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How to Design and Plant a Bee Garden

[via news.yahoo.com]

How to design and plant a bee garden

Wildlife-loving gardeners across the world enthuse about planting butterfly gardens, but relatively few think to design and plant a bee garden. Designing and planting a bee garden will bolster the health of your garden and help conserve one of earth’s treasures.

Why Design and Plant a Bee Garden

There are over 3,500 species of bees native to the United States. Unfortunately, due to land development and the extensive use of pesticides, their numbers are declining. In fact, the entire world is experiencing a shortage of bees. Why is this a problem?

Bees provide the much-needed service of pollinating plants. Approximately 80 percent of the flowering plants on earth require the help of pollinators, such as bees, for survival. That includes the plants which serve as food for humans. It is estimated one out of every three bites of food we take is made possible by bees and other pollinating wildlife.

Planting a well-designed bee garden provides food and shelter for bees, allowing them to nest and increase their population in safety. In return, the bees will increase the health and productivity of your garden and the gardens of those around you.

How to Design and Plant a Bee Garden

Variety is the spice of life to a bee. Bee gardens that use 10 or more species of bee-preferred plants tend to be the most successful. Bees will even visit less attractive plants in these gardens while they are there. Using a wide variety of preferred plants in your bee garden will also attract a wide variety of bees. This is especially true when you choose to use a nice assortment of plants native to your area.

Bee season goes from March through October. Choose a selection of plants that will bloom successively during this time period. A continuous provision of nectar and pollen will be available to bees if one type of bloom becomes available as another is dying out.

Flowers should be planted in large patches of like varieties to allow bees to dine in one spot for long periods of time. Gardens with scattered plants do not attract as many visits, and therefore receive less pollination, because bees expend too much energy flying between locations.

Bees thrive in gardens that are not extremely manicured, as solitary bees (ones who do not live in colonies) often prefer to make their nests in the ground. If you prefer the manicured look of mulch, leave some areas of dirt exposed for solitary bee nesting. Bee houses are an option when a manicured garden look is preferred. Place them in the shady areas of your garden where they will not be disturbed. Another option is to create bee nesting areas by filling planters and barrels with soil or sand. Place these where they will be protected from direct sunlight and rain.

Bees require a bit of water in addition to their nectar. A good bee garden will include a few puddles from which the bees can drink. Keep the puddles in muddy areas, as the bees will absorb needed minerals and salt from the soil as they sip the water.

Pesticides should not be used in bee gardens. Many pesticides work indiscriminately, killing off helpful insects along with the intended pest victims. If you truly need a pesticide in your garden, use a natural one made from microbes or plant derivatives and apply after sundown.

Choosing Plants When You Design and Plant a Bee Garden

The best plants to choose for your bee garden are varieties that are native to your area. Native plants will attract a nice variety of native bees. Certain bees require the native plants of their area to survive. Shop for your bee garden plants at a reputable nursery with knowledgeable staff who can assist you.

Plants that are not native to your area will attract bees as long as you pick the correct varieties. Stay away from anything with the word ‘double’ in the name or description. ‘Double’ plants have been bred to grow extra petals instead of anthers, the reproductive parts of the flowers, from which bees collect pollen. Stick to the old-fashioned single varieties of both non-native and native plants for your bee garden.

Bees are especially attracted to flowers that are purple, blue or yellow. They do not have the capability to see red and will rarely visit flowers in variations of that primary color. A few red flowers, such as bee balm, attract bees by reflecting ultraviolet light.

Small bees, which have short tongues, are most often attracted to small, shallow flowers. Use flowers such as daisy, marigold, butterfly weed, valerian, buttercup, aster, yarrow and Queen Anne’s lace.

Larger bees, which have longer tongues, can handle slightly deeper flowers. They enjoy plants such as delphinium, larkspur, columbine, monkshood and snapdragon. Long-tongued bees are also attracted to various herbs, such as sage, oregano, mint and lavender.

Leaf-cutting bees are drawn to plants in the legume family and sweet clover.

Flowers to Use When You Design and Plant a Bee Garden

Bees require two types of plants to survive: pollen plants and nectar plants. Pollen from plants is taken back to their nests to feed the young bees. Nectar plants feed the adult bees to give them energy while looking for pollen. Some of the nectar is also added to the nests to feed the baby bees.

Below is a short list of bee-preferred plants based on blooming season. Some of these plants will provide bees with just nectar or just pollen, while others will provide both. Speak to specialists at your local nursery for additional suggestions for your bee garden based on your location.

Spring:

Nectar plants - Barberry, Bee plant, Blue Pea, Borage, Chinese Houses, Horehound, Lavender, Sage, Salvia, Scented Geranium, Wisteria

Pollen plants - Bush Anemone, California Poppy, Yarrow

Combination - Bidens, Blanket Flower, Blazing Star, Daisy, Marigold, Tansy

Summer:

Nectar plants - Basil, Catnip, Horehound, Lavender, Lamb’s Ear, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Sea Holly, Spearmint, Thyme, Toadflax, Verbena

Pollen plants - Borage, California Poppy, Chaparral Nightshade, Tomato, Yarrow

Combination - Bidens, Black-eyed Susan, Blanket Flower, Bluebeard, Calenula, Cosmos, Daisy, Dusty Miller, Goldenrod, Gum Plant, Lemon Queen, Pincushion, Purple Coneflower, Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini

Autumn:

Nectar plants - Autumn Sage, Rosemary, Toadflax, Verbena, Yellow Trumpet bush

Combination - Bluebeard, Cosmos, Pumpkin, Squash

Sunflowers are excellent bee plants that bloom throughout the season. They come in two types: with and without pollen. They will attract more bees to your bee garden if you choose the varieties with pollen.

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WATCH: “A Disastrous Year for Bees…” via New York Times

Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms
By 

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.

A conclusive explanation so far has escaped scientists studying the ailment, colony collapse disorder, since it first surfaced around 2005. But beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor.

The pesticide industry disputes that. But its representatives also say they are open to further studies to clarify what, if anything, is happening.

“They looked so healthy last spring,” said Bill Dahle, 50, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont. “We were so proud of them. Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”

Jim Wilson/The New York Times Beekeepers with Big Sky Honey worked with hives used to pollinate almond groves in Bakersfield, Calif.

Beekeepers with Big Sky Honey worked with hives used to pollinate almond groves in Bakersfield, Calif.
Photo Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

In a show of concern, the Environmental Protection Agency recently sent its acting assistant administrator for chemical safety and two top chemical experts here, to the San Joaquin Valley of California, for discussions.

In the valley, where 1.6 million hives of bees just finished pollinating an endless expanse of almond groves, commercial beekeepers who only recently were losing a third of their bees to the disorder say the past year has brought far greater losses.

The federal Agriculture Department is to issue its own assessment in May. But in an interview, the research leader at its Beltsville, Md., bee research laboratory, Jeff Pettis, said he was confident that the death rate would be “much higher than it’s ever been.”

Following a now-familiar pattern, bee deaths rose swiftly last autumn and dwindled as operators moved colonies to faraway farms for the pollination season. Beekeepers say the latest string of deaths has dealt them a heavy blow.

Bret Adee, who is an owner, with his father and brother, of Adee Honey Farms of South Dakota, the nation’s largest beekeeper, described mounting losses.

“We lost 42 percent over the winter. But by the time we came around to pollinate almonds, it was a 55 percent loss,” he said in an interview here this week.

“They looked beautiful in October,” Mr. Adee said, “and in December, they started falling apart, when it got cold.”

Mr. Dahle said he had planned to bring 13,000 beehives from Montana — 31 tractor-trailers full — to work the California almond groves. But by the start of pollination last month, only 3,000 healthy hives remained.

Annual bee losses of 5 percent to 10 percent once were the norm for beekeepers. But after colony collapse disorder surfaced around 2005, the losses approached one-third of all bees, despite beekeepers’ best efforts to ensure their health.

Nor is the impact limited to beekeepers. The Agriculture Department says a quarter of the American diet, from apples to cherries to watermelons to onions, depends on pollination by honeybees. Fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices.

Almonds are a bellwether. Eighty percent of the nation’s almonds grow here, and 80 percent of those are exported, a multibillion-dollar crop crucial to California agriculture. Pollinating up to 800,000 acres, with at least two hives per acre, takes as many as two-thirds of all commercial hives.

This past winter’s die-off sent growers scrambling for enough hives to guarantee a harvest. Chris Moore, a beekeeper in Kountze, Tex., said he had planned to skip the groves after sickness killed 40 percent of his bees and left survivors weakened.

“But California was short, and I got a call in the middle of February that they were desperate for just about anything,” he said. So he sent two truckloads of hives that he normally would not have put to work.

Bee shortages pushed the cost to farmers of renting bees to $200 per hive at times, 20 percent above normal. That, too, may translate into higher prices for food.

Bill Dahle, the owner, described a startling loss of honeybees last year.
Photo Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Precisely why last year’s deaths were so great is unclear. Some blame drought in the Midwest, though Mr. Dahle lost nearly 80 percent of his bees despite excellent summer conditions. Others cite bee mites that have become increasingly resistant to pesticides. Still others blame viruses.

But many beekeepers suspect the biggest culprit is the growing soup of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are used to control pests.

While each substance has been certified, there has been less study of their combined effects. Nor, many critics say, have scientists sufficiently studied the impact of neonicotinoids, the nicotine-derived pesticide that European regulators implicate in bee deaths.

The explosive growth of neonicotinoids since 2005 has roughly tracked rising bee deaths.

Neonics, as farmers call them, are applied in smaller doses than older pesticides. They are systemic pesticides, often embedded in seeds so that the plant itself carries the chemical that kills insects that feed on it.

Older pesticides could kill bees and other beneficial insects. But while they quickly degraded — often in a matter of days — neonicotinoids persist for weeks and even months. Beekeepers worry that bees carry a summer’s worth of contaminated pollen to hives, where ensuing generations dine on a steady dose of pesticide that, eaten once or twice, might not be dangerous.

“Soybean fields or canola fields or sunflower fields, they all have this systemic insecticide,” Mr. Adee said. “If you have one shot of whiskey on Thanksgiving and one on the Fourth of July, it’s not going to make any difference. But if you have whiskey every night, 365 days a year, your liver’s gone. It’s the same thing.”

Research to date on neonicotinoids “supports the notion that the products are safe and are not contributing in any measurable way to pollinator health concerns,” the president of CropLife America, Jay Vroom, said Wednesday. The group represents more than 90 pesticide producers.

He said the group nevertheless supported further research. “We stand with science and will let science take the regulation of our products in whatever direction science will guide it,” Mr. Vroom said.

A coalition of beekeepers and environmental and consumer groups sued the E.P.A. last week, saying it exceeded its authority by conditionally approving some neonicotinoids. The agency has begun an accelerated review of their impact on bees and other wildlife.

The European Union has proposed to ban their use on crops frequented by bees. Some researchers have concluded that neonicotinoids caused extensive die-offs in Germany and France.

Neonicotinoids are hardly the beekeepers’ only concern. Herbicide use has grown as farmers have adopted crop varieties, from corn to sunflowers, that are genetically modified to survive spraying with weedkillers. Experts say some fungicides have been laced with regulators that keep insects from maturing, a problem some beekeepers have reported.

Bees on a honeycomb pulled from a hive at Big Sky Honey. Photo Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Bees on a honeycomb pulled from a hive at Big Sky Honey.
Photo Credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Eric Mussen, an apiculturist at the University of California, Davis, said analysts had documented about 150 chemical residues in pollen and wax gathered from beehives.

“Where do you start?” Dr. Mussen said. “When you have all these chemicals at a sublethal level, how do they react with each other? What are the consequences?”

Experts say nobody knows. But Mr. Adee, who said he had long scorned environmentalists’ hand-wringing about such issues, said he was starting to wonder whether they had a point.

Of the “environmentalist” label, Mr. Adee said: “I would have been insulted if you had called me that a few years ago. But what you would have called extreme — a light comes on, and you think, ‘These guys really have something. Maybe they were just ahead of the bell curve.’”

[view article on nytimes.com]

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Moving in to our NEW OFFICE today!! 

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(Santa Monica – Third St Promenade)

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What should I plant? California bluebell
(Phacelia campanularia)

According to the Xerces Society, in addition to honeybees there are over 4000 species of native bees in the U.S. alone. 

From leafcutter and mason bees, to miner, carpenter, and digger bees, virtually all bees and pollinators are attracted to the California Bluebells’ deep blue, bell shaped flowers and long golden stamens.

The petals reflect ultra-violet light and therefore look like a well lit runway for foraging bees. Sow this hardy annual in the early Spring in full sun and sandy or well-drained soil.

Photo credit: Kathy Dunham

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ARTICLE: California Native Plants that Bees Can’t Resist 
by Bob Sussman – matilijanursery.com 

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not.” -Yogi Berra 

There are tons of books, articles on the web, and scientific info. that will tell you what plants attract bees and why. Some info. will tell you to plant flowers that have purple, yellow, or white flowers to draw more bees to the garden. Well some purple flowers attract more than others and bees aren’t supposed to see red yet some red flowering plants attract plenty of bees. Truth is most flowering plants do indeed attract bees since most plants are pollenated by bees. 

In the bee attraction business sometimes theory and practice diverge. Some flowers draw more bees than others and you can see it, those are the ones you want for your garden. You want the flowers that cause the bees to go “beemanic”. Here’s a list of the big “5” bee attractants at the nursery, this may not jibe with scientific theory but in practice it works.
 

Number 5
Abutilon palmeri-a desert native and a member of the mallow family, it gets covered with orange- gold poppy colored flowers. They flower from spring through fall require full sun and are about 3’ x 4’. They seem to benefit for an annual trimming. Check these out.

Number 4 
Galvezia – Island Snapdragon- there are a few species and selections of Galvezia but they all come from either the Channel Islands off the coast of California or Cedros Island off the coast of Mexico. The Galvezia’s vary in size but are roughly 3’x3’, generally grow in semi-shade to full sun, flower from spring through fall. Their red tube flowers also attract hummingbirds. The Galviezia in the picture is Galvezia ‘Gran Canon’ and it flowers than most of the other verities, while they attract several types of bees this is the only one that would sit still long enough for me to focus the camera. 
 

Number 3
Sphaeralcea-Desert Mallows grow throughout the southwest and Mexico. They can range in color from red to light pink. While there is some variation in size, roughly 4’ x 4’ will be a pretty close approximation of what it will do in your garden. We grow mostly the orange flowering verity at the nursery we also have the pink flowering verity growing too and they seem to prefer the pink to the orange.
 

Number 2
Romenya coulteri-Matilija Poppy- The Matilija poppy has the largest flowers of any poppy in the poppy family. It can be a large perennial shrub and its native range is from Monterey County to Baja Mexico growing sporatically about 30+/- inland from the Pacific Ocean. They are spring flowering but with a bit of watering the flowering can be extended through summer.

Number 1
Monardella odoratissima-Mountain Mint-Mountain Beebalm-is a small growing perennial with purple to lavender flowers and a very strong minty fragrance. It’s got to be a big nectar and pollen producer because they attract all kinds of bees and butterflies. In nature they grow from California to Washington and inland as far as Utah. They flower from spring through fall if you occasionally deadhead – chop back the old flowers and leggy growth. 
 

I know there are lots of lists of plants that attract bees but the bees at our nursery fly by many of those to land, collect nectar, and pollen from these. Why? I couldn’t tell you the scientific reason this is only the observation, the bees know and they aren’t saying!

To see the bees performing live you can check out our YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/matilija8225?feature=results_main

Or even better come down to the nursery, pop the truck, and take some of these home for your garden and watch the beeeeeeeeessss!

(For more information go to www.matilijanursery.com)

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WATCH: TEDxBoston – Noah Wilson-Rich – Urban Beekeeping

“We need bees for the future of our cities and urban living”
-Noah Wilson-Rich, founder of Boston’s Best Bees Company

http://tedxboston.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/B2_Noah_Wilson_Rich.jpg

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BOOK: The Travelling Beehive 
by Elena Garcia and Manuel Angel Rosado – Illustrated by Juan Hernaz

The Travelling Beehive is a new free illustrated book that examines in depth the importance of pollination for our current lifestyle. Halfway between literature and popular science, deeply documented, this book offers a didactic view of the activity of the domestic bee and other pollinators, for children and for adults, beekeepers, biologists and entomologists. 

Click here to download “The Travelling Beehive” book for FREE!! (pdf)

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Photo from HoneyLove’s garden this weekend ?
Lemon tree + Honey Bee + Butterfly 

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