Have you seen the new TED Talk by Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota professor of entomology and 2010 MacArthur Fellow? She talks about the decline in honey bee populations, monoculture, pesticides (including neonicitoids) and how important it is to plant bee-friendly flowers.
Archive for the ‘Bee Habitat’Category
Good news from New York City:
A new urban honey bee sanctuary has been installed in the gardens of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in partnership with NYCBeekeeping.org. The Cathedral gardens, which are already home to three peacocks and a family of red-tailed hawks, is now also home to a hive of Apis mellifera, a gentle and mild-tempered species of honey bee.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), honey bees pollinate nearly one-third of all the food we eat. Since 2006, more than three million honey bees in the U.S. have mysteriously died. The USDA states that this die-off threatens nearly $15 billion in agriculture – or 100 commercial crops – that rely on honey bee pollination. According to reports, the number of hives in the United States is at its lowest point in 50 years.
“Many people don’t understand how vital the sustainability of the pollinator population is to the environment and the food we eat every day,” said The Very Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral. “The Cathedral is well placed to support the ailing bee population and we are glad to be partnering with NYCBeekeeping.org to help spread their messages and educate New Yorkers on the importance of urban beekeeping.”
“Urban areas like New York City are getting back in touch with nature,” said Nicole Toutounji of NYCBeekeeping.org, the beekeeper who will maintain the hive. “The Cathedral’s urban bee sanctuary is part of a visionary plan to reclaim our relationship with nature, support honey bee populations and contribute to the city’s sustainability efforts.”
In honor of her new home, the queen bee of the hive has been named “The Divine Queen”. In the fall, an artisanal honey will be extracted from the hive, which will be known as “Divine Honey.” As bees only travel 3-5 miles to collect flower nectar and pollen, the Divine Honey will take on the unique characteristics of the Cathedral’s gardens and neighboring flora.
What do you think about this positive event?
Consider Replacing Part or All of Your Front Lawn with a Pollinator-Friendly Garden
Lush, wide, green and rolling: In America, we love our lawns. We like to sprawl out on the grass for a picnic, gather on the neighbor’s lawn for a game of touch football, and set up our folding chairs and tiki-torches in the backyard green for summer barbeques. I like doing these things too, and I have a small lawn of my own in Vermont. But it’s important to remember that lawns, from an environmental perspective, provide little support for the ecosystem. In fact the tremendous amount of water, fossil fuel, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides used to maintain most suburban lawns makes our green-fixation downright irresponsible. And although green areas do reduce heat in cities, tightly cropped lawns do little to create habitat and provide food for birds, bees and the many other creatures sharing our world. Read the rest of this entry →
There are a number of important reasons why the Carmel Forest should mostly be allowed to rehabilitate itself.
According to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies the temperatures across the planet between December 1, 2009, and November 30, 2010, show that 2010 ranks as the hottest year on record. And clearly after the worst-ever forest fire on Mount Carmel few Israelis would dispute the consequences of rising temperatures, prolonged droughts and intense heat waves.
It is heart-breaking for those of us who have spent many decades working in wild forests around the globe observing these magnificent and complex systems that were designed to be carbon dioxide sinks (that is to remove CO2 from the stratosphere), now becoming sources of CO2 – emitting the main rising greenhouse, temperature-trapping gas on Earth.
As the trees finally shed their leaves and our thoughts turn to wintery pleasures and indoor activities, it’s easy to forget about the honey bee. After all, our busy little friends are hibernating out of sight and mind at this time of year. But before the ground freezes, and even over winter, there are still some favors we can do for these important pollinators to support them in their environment when they emerge next year.
In the early part of the growing season, flowers and their nectar are relatively scarce – this is also true in very late summer and fall. Nature provides bees with food in their environment of course, but in many areas, native plants have been reduced or eliminated as humans have encroached upon and altered natural habitats. Some introduced and hybridized plants do provide food for bees, but unfortunately, many gardeners favor double-flowered, exotic plants that are more difficult for pollinators to access. Most wild, indigenous plants have open, easy-access flowers, making them more attractive and desirable to honey bees.
So how do you choose shrubs to support bees and integrate these plants into your landscape? Learning a little bit about the plants native to your region is a good place to start, and education can take place at any time of the year. There are a number of good books and field guides written on the subject of native, North American plants. Many of these titles are available in local libraries and universities. Some of the best guide books include both photos and detailed information about the required growing conditions of native plants, and their hardiness ranges. William Cullina’s beautiful book, Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines, is an excellent resource for gardeners.
In addition, many states have helpful native plant societies. Try Googling your state name followed by the phrase “Wildflower Society” or “Native Plant Society”. These sites will often list plants, including shrubs, native to your area. When visiting nurseries and garden centers, ask about native plants. The more we ask retailers for native plants by name and buy them, the more likely they will be to continue ordering them and keeping them on hand. All of these actions will help support the honey bee, and the environment as a whole.
The question comes up every September in my garden. The meter-reader, oil delivery driver and countless guests have asked: “What’s that bright yellow shrub over there by the wall… The one covered with birds and red berries?” When I ask, “Have you heard of Lindera benzoin, North American spicebush?”, the answer is invariably ‘no’. And no matter how many times I make the introduction, it’s always surprising to me that this gorgeous shrub isn’t more widely known and used in the landscape. Spicebush’s season-spanning, informal beauty makes her the perfect choice for naturalizing along woodland boundaries and in countless other transitional situations. But as you can see from the photo above, this native plant also works beautifully in a mixed-border; with other trees, shrubs, bulbs and perennials.
The show begins in first weeks of April, when the spicebush’s lightly-fragrant, lemon-yellow blossoms begin to open on the dreariest of days. These early flowers are an important source of nectar to pollinating insects —including native and honey bees—and a welcome sight to my winter-weary eyes. The specimen pictured above — in front of the stone wall surrounding the Secret Garden— has developed a round, mounded shape in full sun (I prune very lightly after the early spring blossoms fade). Lindera benzoin will also tolerate light shade, and the groupings here at the edge of the native forest have developed a more open, but graceful habit. After the early flowers fade, attractive, blue-green foliage (the leaves have a delightfully spicy, masculine fragrance when crushed, and can be used to make tea, herbal sachets or potpourri) makes a fine backdrop for other players in front of the perennial border.
As pretty and uplifting as this shrub is when blossoming in April, come September, spicebush really turns things up a notch in the garden when its foliage shifts from cool green to brilliant, lemon-gold. The female plants (this species is dioecious and a male must be planted nearby for the female to produce fruit), with their bright red berries (edible/substitute for allspice), are especially fetching in autumn; attracting birds from the nearby forest by the dozen. Combinations with other showy, autumn shrubs and trees —such as bold red viburnum (particluarly V.bodnatense and V. trilobum), dogwood, witch hazel, and red vein enkianthus— are always gorgeous. And rich purple or deep-blue blossoms —including monkshood (Aconitum) and asters in autumn, and glory-of-the-snow (Chinodoxa), crocus and grape hyacinth (Muscari) in spring— make lovely, perennial and bulb pairings with spicebush on either end of the growing season as well. Conifers, particularly deep green hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and blue spruce cultivars (Picea pungens) also provide a striking contrast to luminous Lindera benzoin, both in texture and color. And keep in mind the design possibilities of deep violet foliage when choosing a spot for spicebush. Dark, burgundy shrubs, including Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’, P. opufolius ’Summer Wine’ and Cotinus ‘Royal Purple’, really bring out the golden hues in Lindera benzoin; as do perennials like purple fountain grass (Pennisetum rubrum) and Sedum ‘Matrona’ or S. ‘Purple Emperor’. In a shadier situation, try spicebush in combination with the purple foliage of Heuchera cultiavars (like ‘Plum Pudding’ and ‘Palace Purple’) or perhaps Actaea racemosa (aka Cimicifuga racemosa ‘Hillside Black Beauty’ or ‘Brunette’).
Hardy in zones 4-9, Lindera benzoin is a native of N. America from the north into Canada and on south to Florida; into midwestern Michigan and Kansas, and southwest to moderate climate zones of Texas. As a landscaping plant, spicebush is relatively trouble-free in the garden or naturalized settings; forming a mound-shaped shrub (6-12′ high and wide) when planted in a sunny location. In the shade the shrub tends to form a more open shape (a bit like Amelanchier); absolutely lovely, though subtle, when in bloom. Lindera benzoin prefers even soil-moisture (dry conditions make for a scruffy looking specimen) with cooling mulch about the root-zone (helpful to preserve even soil temperature and moisture)
Perhaps you’re already acquainted with lovely Lindera. If so, remember to pass on the good word. Mid to late fall is a great time to add shrubs to the landscape (see related post here). This native plant is an important part of our natural, North American habitat, and a significant source of food for insects (bees and butterfly larvae) and birds. But it seems to me that the spring blossoms, red fruit and glorious, golden, autumn color of Lindera benzoin provide all the promotional material any plant could ever need…
“There is something palpable about these new MacArthur Fellows, about their character as explorers and pioneers at the cutting edge. These are women and men improving, protecting, and making our world a better place for us all. “ ~~ Daniel J. Socolow, Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program
Big news for the honeybee.
Earlier today, Marla Spivak, an entomologist from the University of Minnesota who is studying the impacts of nutrition, pesticides, and bee diseases on bee health, was named a 2010 MacArthur Fellow. These so-called Genius Grants provide $500,000 to each fellow, with no strings attached.
It’s nice to see people who are working to solve the mystery of colony collapse get a little recognition … and support!
Finding the answer will definitely make the world a better place for us all.
“That buzzing-noise means something. If there’s a buzzing noise, somebody’s making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee … and the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey … and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.” ~~ Winnie the Pooh
I love Pooh. Really, I do. But as Piglet says, “Pooh hasn’t much Brain.” So, as National Honey Month comes to a close, I’d like to point out a few other amazing things that honeybees do that give us humans more reasons to love them. As if making honey (the only food produced by an insect that is eaten by man, by the way) and doing the lionshare of pollinating food crops wasn’t enough! Read the rest of this entry →
Thank you Häagen-Dazs for the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis, which is scheduled to open on September 11th. The Haven will not only serve as a research and pollinating facility but as a tool to raise awareness about the plight of honey bees. As the Sacramento Bee has reported, “America is losing its honey bees at an alarming rate for unknown reasons. Last winter, an estimated 33.8 percent of commercial hives died out.”
In addition to honey bees, other bee species are benefiting. It’s been reported that over 55 types of bees are already calling the Haven home including fuzzy bumble bees, metallic sweat bees, wood-dwelling carpenter bees and solitary mason bees. Read the rest of this entry →