Monday, February 28, 2011

Bees--The Gardener's Friend

Bee with Aster taken 2009
I have probably used this photo before, but it is one of my favorites.  It's a favorite because of the hot topic of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) regarding our friend the bee.  Pat picked up the March/April 2011 edition of Texas Gardner and inside there is an article about bees and what we as gardeners can do to help out.  I will hit the highlights with this post, but if you're interested in finding out more, click on the link.

No doubt we do have a problem in preserving our pollinator, the bee.  It has been widely reported that scientists do have several hypothesis regarding CCD.  However, those of us who do not have hives can still change certain habits that may very well help our friend survive this battle. 

According to the article we need to be proactive and provide a safe place for bees to feed, work and live:

  1. Allow plants to look a little unsightly.  In wintertime, bees and other insects live in our dried out stems and stalks.  Who knew?  Leaving them until the last minute in springtime allows our friends to have shelter during the cold months.  Pat and I can check this one off!!
  2. Do not use bug zappers.  Apparently they kill more beneficials than undesirables.  Check...never have owned one.
  3. Manage pests without pesticides.  Most of the time we do this, but Pat will use 7 Dust from time to time.
  4. Have areas with small rocks so the bees can "bask." Check.
  5. Have a bee-friendly water source...a shallow water dish with rocks so the bees can drink without drowning.  Easily accomplished.
  6. Provide diverse nectar sources with lots of color and various blooming periods.  Check.
  7. And my favorite:  leave bare patches of ground so ground-nesting bees and mud daubers can make their habitat.  With as many trees and shade as we have on our place, we have tons of areas that fit this requirement.  Check and check.
  8. I am adding this one:  Plant as many native and heirloom plants as possible.  Some suggested plants are:  Almond verbena; Anise hyssop; Basil; Beebalm; Borage; Chives; Lavender; Mint; Rosemary; Roses; Sage.
The article has many more suggestions on how to help our friends, and gives a detailed account on why the bee is in trouble.  It is also good to note that there are 100s of varieties of bees in Texas.  So take a look at your landscape.  If it's a little barren consider planting some nice natives this spring to help out! 

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