Gardening in the Face of Change

I know it seems like I have Bumble Bees on the brain, but I just read a very cool email from the Xerces Society and want to share it with you.

Their “Gardening in the Face of Change” message is a clarion call to anyone who has a patch of grass or a planter: Help bring back the pollinators. Habitat fragmentation – i.e. more lawn than garden and more house than lawn – could be a factor that drives many species to extinction in the next 30 years. Lord knows the last 30 years have been disastrous for creatures like the beautiful Yellow-banded Bumble Bee and the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee. The next 30 could see them disappear forever unless we do something about it. And yes, we CAN do something about it.
Bring back pollinators
Xerces’ Matthew Shepherd says the rest much better than I can.

“The Xerces Society’s Bring Back the Pollinators campaign promotes four principles that can be adapted to any location – grow flowers, provide nest sites, avoid pesticides, and share the word. Fill a window box with flowers. Add planters to a deck. Create a colorful garden border. Mix flowers with the vegetables in a community garden. Enhance the grounds of a school or church. You can do this is a city park, golf course, corporate or university campus, or farm.

Insect habitat doesn’t need to be big, but it should offer a mix of nectar-rich flowers and be free of insecticides. The importance of flower choice was underscored during a recent visit to a large show garden. There were acres of gardens but butterflies and bees were limited to a very few plants. Woodland skippers loved the Pacific aster, as did a variety of bees and flies. Bumble bees were happy on purple coneflower, English lavender, and catnip. Black-eye susans and sneezeweed were humming with all sorts of bees. In between, the brightly coloured bedding plants and flower-less shrubs were quiet, devoid of interest for passing bees.”

I know, I know. Bumblebees on the brain. And gardening. I hope it’s contagious.

The Bumblebee Watch Garden Stare

I have a thing for bumblebees. They’re the Panda Bears of the insect world, and they give me a reason to stare at my flowers.

You know the “Stare”? It’s that trance-like state gardeners fall into whenever we wander among the flower beds. It’s not a restful state, no chess player ever used more brainpower to strategize a next move than a gardener. We may look serene but our minds churn constantly with lists of things to do and change in the garden. So Bumblebees are a welcome distraction. I find them endlessly interesting and as a bonus I get to look – really look – at my plants while I watch them.

Another part of the fun of Bumblebee-watching is trying to figure out what kind they are. That’s not particularly easy, and neither is taking a picture of them. They never stop moving and the workers all seem to look alike. But sometimes I get a shot that’s focused enough to submit to BumbleBeeWatch.org.

It’s kind of fun to do. You login, upload your picture, click on some identification hints and then take a stab at identifying them. Then you sit back and wait for the experts to check your conclusion and tell you if you were right. Or more likely wrong. But who cares – it’s fun anyway.

Try it!
http://bumblebeewatch.org

Bumblebee Watch is a collaborative effort by:

  • Wildlife Preservation Canada
  • University of Ottawa
  • BeeSpotter
  • Montreal Insectarium
  • Natural History Museum, London
  • Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

 

My Bee Hotel experiment worked!

I was bored one day this past spring and to entertain myself, I drilled holes all over the tall stump of a dead plum tree. I was curious to see whether my makeshift “bee hotel” would attract solitary bees.

I happened to wander by this morning and behold, inhabitants! The only holes that are occupied are on the east and south sides, which makes sense. Those are the sides that warm up fastest in the morning.

I don’t think they’re bees, though. They look like wasps to me, but I’m not an entomologist. Know any entomologists?

Could they “bee” wrong?

65 million years ago, a giant asteroid hit Mexico and set off "nuclear winter" type climate conditions that is thought to have killed off the dinosaurs and most of life on earth.

Or so the story goes.

But if that’s the case, scientists are wondering how tropical honeybees managed to survive. It should have been too cold for them, and the flowers they survived on.

Was there a "nuclear winter", after all?

Continue reading “Could they “bee” wrong?”

He should have borrowed her lipstick

With Spiders, to Know You Is to Spare You: Casual dating can be dangerous.  A study of spiders shows female wolf spiders will eat strange-looking males that try to mate with them, but spare and even hook up with familiar-looking males.

“Hebets painted the legs of male spiders either brown or black with nail polish …. the females were more likely to eat males painted with the ‘wrong’ color instead of mating with him”.