Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Buzz About Pollinators

A bumblebee on our cherry blossoms today

As I sat here at my desk wondering what to write about today I was looking out at our Montmorency Cherry Tree and saw all sorts of pollinators checking out our beautiful blossoms. It struck me, what better to write about than bees? Our unsung heroes of all things beautiful and yummy. The media is doing quite a bit of harm to our little winged friends right now with the news of the infamous "murder hornet" so I figure we should really take a moment to stop and help those who are helping us. If it weren't for bees we wouldn't have the fruits, vegetables and berries that we do. Here are a few facts regarding bees:

*Bees can visit up to 5,000 flowers in one day.

*An average size bee colony will collect up to 100 pounds of pollen in a single season- that's right fellow allergy suffers they are collecting that dreadful death dust and taking it away to create our antidote-local honey.

*The main crops that bees pollinate are apples (among most other fruiting trees), blueberries, pumpkins and watermelon. Without bees we will not have these fruits and vegetables without manual pollination which no one really has time for and I won't even bore you with the details of how it is done.

*The projected life expectancy of the human race without bees is FOUR YEARS

So how can we help?

Plant flowering perennials in your yard. Perennials that I often see pollinators on in our yard other than our fruit trees, berry bushes and vegetable garden are lungwort, peony, chives (herb), veronica bush, butterfly bush, black eyed susans, sedum and spirea. You don't have to be a master gardener to keep these plants looking beautiful. Plant them once and enjoy them for years to come, you can even propagate them later on to add them to another part of your property or gift to a friend. 

I don't often see many bees at my hummingbird feeders but I like to keep the nectar fresh and available anyway so there is enough to go around as hummingbirds are also pollinators requiring significant amounts of nectar as well. In our yard there is no need for competition for food and no one goes hungry. ***Be sure to make your own nectar as well for the hummingbirds as the red dye in store bought nectar's are harmful and quite honestly you're paying too much. 4 parts water- 1 part sugar, bring to a rolling boil for 5 minutes, let it cool and fill your feeders. It is that simple. I promise even though it is not red they will still come and it will not harm them like the red dyes.***

What most of us don't typically think of when it comes to bees is access to water. Bees don't only collect pollen and nectar they also need fresh water. Not only because they are working so hard and are thirsty just like us but because it is detrimental to the health of the hive and quality of the honey. Humidity in the hive is used to control the temperature and to dilute honey that has started to crystallize to turn it back to liquid, or in some cases when it has dried completely to sugar, to dissolve the sugar away to make room for new honey. Not only that but the "nurse bees" need water to dilute the food secreted from their heads when feeding the larvae and queen so they can raise the next generation of pollinators.

But how do we water bees? I've read a few different ways to do this safely so the bees don't drown. Most recently I read that you can fill a 5 gallon pail and throw a few wine corks in to allow the bees a place to land and drink without falling in. I suppose if you have an apiary (your own bee colony) that this would suffice. However I don't love the idea of our blue Lowes bucket with wine corks floating in it in the center of our meticulously cared to flower bed. So you know that bird bath you might have that the birds simply don't appreciate or use nearly enough? (At least mine never do) Or an old ceramic planter bottom with no holes in it?  Well that will make the perfect pollinator waterer. Simply add a bag of colored marbles or glass stones to the bottom and fill the water to just about the top of the rocks/ marbles and the bees and butterflies will land and sip the water from between the rocks! And its quite cute to look at! I haven't made  one yet but it's on my to do list this summer. Here's a picture of what they look like:

This photo has been borrowed for the good of bees from Pinterest.

You don't have to spend a ton of time tending your yard or caring for each individual pollinator. A few plants and freshening up water and nectar once a week and you will have a huge impact on your surrounding bee colonies!! Take care everyone.

Yours Truly,

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