While we are on the subject of bees, this is a good time to write this post as a follow-up to the last one.
Lest readers think that it is all strawberries 'n cream, and wine 'n roses at Crocker Croft, I have decided to show the seamy side. First there are two photographs of Epimedium that show how the leaves have been eaten. For a few years, I have wondered what did that. I really didn't mind, because I thought it looked so cute and interesting. Besides, the plants showed no suffering at all. It just looked frilly.
Now, thanks to recent chit-chat among the gardeners who blog, the mystery has been solved. It is the work of a native wild bee, a solitary bee, called the Leaf Cutter Bee. I read about it on the blogs of Kylee's and Robin's. The most complete information I found about them is here at the Colorado State University Extension's web site.
There are many species of leafcutter bees alone. Overall, it is estimated that in North America there are about 4,000 species of native wild bees. The disease carrying mites that are killing the hives of honeybees does little to the wild bees because many are solitary and do not live in a group or form large colonies. But, the use of pesticides and loss of habitat is just as devastating.
Wild bees are rarely kept in hives, although there are some people who do practice wild bee culture and management. These bees do not make surplus honey so they are kept for the purpose of pollination only. The information I read about keeping and managing wild bees left me believing it was extremely complicated and tricky.
The needs of wild bees can be met by land owners including gardeners of large gardens. The bees nest in thick grass, wood, and soil (70% nest in the ground). By making nesting sites available it is not too difficult to help them increase their populations. They also need natural habitats for foraging. That can be anywhere that can be left to grow wild. We have a small woodlot that is pretty wild. Not far from us is a stream where the Giant Blue Lobelia blooms among the weeds and grasses. I remember years ago farm fencerows were allowed to grow wild, but not any more. All of those are conducive to wild bee survival and reproduction.
In California it has been found that, where farms are surrounded by wild vegetation, the native bees and feral honeybees can do most of the work. But most of California farms are huge and grow only one kind of crop with clean verges; in that kind of environment, with no natural habitat, the wild bees can not live and will never fulfill the pollination needs of those farmers' crops.
Our honeybees are not native to North America. They are native to Europe and were introduced here to help the farmers' production. Their pollination work is a critical part of our agriculture. I have read that they pollinate more than 130 kinds of crops in the U.S.A. That means an estimated annual value of $15 billion in crops.
News out of Cornell University is that the mite diseases and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) have killed 95 to 98 % of our feral European honeybee colonies and more than half of hobby beekeepers have lost all or most of their hives.
Commercial beekeepers are suffering, but are still managing. The government has a research action plan. The research on bee diseases has made it possible for the commercial keepers to furnish the 1.2 million colonies that are needed to pollinate the fields to provide the food we eat. So far, so good, but I wonder if this might be too little, too late. So far there is only one registered chemical (Apistan) available to beekeepers to control the Varroa mites, and in Europe the mites have already become resistant to it; the same thing is expected to happen in the U.S.
Ever read in the newspaper that a truckload of bees turned over? I have, more than once. One just a few weeks ago. How would you like to have that job to clean up! Local beekeepers (apiarists) were called in to help. Bees are hauled around as the seasons change. Crop pollination is a migratory business. The keepers follow seasonal crops as the trees and crops bloom. Many keepers take their bees to Florida for the winter and then haul them about on trucks that can hold up to 500 colonies and 10 million to 15 million bees.
The apiarists charge growers a fee for pollination services. They place their colonies near the crops that need pollinating. Those fees are their main source of income with a little on the side for the honey and beeswax they sell.
One almond grower in California said they are importing honeybees from Australia and if they couldn't get those, there would be no almonds. And, as we have read, CCD is already in New Zealand, will Australia be next? And what will that mean to our dinner menu?
So, yes, the evidence that those little leafcutter bees are living here and cutting Epimedium leaves to roll up to line their tunnels and nests, oh, yes, that is Good!
Next comes The Bad.
My hollyhock foliage starts out looking like this:
My hollyhock foliage starts out looking like this:
Before long, it looks like lace.
There are tiny little caterpillars with white fuzz eating them up. I do not know what the adults are. So far I have not used any remedy, I'm just waiting for the natural cycle to kick in, I guess; I wish it would hurry up. In the meanwhile the hollyhocks bloom away. Has anyone had this problem?
I did find some information about little caterpillars eating hollyhock, but I am not sure it is the same critter, mine are fuzzy, theirs are smooth. The result is the same, however. If anyone else is having the problem here is the link that I found: Wuv'n Acres
Now for The Ugly.
I have shown many photos of Dame's Rocket, blooming en mass, usually. It is a short-lived perennial, which, in order to keep it going, I let go to seed in some areas. Birds love the seeds, but enough escape to make the garden pretty in springtime.
The first problem is: When it goes seedy, it is really seedy looking... even weedy looking. Some areas we cut the bloom stalk back to the low plant near the ground. Here it has gone seedy and weedy looking. These will be cut back.
Next is an example of another problem. Barely visible are small white spots where powdery mildew is getting started on these slender bean-like seedpods. All of it will be cut down, bagged, and sent to the landfill. Our climate is so humid, mildews are an ongoing problem.
The next photograph shows what happens if left unchecked, and this is The Ugly! I wonder if what we call Powdery Mildew is the same one the British call American Mildew? This poor plant is way overdue to be banished, bagged, and carted away with the garbage.
I hate to leave you with this ugly image in your memory. I will try to find something more pleasant. Now, let me see…. What can I come up with?
I almost titled this post "Trouble in Paradise". Glad I didn't, because I since discovered that Mr. McGregor's Daughter had already titled one of hers that way. I still like the name, though. You can find hers here:
Mr. McGregor's Daughter Trouble in Paradise