Thursday, June 26, 2014

Where Have All the Bees Gone?

In my last garden, I remember stepping out into my backyard and hearing a hum rising up from all the bees enjoying the clover and other flowers.

honeybee on clover
Two years later, I now have a new garden and a nice big patch of clover, but...


where are all the bees?

are the bees hiding from me?
Oh yes, if I search I can find a few bees..

Bumble bee on salvia
But it is worrisome.  
Is it because so many bees died off after the hard winter?
Am I seeing the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder?
Or is it because my garden isn't as established yet and hasn't been 'discovered'?

a tiny sweat bee, covered in pollen
There seem to be a lot of factors affecting bee numbers.  It is a perfect storm for bees and other pollinators out there - pesticides, pathogens, parasites, loss of habitat, and a harsh winter on top of that.

label on a bottle of Tree & Shrub 'Protect & Feed' granules
Imidacloprid and Clothianidin are Neonicotinoids, pesticides that absorbed into the plant and are suspected of being harmful to bees
In good news, though, the topic has been getting so much attention that pressure is being put on law makers.  Last week, during National Pollinator Week, the White House announced a Presidential Memorandum to address the loss of bees, monarchs, and other pollinators.  The memorandum established a task force to look into the problem and come up with a plan.  It also ordered pollinator-friendly practices to be put into effect on federal lands in order to build up habitat.

Bumble bee on holly
Well, we all know government, so we'll see how effective this will be, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

miner bee on clover
As my rather empty patch of clover knows,
the pollinators need all the help they can get!

25 comments:

  1. Our governments all seem to be talking alot about this crisis but it's us humble gardeners that seem to putting maximum effort into helping the poor bees right now. If we build it....they will come x

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    1. :) It is impressive what grassroots movements can do, though. A similar movement saved our American Bluebird from the edge of extinction. Hoping we can now help our pollinators out!

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  2. I think Jane is right that gardeners are making the most effort but the consumer, in general, doesn't get a lot of help from the stores. I tried to find Dipel Dust, a biological bug deterrent, in Wal-Mart and it just wasn't there. Then too, there are the complete sissies who consider no bug to be good unless it's a dead bug.

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    1. It is kind of sad that to find the more natural options, you have to really search. Really toxic chemicals, on the other hand, are plentiful and oftentimes cheap. It is amazing how far people have gotten from nature in just a couple generations..

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  3. Pollinators are different in my garden this year, too. Just different patterns... They were incredibly numerous at the beginning of the spring when all the ground covers and ephemerals were blooming, but not as active in my potager. I'm not sure why. I do have a European wool carder bee there who's been chasing bumbles away, but I've read that shouldn't really keep them away over time. But the patterns are definitely different.

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    1. Weird. Between the weather and the wildlife, it seems like things are just off-kilter in nature.

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  4. I'm noticing the same here and a shortage of butterflies, and I live way out in the countryside where there are usually lots of insects. I'm worried by the kind of farming we have here and the growing intensity of it......cant be helping.....thanks for keeping this topic alive Indie......

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    1. At least it seems to be getting a fair amount of press in the US. Hopefully the awareness will lead to positive change.

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  5. The bumblebees are in my garden, but I haven't noticed a lot of other bees yet this summer either. It is worrisome, but I'm not putting much faith in the government. On the other hand, the publicity about the bees' plight is good--maybe more people will get the message and plant bee-friendly plants and avoid those awful pesticides!

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    1. I've recently read that Home Depot and BJ's is going to start labeling plants grown with those systemic pesticides and start phasing them out. Hopefully all the awareness can lead to more wins like that!

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    2. oh, that sounds promising. Progress!

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  6. Same here Indie...fewer bees and butterflies...some I think is from the harsh winter and some from all the chemicals that surround me...my neighbors do not get it. I am sad!

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    1. So many people think that putting chemicals on your lawn and plants is the natural thing to do, thanks to marketing. I'm glad the bees are bringing some awareness to the issue!

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  7. I have noticed lots of bees after a very slow start to the season. I too left the clover in the grass for them. What we have mostly is native bees in my garden, but what I see missing is the variety of them in the meadows. Not sure why that is. I have seen more honeybees and bumblebees in the meadows at least.

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    1. I have a detention pond behind my house with lots of weeds/wildflowers surrounding it. I would have thought there would be tons of bees there, but there are only a few. I'm wondering if the hard winter really took a toll on them.

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  8. I heard it's the pesticides that have killed them. Maybe now with stricter laws governing pesticides, the bees will return.

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    1. Pressure has been put on retailers, as well. Home Depot and BJ's have announced they will start labeling all their plants that contain Neonicotinoids, with plans to phase them out, which is a big step in the right direction!

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  9. You have a delightful variety of native bees in your yard. I also saw a slow start to spring, but now there's lots of bumbles in my raspberries. If you're looking for honeybees, though, there needs to be a beekeeper within a few miles of your house. Maybe you?

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    1. I have seen a few honeybees. I know we have some beekeepers in the town next to us, though I'm not sure about in my town. I don't use enough honey to justify keeping bees, so I'm content with buying honey from beekeepers. I'm still working on Mr. Red House to get chickens!

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  10. I noticed the same thing down in your old neck of the woods. It's picking up a bit now but it does seem as if the bees are less plentiful this year than last. Although I'm in a new neighborhood, so it's hard to make the comparison.

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    1. I know that a lot of people down there really love their lawn and use a lot of chemicals, not to mention all the bug spraying that people get done. I do worry about how all these chemicals are affecting wildlife.

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  11. As you say, it is the perfect storm, but I suspect pesticides are at the center of the hurricane. Look to your neighbors and see what they are doing. I hear even experienced gardeners talking about using systemic pesticides as though that is the best thing ever. I raise my voice, but many more voices are needed.

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    1. It takes a lot of voices to make a change. I am happy that finally all the voices are starting to get heard. The government is actually starting to look into things, and retailers are starting to phase out the system pesticides. Home Depot and Bj's have both announced that they will label plants sold with neonicotinoids, and then phase them out. I hope this will put pressure on other retailers to follow suit!

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  12. I hope your bees will build their numbers as the summer continues. Here in my garden it is just the opposite. I've had bees everywhere and I've seen new species for the first time. Sadly, I'm the only wildflower gardener in my area, so it is like a beacon for the poor things. I plant to double the number of wildflower/ bee friendly plants next year. And for those who wonder....I've never been stung while gardening around all of these various types of bees. I don't even worry about it since they are all so busy...as...well...as bees! LOL
    David/:0)

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    1. I've never been stung in the garden either (knocking on wood). Usually I've found if you leave the wildlife alone, they'll leave you alone. I do have a large amount of wasps, though, which I'm a little afraid of...

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