Sunday, August 5, 2012

To Bee Or Not To Bee

Bees and people go way back, from collecting honey from wild bees (13, 000 BC rock paintings) to domesticating wild bees for their honey (shown on 5th dynasty 2400 BC Egyptian sun temple walls). Any way you slice it, bees are part of our collective conscious.Despite our long-standing connection with bees, we also need our bee-free zones. Busy buzzing bees can interfere in relaxation around the pool or patio, especially if you’re sipping a sweet summer cocktail! On the more serious side, about 1 in 1,000 people are allergic to bees. Keeping it bee-free is really important for these bee-allergic people.

Why do we want to attract bees in our gardens?
• One-quarter to a third of all food relies on pollinators
• Many plant species cannot set seed and reproduce without pollinators
• Reproducing pure wild nature in your backyard

Our helping hand:

• Increase habitat (provide food & water and shelter)
• Decrease pesticide use
• Change our attitudes
Result: preserve pollinators, prevent extinction.
Signs of poor pollination
• Strawberries shrunken & lumpy
• Cucumbers & zucchinis don’t fill out
• Melon, watermelon, squash & pumpkin flowers fall off, don’t set fruit
• Fewer apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries and apricots on tree

20,000 species worldwide (7 families)
• 800 species in Canada
• GTA has close to 200 species
• Most are solitary…and non-stinging

Importance of different bee species
Up to a third of our food supply depends on pollination by domesticated honeybees
• But Colony collapse disorder (CCD) has drastically reduced the honeybee population (approx 50%)
• Wild bees are 5 times more efficient at pollination than honeybees.
(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences UC Davis Aug 2006)
Because of our connection with bees (whether we consciously realize it or not), the rapid collapse of honeybees alarms us. Fifty per cent bee mortality rate isn’t something to sneeze about. At the same time, our own encroachment and destruction of the wilderness threatens wild bee populations.
Causes for CCD:
• lack of good nutrition
• exposure to pesticides
• fungi, viruses
Five main bee families in GTA

Apidae: honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees
• Andrenidae: solitary mining bees
• Halicidae: sweat bees and pearly-banded bees
• Megachilidae: leaf cutter, orchard & mason bee
• Colletidae: cellophane and masked bees

Bringing the Buzzzzz to Gardens
  • Sunny
  • Shelter from wind
  • Water
  • Flowers
Why Flowers?
• Feed on nectar (energy) and pollen (protein & other nutrients)
• Most pollen is used as food for larvae
What kind of flowers attract bees?
Avoid horticultural varieties with double petals and/or no scent. There’s either no pollen or nectar (sterile flowers) or the lack of scent doesn’t attract the bees to the flowers in the first place.
Purple & blue flowers
Bees prefer warmer flowers, which tend to be purple flowers
White & yellow flowers
Centers 8 C warmer than ambient air
  • Anise-scented flowers are the most rewarding. (Hyssop, sweet cicely)
  • Minty (bee balm, salvia)
  • Sweet/fruity (sweet woodruff, rose, heliotrope, honeysuckle, sweet pea, sweet William, Summersweet (Clethra) shrub )
  • Open, simple flowers (Especially good for small bees)
  • Cup/saucer shaped (Captures the sun’s rays: keeping it toasty warm)
Patterns or lines

Bees see the patterns or lines like glowing runways

Plant considerations
• Clusters of the same flower (3 to 5) because bees are efficient
• Variety of flowers because different bees feed on different flowers
• Different blooming times so there’s food for bees from spring to fall
Links to bee-attracting flowers!
Why create a bee-free zone?
• Bee allergies
• Young children
• Dining area
• Swimming pool
• Find them a nuisance
“Bee-free” garden:
No water
Cover swimming pool
Repair any leaking taps.
No birdbaths
No ponds
Bee-free plants
• Double petals (no scent, sterile)
• Wind pollinated
• Red flowers
• Foliage plants
• Grasses & sedges
• Evergreens
Clean up after yourself
• Soft drinks cans attract bees
• Fruit & fruit peels
• Any food if you are eating outside
• Barbecues

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