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A Window On My World

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Posts will be published on occasion and irregularly as I am able.
Some of these posts are from my web site The Garden At Crocker Croft.
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cracked Teapots

You might ask: What do teapots and bumblebees have in common? Read on to find out.

The past several years I have read with concern numerous articles about the declining honeybee population. It appears to be a complicated, serious, and challenging problem for beekeepers, researchers, and especially farmers.

From a list of causes mentioned, I recall: insecticides/pesticides, environmental stressors (such as habitat loss), disease, and parasites found all over the world.

Even the nectar of Buckeye trees is said to cause the death (or deformity leading to death) of the juveniles being fed the nectar by the workers.

Since finding that information in two references, I have not allowed the wild buckeyes in this garden to live to flowering age. I had all the trees taken out (they were scraggly anyway). Neighbors have them, though, and the squirrels bring the nuts over here and plant them all over the place. The seeds sprout into young buckeyes whose new spring growth is colorful and attractive, but once they turn green, they get whacked. I keep them cut back that way.

There was a front page article in the Wall Street Journal about concern for our pollinators and the loss of bee populations. The average person does not realize the seriousness of the problem (probably never even thinks about it): no pollinators -> no seeds -> no crops -> no food for people and animals -> famine -> wide spread rioting -> anarchy -> and death.

The mystifying Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is spreading all over the world. Something is causing the hives of honeybees to die. Hopes are being pinned on bumblebees taking up the slack as pollinators. When CCD reached New Zealand, bumblebees were introduced, and they co-exist with the native bees.

There are no bumblebees in Australia. The Australian Hydroponic and Greenhouse Association's concern about the industry's future has led the group to petition the Federal Government to allow them to introduce bumblebees into their greenhouses for pollinating purposes. If CCD has reached New Zealand, it is only a matter of time until it shows up in Australia. When it does, the United States will be in even deeper trouble. More about that in another post.

In England there is evidence that some species of bumblebees are extinct and others are in decline. It is believed to be due to the lack of consistent availability of food and water now that weed and wildflower cover has diminished in fields, towns, and cities. The bees enjoy nectar from many sources, but are much more selective when it comes to plants they visit to collect pollen. Pollen is essential for it is the food of the queen as she produces the different sets of eggs.

At some point, after numerous eggs that become worker bees, the queen produces eggs that will become males and a few new queens. Come autumn, after the young queens have mated, all the bumblebees die; all but the new young queens who have been fed that nourishing pollen. That rich pollen is important for keeping them alive during hibernation; through early spring while they find a safe place to make their new nests; and while they lay eggs that will become the workers. Then the cycle starts over. There is an active movement to protect and nurture bumblebees, for if honeybees are disappearing, bumblebees become even more important.

Some bumblebee species nest underground. The size of the nest is somewhere between that of tennis and soccer balls. In this garden we have had a few bumblebee nests. The queen tends to select a location under something that is protective such as a tree root, or stone. They burrow in there by making a small hole for their entryway, one so small it is not noticeable. They sometimes use the runs and burrows of rodents.

The Wall Street Journal article gave an interesting tip for helping bumblebees find good nesting sites. The writer suggested burying old teapots with the tip of the spout sticking up out of the ground. What a clever use for old, cracked, chipped, and broken teapots!

For more detailed information, this is a good article to read.
The Plight of the Bumblebee


Anonymous said...

Hi Barbee!
Yes, the tragedy of the declining number of honeybees is alarming. Thanks for your post. Hopefully, many more people will become aware of the plight.
I recently wrote on the same subject, http://tinyurl.com/6b67gq
Pardon me mentioning this in your Blog, but the more who know, the better, don't you think?
Thank you for your efforts.

Victoria said...

Fascinating, Barbee, what a fantastic post! I used to have a bumblebee nest in my garden, but they've disappeared this year. I'm wondering whether this is linked to the fact that I've had to rip out my rosemary and lavender because it became so ravaged by rosemary beetle. I love the idea of the buried teapots: I'll going to try it.

Anonymous said...

Another brilliant post, Barbee'! Not only is "planting" the teapots an inspired idea, but I loved looking at the photos of your collection. I'm not sure I could bear to bury any of those, though!

Barbee' said...

Bob: Hi, no problem with putting in your url. I agree. Information is important, and I am going right over there to read your input.

Victoria: Bumblebees die at the end of summer. The new queen lives on and come spring she finds a new place to create her hive. She burrows in and starts laying eggs. So, I think your removing the rosemary and lavender had nothing to do with it. Maybe the new queen went over to a different place because she couldn't find a teapot buried in your garden :)

Barbee' said...

Everyone: Do go to grumpy1 Bob's post (see url in his comment) and read his sobering report.

Barbee' said...

OFB: thank you, very much. But...
OK, it is 'fess up time! Remember, I am not much of a camera person. Cameras are machines. Machines and I do not get along. (I think I covered that in a previous post somewhere.) Those are not my teapots. Being too lazy to gather mine together for a photo fest, I went to a site for free photos. Their photography is better than mine, anyway. See my sidebar for photo credits.

Shibaguyz said...

Hey Barbee - think you could send some of those bees our way?? Everything is in bloom and we're only seeing a few bees per day... ugh... send bee vibes our way!! LOL If they don't show up soon, we're gonna be out there with little cotton swabs buzzin' around ourselves!!

Barbee' said...

Hi guyz: Thanks for coming over to look, and for leaving your comment. Will do what I can. :) Otherwise, I hope someone gets a pic of you two out there cotton swabs and all. Now, that would be a photo worth posting! How's the potato condo doing? I think it is making you famous!

Victoria said...

I'm going down to the charity shop to buy myself a cracked teapot as soon as I get a minute. I can't wait to see their faces when I tell them what I want it for...

Barbee' said...

Victoria: I would love to be a bug on their wall when you do that, so I could see them, too!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post and a great idea.
But I dont use teapots :(
Will have to go and find some
An Artist's Garden

chey said...

Great post Barbee! Thanks for the information! Neat idea for old cracked teapots.

Steve said...

Barbee, thanks for focusing attention on the bee scenario. And Bob, thank you as well for your efforts. Of all the environmental disasters I could have conceived of at one time, I am positive the bee population was not very high up the list.

I have also seen speculation on cell phones and microwave transmission in general as possibly contributive. Thanks, Barbee. And Grumpy!

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Hi Barbee,

I kept wondering what teapots and bumblebees had in common. This sounds like a good idea. You worked hard on this post. I think it's grand. BTW, the bumblebees and honeybees are fine here so far.~~Dee

Barbee' said...

Hi Steve: Thanks. I'm sure it was apparent that the Wall Street Journal article precipitated this post. I am planning a follow-up article. Cell phones and micro waves? You can't be serious.

Dee: Thank you. Glad to hear that Oklahoma, U.S.A. is still a buzzin' loud as ever. Every time I think of Oklahoma it reminds me of the elderly mother of a friend in England. When I met her, and she heard that I am from the states, she brightened and said she saw the show Oklahoma. I think her vision of the U.S.A. was what she saw in that show.

Cinj said...

What a smart way to both recycle AND help the bee population. I don't know why so many people have a problem living with bugs anyway. All those pesticides just aren't good for everyone.

Babs said...

I saw the most interesting documentary on CCD last month on PBS...In places where the bees are already gone, the people with orchards have already resorted to hand pollination of all the fruit trees with little brushes (like paint brushes) that mimic the bees. While it works on the small scale of a small orchard, I can't imagine it would this work for acres and acres of farm field.

Barbee' said...

Hi Cinj: thanks for visiting. Well, some people really have an extreme aversion to creepy, crawly things. I have noticed that in at least three members of our family. I guess I'm the weird one. But, you are correct, those chemicals are bad for all of us. Wish people wouldn't use them.

Babs: I know. It is grim. But, for a smile read shibaguyz's comment above.

Balisha said...

Interesting read...Clever idea for old teapots. I may look for one at the neighborhood garage sales.

Cindy said...

Thank you for posting this information Barbee. It's as though you read my mind as I have been thinking about posting about this very same topic (minus the tea pots- what a neat idea). I have seen only ONE honeybee this year in my garden. Very alarming to me as I usually see so many with all the herbs I grow that honeybees usually flock to. Every year I have noted less and less honeybees to my garden. Quite alarming really.

Nancy J. Bond said...

A very clever idea! I will remember this one when yard sailing and keep an eye out for some discarded teapots!

Terra Hangen said...

I am very concerned about our bumblebees, and all bees, here in California.
I am thrilled when bees visit my garden. They adore the large thicket of blackberries, when the white flowers are blooming.
If bees are in trouble, like the canary in the coal mine, there is a HUGE problem in the environment, I think.
One thing I do to help is to not spray my garden with insecticides!
The teapots are so pretty.

Barbee' said...

Balisha: Thank you. I guess now there will be a run on old teapots. :)

Cindy: Several people have reported fewer bees. Don't let the fact that I posted on the subject stop you from doing the same. There will people who read your blog who will never see mine. I think the more the problem is posted, the better. Grumpy1 had already posted about it. (See first comment.) When you do, let me know and I will put a link here to your post.

Nancy J.B: Old teapots have never been more popular!

Terra: Thank you, also, thank you for not spraying. Regarding the canary - that is a good way to put it, seems to put the problem in perspective. I like having the bees around, too. Sometimes I feel lonesome in the garden and they keep me company.

Pomona Belvedere said...

A very interesting post, and I'll check out Bob's post as well. In my area, there's a beekeeper who's apparently having some success in breeding CCD-resistant honeybees. (And I gather that beekeepers make more off of pollinating than honey.) Maybe I will call this guy for an interview and blog on that--you are all right, it's a topic that bears repeating--maybe we can get a few more people to stop using pesticides.

Oh, and I loved the teapot idea...

Barbee' said...

Pomona: Thank you for stopping by and especially for your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the teapot idea. I'm not the one who thought of it, I'm just passing along what I read.
I will be publishing a follow-up post to this one on Thursday morning.

Re: the beekeeper you mentioned. That would be a very interesting post.

And, thank you for the comment you left in my Guest Book on the website. I agree about caution in using even tested medications. I over-react to everything so am very careful. When I do have to take something, I take a child's size dose. Everyone laughs at me, but I want to take the least amount of anything that will be effective. I'd rather not take anything; most have dangerous side effects.

I will pass along your message to Chief Photographer. :) Thank you!

Kylee said...

Barbee, what an interesting blog post! There are many hives in fields and woods here, placed by bee keepers. We've not noticed a decline in honeybees OR bumblebees, but I know in some areas they are declining.

Honey is packaged here in our rural county, just a few miles from our house. In fact, the president of the business formerly known as Stoller's Honey is a friend and former classmate of mine. They have since merged with a company in Kansas to form Golden Heritage Foods, which is now second in the nation in honey sales and the number one provider to the food service industry in the U.S.

So bees have always been a subject of interest to me. Thanks for posting this!

rowena said...

I've heard about the bee problem in the states but so far, haven't heard the same for bees in Italy. Very interesting post however regarding the use of old teapots!

We get the occasional bumble bee visit in our garden that always takes me by surprise because of it's loud buzz. They call them bombo which seems pretty appropriate given the size!

Karin A said...

Hi Barbee! Thank you for visiting my blog, and gave me the opportunity to discover yours. :) I haven't heard about this situation before but it sounds alarming but if old teapots can help I would be happy to do that to.


Barbee' said...

artistsgarden (Wales): Thank you so much for the positive feedback. When I think of Wales I remember my one and only quick trip there. We crowded a lot of activity and visiting into a few short days. I remember the beautiful long vistas being a restful stretch to my farsighted eyes. One thing we did was visit
Bodnant Gardens. I guess every gardener visiting Wales tries to go there.

chey (Nova Scotia): Thank you, Chey. I hear it is really hot there which surprised me. I thought there would be cooling ocean breezes. I don't want to think about the only time I was there. A long story. I was too sick to enjoy it.

kylee (Ohio, USA): What an interesting comment! Thank you very much for sharing all that with us. Very interesting. I guess I never really thought about where it all happens.

rowena (Italy): Thank you, Rowena. I hope the problem never reaches Italy. I like that name bombo. I read somewhere that their buzzing vibrates the flowers and shakes loose the pollen in some types of flowers. Sounds plausible to me.

karin (Sweden): Thank you, too, Karin. I hope Sweden never has the problem, too, but if it does, you know what to do. Call out the teapots! I loved your post about Gardens of Gothenburg. The only time I was there was the end of February. No garden tours at that time. :)

Kathleen said...

omg, what a wonderful idea. I'm going to definitely do that in my yard. One year I had a bumblebee nest under my front step. That same fall, I was having work done on my house and the workers killed all the bumblebees. When I came home there were dead bumblebees all over my front patio. I was so upset. Even tho it wasn't an ideal spot, I knew they wouldn't be there much longer and having them around was much more important to me. Fabulous post.

Sue Swift said...

Hi Barbee,
I'm afraid Rowena's wrong - people estimate that the bee population has halved in Italy over the last couple of years. I've been posting on CCD since about 2006 - it's a huge problem all over Europe.

Don't dismiss the cell phone idea -the concept is that the bees are disoriented by them and can't find their way home. It's as likely a theory as pesticides, parasites and all the rest.

Barbee' said...

Kathleen (Colorado, USA): I am so sorry about your sad story! Most people do not know or understand their importance. I'd rather have bumblebees under my steps than yellowjackets. I think if there were yellowjackets that close, even I would have to do something about them. They are dangerous.

Hi Sue (Italy): Thank you for your input. I had read about the cell phone idea relating to migrating birds. I didn't know that it was a suspect in the bee problem, too. Oh, dear!! Well, I'd rather have food than a cell phone.