Saturday, May 23, 2009

Where are the Bees?

I'm getting a wee bit concerned about the lack of honey bees in my garden. They should be here by now. The allium have opened and usually they are swarming with bees. Where the heck are they? I've seen bumble bees, wasps, and hummingbirds but so far no honeybees. I'm worried, particularly since on one of the gardening forums I hang out on, people are saying they have noticed the same thing, no or few honeybees. : (

I took a stab at hand pollinating some of the tomatoes today, but if this continues yields are not going to be great this year.

Bees aside, it was a fabulous day to garden today. I focused on getting the coldframe off the patio and the plants that remained in it planted. It's nice to have most of the patio back. I still have about twenty plants that need to go in the ground, but I made some nice progress today.

Planted in the garden today were lemon and dragon's egg cucumbers. They went in the hot bed, along with the watermelons katanya and blacktail mountain, and honey melon (first time growing these). My watermelon were dismal failures last year. This year I spent a lot more time prepping their bed/mound. They went in a very heavily amended, rich soil and katanya also got a wall o water put around it to try and keep the heat on it, until it gets big. My trouble with the melons last year were that they did not grow. At all. I even resorted to some of the blue crap, and that also did nothing. Fingers crossed for this year! The cukes got a little square of row cover anchored over them to try and keep the beetles off them until they get big. I'm also experimenting with a honeydew melon in a planter to see what happens.

A bunch more tomatoes went into the back garden today. My planting spaces are limited by my sun which means I don't have a lot of options for crop rotation. I tried to fight the virus issue a bit by planting the tomatoes thru row cover to keep the soil off their leaves. This should also help keep down the watering. Tomorrow, I'll mulch over it. I have my first baby tomato, it's on sungold. Lots of plants have blooms on them now and good grief the plants in the self watering containers are growing fast! I still have another dozen or so tomatoes to find a space for. They are going to go in the berm bed. Luckily, most of them are still pretty small since that soil needs a lot of work before it gets tomatoes.

Other stuff planted today included the cilantro, ANOTHER toad relocation. This little guy was hanging out under a corner of a plastic garbage bag in what was left of the coldframe. From the looks of things, he slept in the amarynth last night.

The french marigolds all went in as did the rest of the salvia, zinnia, and borage and a bunch more peppers. I won't be growing marigolds from seed again. They grew really slow for me and are still tiny. I need french marigolds to help protect the cukes, melon and peppers from beetles and nemotodes but for them to do their thing, they need to be bigger. I'll probably end up supplementing with store purchased plants. The day rounded out with some edging, replanting the chinese yellow cuke seeds, a bit of weeding, a water fight with the munchkins, helping the hub work on the fireplace and hanging in a cushy chair relaxing. A perfect day!


Kim said...

We've seen a few bees this year, but it's not yet time for them to be here in number. The early birds, the carpenter bees, have been out in number. I hope your honeybees show up and you get good pollination.

Heather said...

I think it was last year or the year before that we also had low bee count. I am happy to say they are back...and it seems every one of them is in my yard. They will be there. The count is low, but they'll return. Have hope!

jezibels said...

I lined the entire garden with Merigold seeds, I hope they come up, Id really hate to spend any dough on store bought plants. I was really angry and embarrased that I had to resort to using "city water" to water my garden yesterday, but we have not had rain in a long time, after installing 3 rain barrels, we really are praying for rain over here!

Maggie said...

I have seen exactly one honeybee here. Lots of bumbles though. Last fall, I had good success pollinating tomatoes on my sunporch by gently vibrating the plants by hand. Here is an interesting link related to this question:

Stacy said...

Thanks Kim. I hope so Heather! Jez, it was looking promising for an hour last night but now they are saying Monday night or Tuesday.

Thanks for the link Maggie. Very interesting and you just gave me another task I can pawn off on the munchkins. "Kids go shake the tomato plants!" I can hear the growns now. {insert evil grin}

Helen said...

The bee situation is a concern for all of us. We don't see too many honeybees in downtown Toronto, Canada. Lots of carpenter bees, though, which I cultivate -- even though they've taken a fancy to my cedar shed, and have been burrowing in it for a number of years.

Thanks to Maggie for the Pollinator link.

Karl Katzke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karl Katzke said...

Sorry, forgot to finish a sentence above so I removed my comment. Let's try this again.

Honeybees are among the least important and least efficient pollinators in your garden, so I wouldn't worry too much about not seeing any. You may have been getting spillover from someone else's hive or some other thing besides the evil "colony collapse disorder" may have affected bees in your area.

I would suggest, instead of looking in vain for honeybees, contacting your ag extension to figure out what your native pollinators are. In my area of Texas, it's a bunch of wasps.

Two varieties of wasps are present in my area, and the easiest way to attract them is to 1) garden organically so that you still have some pests available for them to dine on, 2) for the ones who lay their young in nests, they use 'tubes' of various lengths and pack the larvae in with mud, so providing convenient holes for them to nest in by drilling holes of certain diameters in 4x4x4 blocks of wood and then mounting those blocks in your garden is the easiest way to attract them.

In both cases, neither are harmful to humans (non-stinging), and both are much more efficient pollinators than honeybees. One honeybee will pollinate about twenty plants a day, and some of the natives get as high as 500 plants in a day per bee!

MrBrownThumb said...

Hi Stacy,

I haven't seen a whole bunch of bees lately in my garden blog I've spotted a few this weekend and even a Monarch butterfly.

MrBrownThumb said...

Stacy, I just noticed you were in the Chicago Suburbs. I'm going to add you to my blog roll.


Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

Sorry about your lack of bees. That has been a problems in a lot of areas and it is very concerning to me, as well;-( I think it's amazing that you have hand-pollinated...I hope it will work. I haven't really seen many bees here, either. I was lucky and captured one on a flower w/my camera, but overall, I've noticed they've disappeared here, for the most part, as well. Scary--and sad.

Stacy said...

Hi Karl, thanks for the information. My concern is that my garden used to have tons of honey bees. They were the dominant pollinator. Now they've gone poof.

Thanks Mr Brown Thumb! Has it been a gorgeous weekend or what? I haven't seen any Monarchs yet either but I did plant a bunch of milkweek in the garden this spring so hopefully they'll find it soon.

Yes it is Jan, yes it is. : (

Beegirl said...

Sorry too about your lack of bees. Our hives and those of our friends are going gangbusters this year. Not sure what the answer is, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for the honeybee.