Bee happy .... gardening for wildlife.

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Caitlin

Bee happy .... gardening for wildlife.
« on: June 03, 2008, 04:04:28 PM »
In autumn 2007 when the first lot of Mayday sunflowers had finished outside my fence, I planted seeds for flowers that attract bees. Then I completely forgot what I'd planted (doh!)

Aaanyway, they grew really well and are now flowering madly.  Turns out they're foxgloves and poppies and some raggedy wild looking yellow things. 

They're a big hit with the bumblebees. I saw quite few all there at once. Lovely whitetails.

Plus quite a few neighbours stopped to chat and say how gorgeous the tall poppies and foxgloves look.

Well worth the very little effort.


and here are some pics so far ....  look for the set called Bee Happy ....

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dangerpuss/

Re: Bee happy .... gardening for wildlife.
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2008, 01:10:13 AM »
I found this site very informative: http://nature.berkeley.edu/urbanbeegardens/
They've even got a long list of what kinds of bees are attracted to which flowers.  It's very California-centred, but their work is expanding outward; much of it is already appropriate for locales quite remote from that state.

You can also find bee garden seed packages now.  Before you buy, check to make sure the seeds are from native species or at the very least not likely to become invasive in your area.

Honeybees are in crisis with a fight against two bee mites:
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9507E6DC1F31F936A15751C1A960958260

And H?agen-Dazs Ice Cream is coming to the rescue:
http://www.breakingnews.org/haagendazs/bee_board.html

Maybe they should talk to this family:
http://www.nbc15.com/weirdwackynews/headlines/16660551.html

Luckily for us, the mason bee is a better pollinator and is very prolific and does not sting.  You can buy commercial bee homes (see some designs here: http://www.masonbeehomes.com/bee_houses.php) or you can make your own with wide milkshade straws (which are easily replaced for cleanliness) that are a minimum of 15cm (6") long.  Don't make them any shorter, as you'll end up with almost all male bees.  Make sure you position the house to face the sun (south if you're in the northern hemisphere). 

Here are some ideas for making mason bee houses if you don't have them nesting in holes in logs already:
http://www.islandnet.com/~yesmag/projects/bee.html
http://www.nwf.org/backyard/beehouse.cfm
http://www.earthvalues.org/wgg/wgg_earth_MASON.pdf

Since mason bees don't sting, you have a good defence if your local laws forbid "beekeeping" these bees by providing them a home.

Here's a design for a bumblebee house:
http://crawford.tardigrade.net/bugs/BugofMonth36.html

Here's the scoop on the spread of the Africanized "killer" bees:
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/32676/title/Killer_bee_colonization

If you have a true paper wasp nest that is single-tiered, hanging from a pedistal (to deter ant raiders) and looks more like it's inhabited by large winged ants instead of wasps, you have a paper wasp (Polistes sp.) nest.  THIS IS GOOD, as not only are they pollinators, they are also natural pest control for caterpillars in your garden - so don't destroy the nest!  Paper wasps must be aggressively provoked in order to sting, and this includes you standing directly under their nest, so don't.  You can pick them up with your fingers on cool autumn days without being stung.  They love golden flowers such as goldenrod, so if you don't want to invite their curiosity, don't wear yellow or orange to a picnic.  If you see an ant trail leading to the nest, carefully wash the ant trail so they will have to rediscover the nest.  Paper wasps reuse nests from year to year, so don't destroy it if it appears abandoned.  Canada has only one species of Polistes, and given the persecution it gets from being lumped with its more aggressive kin, I can see P. fuscatus becoming an endangered species. Here's an informative page about them:  http://crawford.tardigrade.net/bugs/BugofMonth16.html

If you see an ichneumon wasp, likewise let it be even though large and wicked-looking, as it is also beneficial as a parasite of pests.  http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/cimg327.html

If you have a large, inverted teardrop-shaped nest, you have a hornet's nest - stay well away from it, or you'll get stung - by a swarm!  The bald-faced hornet (http://www.uos.harvard.edu/ehs/pes_hornets.shtml)has the nastiest sting.  NEVER swat at a hornet or wasp, including yellowjackets (http://www.uos.harvard.edu/ehs/pes_yellowjackets.shtml): during attempts to sting (and they can do it multiple times without dying - unlike bees), or on death, the individual sends out a pheromone that calls for aid!

Watch where you poke your hands and place your feet.  Some species of bees and wasps have ground nests (watch for large holes in bare ground) and bumblebees may be found in small piles of hay or paper at ground level.  Teach your kids to not poke sticks into cracks in your front steps of your house and wear protective footwear when you garden.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2008, 01:13:14 AM by Chameleon »

Re: Bee happy .... gardening for wildlife.
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2008, 09:19:49 PM »
Thank you for that info, Chameleon! :)

I might want to make my own bumblebee or mason bee house sometime soon.
edit: apparently not a mason bee house, since they're non-native to Europe.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2008, 09:31:36 PM by Egregius »