beams and don’t want my house bored into any more than anybody else does.  I have repeatedly noticed that the carpenter bees like cottonwood, and have decided to keep a pile of cottonwood logs and branches where the bees can burrow around at peace.  I read that they also will not attack painted wood. Clearly, I will be watching my beams closely for signs of invasion, and if I see carpenter bee activity I will consult an entomologist (not an exterminator, since they have a business interest in selling me their poisonous services) about what to do. But so far that hasn’t happened. And I guess that’s my real point: the mere sight of something that might potentially be harmful but that is minding its own business at the moment is not a reason to get reactive and act harmfully. The mindset of permaculture and homesteading is to avoid making a hazard out of something that isn’t.  This point is rather neatly illustrated below:

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Help our bees. All of them.

The Bee Banquet

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Surely everyone knows by now about the bee/pollinator crisis, and all I plan to mention here is that we gardeners can do a bit to maintain the bees that we have left. If you want your fruit trees and squash to bear, then bees are a personal issue for you, and the best things that you can do for them are garden without any insecticide sprays (the drift from which can spread a long way and is very toxic to bees) and feed them. This year I’ve managed to keep a succession of plants blooming that are attractive to bees, but by far their favorite is the common Shirley poppy, available in nearly every seed catalog. While the weather is still cold, scatter the fine tiny seed around in spots where the poppies can get big and bushy in midsummer, keep the area watered and weeded, and let them do their effulgently gorgeous thing. I scatter the seeds around my tomato bed in late winter, they hog the bed in June, and then can be pulled out after blooming to give the tomatoes breathing room. Every morning they lift my spirits twice: first when I catch sight of them and again when I get closer and hear the continual hum of bees working. I am thinking of getting a beehive so that the third thrill can occur when I see them filling combs.
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I should add that the leaves of Papaver rhoeas are edible in cooked greens mixtures, but they are no great shakes, so think of this plant as food for the bees, not you.