About pollinators

Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)February 25, 2014

An article in the current issue of Fine Gardening magazine is about improving pollination of vegetables by growing flowers with of near them. The flowers provide a food source for those pollinators that the vegetables may not always do. So, in addition to providing a food source for predator insects flowers will also do that for pollinators.

Growing flowers in amongst food crops, kitchen gardens not field crops, used to be very common.

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Right on. Pollinators are under huge stress in this day & age & I do anything I can to create a pollinator friendly environment. Flowers in the veggie garden look good too :)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 9:52AM
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This is not the article referred to above but is interesting in itself.

Here is a link that might be useful: insectaries

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 7:01AM
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Insect hotels ... would quickly become known to my lizards as the local fast food place.

I just don't use pesticides. That's my total action or inaction towards encouraging predator insects.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 3:45PM
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grow_life(6A OH)

One thing to keep in mind, honeybees are not native to n. America. They came from overseas. Pay close attention to our native pollinators that are properly adapted to our climate and served the Native Americans well.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 6:48PM
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While honeybees may not be native to North America there are a lot of other pollinators that are and they need as much help as anyone since we are destroying their habitat faster then they can adapt.
Because many think the only food source for the Monarch butterfly larva, Milkweed, is an ugly weed and needs to be eradicated the population of Monarchs is dropping. We pave over 100 acres of what was decent habitat for a number of animals, birds, and insects and replace that with about 5 acres of mostly the wrong plants and wonder why these animals, birds, ands insects die off or become pests.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 6:40AM
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Not to mention that allowing vegetables to bloom is often great draw for pollinators, especially anything in the carrot family. A parsnip in full bloom draws every pollinator for miles around.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 6:27AM
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I bought 10 mason bees for my garden. Their really simple to care for. They are better than honeybees if you don't really care about the honey.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 5:01PM
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I am by no means a master gardener nor am I very experienced in keeping bees. When I was a teenager, I kept honey bees because my grandfather was a beekeeper and told me that honey bees were the best pollinators around. However, my research on the internet and my discussions with other gardeners have shown me how wrong that statement is. I am a gardener growing lots of fruit and a small vegetable garden. Recently, I added a small orchard to my yard. I have apricot, Asian pears, plums, jujubes, peaches, cherries, paw paws, raspberries, blackberries, figs, blueberries, huckleberries, strawberries and kiwis. My vegetable garden includes eggplants, melons, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, squash, and pole beans and all need bees (except the paw paw trees). So you can see I have an interest in pollinating all of the above, otherwise my garden would be adversely affected. Since honey bees are a social bee, they communicate with each other about where to find the sources of pollen, nectar and water. Therefore the first blooms to open get their first attention. If you watch closely, the bees will exit from the hive, a quick swipe of their antennas by their front legs and away they go straight to the blooms that opened first during the season. Bees become fixated, when a nectar source opens the bees concentrate on that source, becoming fixed on that and little else until those blooms are done. If your blossoms open a few days after your neighbor’s blossoms, by the time your neighbor’s blossoms have finished, your blossoms are half over, and old blossoms do not pollinate well, if at all.
In addition, most spring days are cool and damp. A bee that flies in cool, damp and cloudy weather, which honey bees don't, is also needed. It is also important that the maintenance of the bees doesn't require a great deal of time. Since the blooming season if often short, the bees need to be able to work quickly and not get fixated on one nectar source. Mason bees are the ideal solution. Mason Bees only fly approximately 300 yards from its nest site, thus helping to ensure pollination of your blossoms, not your neighbor’s. Mason Bees (MB) are solitary and there are numerous strains. They do not need a nest site with thousands of worker support. While they do prefer others of the same strain around, mainly for mating purposes, the females do most of the work in provisioning the nest tube. The males are good pollinators in their own right, but their forage is for their own use, and not for their offspring. MBs nest in tubes, under natural conditions, mainly those left by burrowing insects. With the removal of mature trees there has been serious habitat loss, so MBs are in short supply and nest sites should be encouraged. These nest sites can be simple blocks of wood up to 6 inches deep, holes drilled approximately 5/16ths inch in diameter. The females will first close off the back of the nest tube with mud, hence the name Mason bees. On the bottom plug she will use pollen as the feed plus a small amount of nectar, and lay an egg. This section is then sealed with a mud plug, then immediately, she will start on a second nursery cell and so on till she gets towards the front of the tube at which time she will lay unfertilized eggs, creating males. Under good conditions MB females will lay at least 3 females and 2 males per tube, after which she will seal the end and move to a second nesting tube.
Unlike honey bees, MBs carry the pollen in a sac beneath the abdomen. When a female lands on a flower she dives in belly first, right in the middle of the blossom stamens. Whereas a honey bee lands on the side and walks down looking for the nectar site, possibly brushing past the stamen in passing. Each blossom needs up to eight visits to effectively pollinate them. MBs will do a better job, purely because of their approach to each blossom. By observation it should be obvious that MBs main interest is pollen whereas honey bees interest is nectar for honey making. So with honey bees pollen transfer is accidental, but with MBs, transfer is deliberate. As the honey bee carries the pollen in baskets on the back legs, brushed there when the bee cleans itself, so transfer is accidental.
The MB is a hard worker, visiting hundreds of flowers to charge each egg site with pollen and the increase in fruit crops using them is well documented, in some cases up to a 4 fold increase. Unlike honey bees, they will start earlier in the morning, finish flying later in the day and cool damp weather doesn't prevent them working.
In a few short weeks, the nest tubes are sealed and the larvae then eat through their stores, pupate then wait in the tubes till next spring before emerging. Even then it's organized, the outer eggs turn into males which emerge a few days before the females, then hang around waiting to mate with the emerging females. Caring for MBs cannot in any way be considered labor intensive. They work without supervision, sealing off their young from predation with mud plugs. Some provision should be made to stop wood peckers accessing the nest site and then late in the fall the nest site should be taken in, opened and the cocoons cleaned to prevent infestation by pollen mites. This is a learning experience and ideally a search on the internet for Mason bees or Blue Orchard bees will supply sites where more information is available and where bees can be purchased. I personally decided not to purchase MBs, but to construct bee boxes to attract them the native ones. I have two nest boxes so far and one is populated from last spring. During the winter it is advisable to move the boxes into an unheated shed to prevent loss due to vary cold, wet weather. Another box is very close to the old one and is ready to accommodate MBs this spring. My intention is to cover the populated box with a cardboard box, with ½ inch holes in it, on or about March 15 to allow the MBs to exit but to discourage them from using the old box and encourage them to use the new box.
Next, I will remove the old box around May 15 and clean it to kill mites and put it up again the next spring.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 1:59PM
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Mason bees are as good (if not better) than honey bees for pollinating. Many orchards will keep wood block mason bee "homes" to attract them even if they also rent or keep honey bees.

They're not as popular as honey bees because they don't have the added advantage of additional agriculture added value (honey). The orchard keeper or crop grower that hires bees generally doesn't care which bees they hire to pollinate crops, but a majority of hired bees are honey bees because the renters of bees have the honey to sell in addition to the bees they rent out.

Bees used for agriculture are generally trucked all over the state (or multiple states) doing their thing field/orchard to field/orchard until pollinating seasons are done and it's time to go rest. They live quite an unnatural life.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 5:32PM
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