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let's talk about the bees

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  • let's talk about the bees

    I am sure most or all have heard something about the demise of the honeybee, and the impending doom we will all suffer should the populations drop too low.

    The honeybee in America is an invasive species, first introduced in 1622. America's fossil record indicates we had plenty of plants, insects, etc 14 million years ago. Who was pollinating everything before 1622?

    I don't have an extensive garden, but I do have an intensive garden. I've paid attention to the pollinators on my plants for the last couple years, and have seen no honeybees at all- not one. I've seen plenty of bees, I even provide living quarters for our native bees, but no honeybees. All my veggies bore fruit, i harvested 20 lbs of romas alone, all our trees set seeds, grasses and weeds multiply abundantly without a single honeybee. We have thousands of species of bees in the world, less than a dozen of them are honeybees, and only two of them are 'domesticated'. On a per bee basis, honeybees are extremely inefficient, a single red mason bee is equivalent to 120 worker honeybees in the pollination it provides.

    Am I missing something?
    Buffalo Bif
    www.bflobif.com

  • #2
    I think we are ALL missing something. I noticed the same things as you over the last couple of years because I was looking intensely. There's more that we don't understand than we do. Nature has an uncanny ability to do the miraculous!

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    • #3
      Yes, there are many native species that pollinate, and they too are in trouble. That is why I joined the Xerces Society. They promote native species, and give great tips for gardeners. I am adding a link, if you look under "our work" and select "protecting pollinators" you can read more about them. I have been documenting bumble bees and posting them, I would love to see one of the really endangered ones in my yard. I have physical limitations and this is still something I can do, and you can see I have a passion for it! It is the home gardeners that just might save our pollinators, and even if you don't want to get involved, having your intensive garden helps more than you know!
      http://www.xerces.org/

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      • #4
        Thanks for the link, Sappy.
        Native bee homes are the easiest thing in the world to make- drill holes in a piece of wood. I have a firewood rack made of 2x4's, drilled a dozen and a half +/- 3/16" holes 3" deep, the bees moved in and laid their eggs. You can tell they are occupied when the opening is blocked. Deeper hole are better, the sex of the new bees is determined by their location in the hole. They are also very pretty, colors range from black to iridescent blues and green. Being solitary, they are unlikely to sting, and some are even stingless.
        Buffalo Bif
        www.bflobif.com

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        • #5
          That is really great, and that you get joy out of watching insects...really neat! I have gotten over my fear of bees and don't mind being among them when I am out in my garden area now. My garden is really small and mostly in pots elevated so I can work in them. I am trying for butterflies in my yard. I had three this year. Hadn't seen any for several years. You can make butterfly houses too, and that is in my plans for next spring.

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          • #6
            I have been working on solitary bee research for the past two summers, essentially assessing populations of Mason and leaf cutter bees in my area.

            hutch1.jpg

            . This is a fun project and anyone can provide suitable habitat for these bees. Here is one of my hutches. You can buy nests or make them your self.
            Terry

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            • #7
              We have a fair sized garden and used to get hundreds of bees every spring. We had a couple of bushes that flowered bright nicely scented flowers each spring that they loved . Unfortunately both these plants for some type of mold and I had to cut them down so we don't see as many bees now and because of this wasn't really sure what to think.
              I'm fascinated with them but I am with most insects. I'm going to try and get another one of those flowering bushes.
              In our backyard we have a big lilac garden that attracts a lot of butterflies; especially those yellow and black ones.
              Another fascinating thing about them is the distance they migrate. It's mind boggling how far they actually travel.

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              • #8
                I was introduced to solitary bees somewhere around fifteen years ago- driving down the road at 40 mph with my hand out the open window. Little bugger didn't like getting hit at that speed, musta had somewhere to go. He/she stung me and I got a good look before the wind took it away. Never saw a black bee, or one so small. Been watching them since, amazed at the variety. Made my first hotel just this spring, a little more 'exclusive' than Nomad's- only a couple dozen rooms, roughly half occupied this summer.

                I'm glad to see so many looking after these little guys.
                Buffalo Bif
                www.bflobif.com

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                • #9
                  Another way to make a nest is to roll paper around a pencil. Make a bunch and put them in a can. Hang the can up.
                  papertubes1b.jpg
                  Terry

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                  • #10
                    Do you ever have problems with wasps taking these hotels over?

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                    • #11
                      It's interesting to build a bee-hotel. I did the holes-in-a-wood-block style.
                      Then I got to thinking that the house is fine but what about bee-food? What sorts of plants are most attractive?
                      Watching the bees shred my rose bush leaves and feed in the flowers explained that.

                      Bumble bees pollinate my grape vines. Think about that loss for a minute!
                      Grape flower clusters don't look like much of anything, no petals, that sort of thing.
                      But the bumble bees know exactly what to go for. They walk around and around and around
                      then off to the next one. Last few summers, they have nested under my garden shed, which is fine by me.

                      The nest is a big pancake shaped thing (I've found then in mounds of dry grass) with a couple
                      layers of loose cells, fingertip size. I opened one, had a look then replaced the lid.
                      They didn't seem to upset about imy intrusion at all.
                      Brian T

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                      • #12
                        Sappy, holes the bees like seem too small for the wasps to fit into.

                        Nomad, what size holes do you find work best?
                        Buffalo Bif
                        www.bflobif.com

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Buffalo Bif View Post
                          Sappy, holes the bees like seem too small for the wasps to fit into.

                          Nomad, what size holes do you find work best?
                          I use 5/16" and 1/4" holes when I drill them.

                          In regards to wasps. when I was a graduate student, I worked on a project in the UP of Michigan working with leaf cutter bees. These are absolutely fascinating to watch. Mason bees line their nests with mud but leaf cutter bees line their nests with leaves. They cut two kinds of leaves, round leaves and oblong leaves. They line their nests with the oblong leaves, then begin provisioning the nest with pollen and nectar. They travel back and forth to the nest until they have enough provisions, then they lay an egg and go out and cut some round leaves to cap the cell, then start on the next cell.

                          Now when they lay that egg, their behavior becomes spasmodic, they will leave and return, leave and return, again and again, then they will cut a round leaf and cap the cell. They do this because frequently there is a parasitic wasp (parasitoid) hanging around the nest just waiting for the egg to be laid and they want to confuse the wasp. The wasp wants to sneak in and lay its egg in the same nest. If the bee returns and finds the wasp inside, it will usually drag the wasp out, then abandon the nest entirely.
                          Terry

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                          • #14
                            I kept bee hives for years and would still if it weren't for the bears. Too much effort to bear proof hives. Beekeeping is like would carving it is addictive. The fear of honeybees disappearing is in commercial gardens and orchards. Solitary bees are just not efficient as one hive of 60,000 plus honeybees.

                            I have never tried it but many years ago was in a fairly large garden and saw bundles of soda straws hanging in the surrounding trees. This was my first introduction to non-honeybee pollination. The old timer assured me that these soda straw homes insured that his plants would receive plenty of pollination.

                            Interesting that the honeybees are exotics. Some of the Native Americans noted the arrival of honeybees in their area coinciding with the arrival of Europeans. They started calling the honeybees, "White Man's Flies."

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                            • #15
                              I grow trees and plants that attract bugs, bees, and butterflies....it helps my garden eco system. But honestly..... Until the world understands in depth what permaculture is and how it effects the trees, animals, and all of life....and it is just not the honeybees we have to worry about .....we are all doomed. If the industrial honey growers would stop feeding those bees corn syrup which cause weak and diseased bee we would have a part of the issue resolved. I have carpenter bees, and boy they love drilling big holes and major tunnels into your wood parts of your house. I do not make houses for the bees and wasp. They are plentiful here including the honey bee. Yellow jackets are the worst, those nest underground or ones bigger then your head in the trees,....you need to run and fast.....
                              . Explore! Dream! Discover!” aloha Di

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