Monday, October 29, 2007

Knowing Your A Bee C's

Honeybees go about their business collecting nectar and, inadvertently, pollinating the many plants they visit. They've been doing it for thousands of years and will continue on for thousands more.

Or will they?

Last night, Nature (PBS) took veiwers on one of its more frightening rides. The series, "Silence of the Bees", searched for answers to the puzzling decline in honeybee numbers. Scientists and beekeepers have a name for it--Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Just last month, the main cause of CCD was discovered by American researchers. From Nature's website:

Researchers have "linked CCD with a virus imported from Australia, IAPV or Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. Over the past three years, genetic tests on bees collected from stricken colonies around the U.S. found the virus in 96 percent of bees from hives affected by Colony Collapse Disorder."

Last winter's loss of tens of billions of bees has not greatly impacted our lives. But if CCD continues, and the pollination that bees provide stops, then crops such as apples, nuts, broccoli, soybeans, celery, squash and cucumbers, citrus fruit, peaches, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, and melons will disappear. Without honeybees, animal-feed crops, such as the clover that's fed to dairy cows, will be affected.

Until scientists, hopefully, remedy the situation, we can all do our best to help keep bees nourished and healthy:

Grow flowers and herbs that attract bees:

Basil, Borage, Catnip, Cornflower, Dill, Echinacea, Evening Primrose, Fennel, Goldenrod, Horehound, Hyssop, Lavender, Parsley, Poppy, Thyme, Sage, Bachelor's Button, Black-Eyed Susan, Butterfly Bush, Clematis, Coreopsis, Dame's Rocket, Foxglove, Goldenrod, Heliotrope, Hydrangea, Lantana, Larkspur, Mexican Hat, Plumbago, Rose of Sharon, Salvia, Sweet William, Zinnia

Plant many of the same species close to each other.

Bees are most attracted to gardens with ten or more species of plants.

Wild and weedy is good.

Don't use pesticides!


Heidi the Hick said...

I've only got four of the plants on that far.

It really is terrifying isn't it! I also heard a theory that cell phones are disturbing bees. Uh oh.

I have never used pesticides and never will. I got enough of that after 20 years of living surrounded by corn fields. Interestingly, a lot of farmers nearby my childhood home are looking into ways to decrease pesticide use. They're actually quite disgusted by it all but feel that their hands are tied because there's such competition to get a decent crop at the end of the year.

There's hope?

Lynn Sinclair said...

Good to hear that some farmers are considering decreasing their use of pesticides. I'm not a farmer, but I long ago gave them up--can't imagine prizing my lawn over the health of living creatures.

About the cell phone thing--the guy who first put the theory out there has retracted it.

Heidi the Hick said...

I wondered what happened to that theory. It sort of vanished.

I don't even have a cell phone but my husband can't do business without it.

In any case, pesticides gross me out. Dandelions don't offend me. Irritate, but not enough to poison the whole world.

Lynn Sinclair said...

I've always dug dandilions out of my lawn, but apparently, bees like 'em. Heidi, you and I should start a "Weeds are good" campaign in town.

Carolyn Burns Bass said...

I almost laughed when I read about Colony Collapse Disorder, like what, now we're imposing our disorders on insects? But this is serious, no? Thanks for the wake-up call; I'll think twice about swatting a bee.

Lynn Sinclair said...

Carolyn, I'd say humans have imposed disorder on all aspects of nature.

Amy Hunter said...

Thanks for posting about this, Lynn. Another good reason to landscape using native plants. No reason to water or apply chemicals once they're established--the plants thrive on their own because they're planted where they grow best.

I had *tons* of bees on my goldenrod this year. They also liked the fireweed that bloomed earlier in the summer. Another species of bee was drawn in large numbers to the big leaf aster that comes in late summer and hangs around until fall. Given the problem with CCD, I may have to make more effort to put in more plots. Thanks for the reminder!

Lynn Sinclair said...

I'm rethinking my plants as well, Amy. Although I have many in a variety of species, I don't have as many of those listed as I should.

AuthorMomWith Dogs said...

Thanks for posting this info Lynn. So very glad that scientists at least know what it is. That makes finding a remedy more likely to happen sooner.

As for needing pesticides, I've gardened organically for 20+ years and have never had a problem with insects or disease. The trick is not to stress the plants with bad 'dead' soil. In other words, compost, compost, compost.

Lynn Sinclair said...

Karen, composts are great--there is nothing quite so satisfying as creating one's own soil for the garden.