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North Carolina's state insect is our pollinator the Honeybee!

North Carolina’s state insect is the Honeybee! The California beauty, Dogface butterfly, Zerene eurydice, another pollinator, was designated the official State Insect in 1972.

First, per Gardening Jones, Pennsylvania master gardener, there is a surprising number of veggie garden plants that need no pollination at all!

• All leafy greens
• Brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kohlrabi
• Below ground root veggies and tubers such as carrots, parsnips, salsify, potatoes, sweet potatoes, horseradish
• Ground level root veggies such as beets, turnips, rutabagas
• Most legumes including peas and beans
• Corn—like other wind pollinated veggies, giving them a little shake helps distribute the pollen.
• Herbs
• Celery
• Onions and leeks
• Parthenocarpic hybrids do not need to be pollinated and will not produce a viable seed, either. They are good for growing in greenhouses or where the availability of pollinators is limited. Parthenocarpic cucumbers must be grown in greenhouses to exclude bees because pollination causes their cucumbers to become misshapen and bitter.

The veggies listed above will all grow by themselves when planted from seed. And this is quite a list!

To the other extreme, these veggies need pollinators all the time!
• Cucumbers
• Melons and watermelons
• Berries ~ blueberries, strawberries
• Tree fruits

Melons and cucumbers can be hand-pollinated, but it is a somewhat cumbersome task. In the case of blueberries you also need some cross-pollination. This is easy to do just by planting two different varieties.

Squash Bees are Specialists!

Honeybees don’t help cucumbersmelonssquash, and their relatives, because the male flowers bloom before the honeybee is active in the morning. Honeybees fly from female flower to female flower later in the day, carrying no cucurbit pollen, but competing with Squash Bees for the nectar. Squash bees, are our little heroes! They fly earlier than honeybees, when the male flowers are blooming! See more about them by USDA’s Jim Cane.

Pollinator Squash Bee, Peponapis pruinosa

Squash beesPeponapis pruinosa, are solitary, native insects that specialize in pollinating cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins and gourds – cucurbits, and have only one generation per year. This male is outside a Coyote Gourd blossom.

Squash bees are bigger than Honeybees and collect pollen in the hairs on their legs! Here they are compared so you will know and protect Squash Bees when you see them! They don’t sting ~ if a bee is found sleeping inside a squash flower, it is a male and therefore harmless, because male bees cannot sting.

Pollinators Honeybees Squash Bees Compared

Plants that need our help to pollinate are:

• Squashes, both winter and summer types—by hand
• Tomatoes—by hand or wind
• Eggplant—by hand or wind
• Peppers, both Hot and Sweet—by hand or wind

Squashes, with their rather large male and female flowers, are easy enough to hand pollinate. Just remember to get as much pollen on the female plant as you can. The more there is, the better the chances the fruit will develop well. POLLINATION is Vital & Easy to Do!

Bumble Bees are like no other, Buzz Pollinators!

Honey bees don’t pollinate tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant or blueberries, but bumble bees DO! Wind-pollinated veggies are fertilized by the beating of Bumblebees’ and other insects’ wings, called BUZZ POLLINATION, Sonification! About 11 AM, when the anthers (they hold the pollen) are most open, you can likewise give the plants a little shake, or a sharp rap on the cage they are in or on the stem where the flowers are. Or hand pollinate using a small paintbrush or cotton swab. In the greenhouse you can help these veggies simply by adding a fan to move the pollen. Bumblebees fly earlier in spring and bring in our first spring crops! And they don’t sting!

Tomatoes and other Solanaceae will produce without bees or human help, just less…

Please click on the image or here to see the video!

More about Bumble bees! Excerpts and summaries from Sue Rosenthal’s 2014 post at Bay Nature plus notes by me.

They don’t make honey or colonies that can be carried from field to field, but because of their Buzz Pollination, they are especially effective pollinators! The anthers (male reproductive organs) of some flowers have only small pores the pollen is released from. Sometimes wind or visits from insects shake out some pollen, but the amounts are small. Also, many of these flowers do not produce nectar, so honeybees ignore them anyway.

Bumblebees, actively collect and eat not just nectar but also protein-rich pollen. And a bumblebee can cause a flower to discharge a visible cloud of pollen through buzz pollination. The bumblebee grasps the flower with its legs or mouthparts and vibrates its flight muscles very rapidly without moving its wings. This vibration shakes electrostatically charged pollen out of the anthers, and the pollen is attracted to the bumblebee’s oppositely charged body hairs. The bumblebee later grooms the pollen from its body into pollen-carrying structures on its back legs for transport to its nest.

Sometimes bumblebees employ buzz pollination on flowers that don’t require it, for example, California poppies. This may release the already accessible pollen more quickly and efficiently. They also use the energy of buzz pollination for other purposes, for example, compacting soil in their underground burrows (bumblebees don’t build hives like honeybees) or moving a pebble or other obstacle.

Honeybees cannot perform buzz pollination (so far, only a few kinds bees are known to do it), and therefore they cannot pollinate some important crops and wild plants. In fact, commercially-grown greenhouse tomatoes were traditionally pollinated by handheld electric vibrators with names like “Electric Bee” or “Pollinator II.”

Although discovered relatively recently, buzz pollination is no secret. Buzz-pollinating bumblebees make a distinctive, middle-C buzz, which is noticeably higher pitched than the buzz of flight. No special equipment is needed to hear the sound of buzz pollination, just listen for a distinctive middle-C “raspberry” next time you find a plant buzzing with bumblebees.

Honey Bees and Native Pollinators such as native bees, butterflies, flies, moths, beetles, and bats improve, or supplement, pollination for most plants they visit. Now here’s a little kicker! Honeybees aren’t particularly efficient pollinators. They don’t always flit enough between male and female, and that’s the whole idea of pollination! But they do better when they are disturbed by a wild bee wanting to mate. The Honeybee flits off to another plant and pollination goes up to 5 times as when there are no wild bees! Hooray for wild bees! UC Berkeley study

Best is to Plant that year round bee habitat for all your bees! Grow plenty of their all seasons flower favorites, their favorite colors. Grow a Pollinator Meadow at Home in Your Veg Garden! Here and there, let a carrot, daucus carota, celery, cilantro, arugula, or radish grow out to bloom. Make homes for your solitary native bees! Grow a Bee Garden that includes plenty of native plants!

Your plants love bee kisses!

Last updated 4.24.20


Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Have you noticed dug up spots?  Have areas of your yard or garden been dug up night after night?   

Did you know?!  Skunks are excellent at rodent (mice, moles, rats) and insect control.  Their omnivorous diet includes black widow spiders and scorpions, SNAILS & SLUGS, lizards, frogs, snakes, eggs and some plant materials, pet food.  But they eat earthworms too, and skunks are one of the primary predators of the honeybee, relying on their thick fur to protect them from stings.  The skunk scratches at the front of the beehive and eats the guard bees that come out to investigate.  Being carrion eaters, they help keep roadways and neighborhoods clean.  With their slow, waddling gait and bushy tail, these gentle mammals are delightful to see from a distance, and play an important role in keeping nature in balance – the natural way.   

However.  Several of us at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden have had major skunk problems.  Plants dug up, areas where seeds are planted dug up, earthworms eaten.  Every night.  Gets wearing.   

In Santa Barbara, Animal Control is no longer trapping due to budget cuts.  They are concentrating on animal abuse cases.  They referred me to Steve of Eradicators, who said he is scheduled 3 months out, and charges for his services.  Officer Demming at Animal Control also mentioned some trappers work with Wildlife Care Network.  I talked with Dan there. He recommends prevention:   

  • Ammonia soaked rags – smell dissipates quickly
  • Cayenne pepper, the powdery type, that will get up their nose, in their eyes. Sprinkle it on the area the skunks are bothering. The animal won’t be permanently injured.
  • Shake Away, an inexpensive form of fox urine available at feed stores.
  • Moth balls in a container that will keep it from getting into the soil. Isn’t it ironic? Skunks don’t like bad smells!
  • Vary the deterrents so the skunks do not become used to them.

Dan says the disadvantage of trapping is that as soon as one skunk is gone, another usually takes its place.  Poisoning is not a good thing since other animals may ingest it or get it second-hand by eating an animal that has.   

Two sites for information are the Humane Society – Skunks and Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network – Skunks   

I’m going to try a combo of moth balls because I think they will last longer, and pepper, as a backup.  But it depends on which is the cheapest remedy overall.  Let us know what has worked for you!   

Cute Hungry Skunks! Trouble Times Three!

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