Tag Archive | bees

Bee Counted! Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

Reprinted with permission of the National Garden Bureau.

Bee a Part of the
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

June 15-21 is National Pollinator Week

National Pollinator Garden Network Launches Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

In an unprecedented collaboration, dozens of conservation and gardening organizations, including National Garden Bureau, joined together to form the National Pollinator Garden Network and launch a new nationwide campaign – the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Designed to accelerate growing efforts across America, the Network is launching the Challenge in support of President Barack Obama’s call to action to reverse the decline of pollinating insects, such as honey bees and native bees, as well as monarch butterflies. Representatives of the Network joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House garden, which includes a section dedicated to support pollinators, to formally launch the Challenge.

The Network is challenging the nation to reach the goal of one million additional pollinator gardens by the end of 2016.

Any individual can contribute by planting for pollinators!

To tackle these challenges, the Network is rallying hundreds of thousands of gardeners, horticultural professionals, schools, and volunteers to help reach a million pollinator gardens over the next two years.

Every habitat of every size counts!

From window boxes and garden plots to farm borders, golf courses, school gardens, corporate and university campuses. Everywhere we live, work, play and worship can, with small improvements, offer essential food and shelter for pollinators.

It’s easy to register your pollinator habitat!

“National Garden Bureau supports gardens of all types, done by any type of gardener for any reason and gardening for the health of pollinators is a priority for NGB and our members,” said Diane Blazek, executive director of the National Garden Bureau. “We are thrilled to be part of the National Pollinator Garden Network and look forward to the day we reach one million pollinator gardens registered in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.”

Click here to shop for pollinator-friendly plants from NGB Members.

It’s a simple two-step process:
1) Plant pollen or nectar rich plants
2) Register your pollinator habitat here

Additional steps you can take to make your area more pollinator-friendly:

  • Provide a water source
  • Situate your garden and/or plants in a sunny area with wind breaks
  • Establish continuous blooms throughout the growing season
  • Minimize the impact of pesticides
Full list of National Pollinator Garden Network partner organizations:

Learn more at www.millionpollinatorgardens.org and join the discussion on Social Media through the hashtag #PolliNation.

Scientists May Finally Know What is Killing All the Honeybees (and People with Brains have been Saying this for a LONG Time!!!)

I was still in graduate school when the topic of honeybee decline came up in conversation with my advisor, our post-doc, and the other grad student in my lab. “What could be causing it?”  “Cold temps” “Genetic deformations” Etc.

The girl sitting in the back seat on the car ride back from the field (i.e. your’s truly, Mertie Mae) said, “What about all the pesticides we put on the field. If we put an insectide on for Colorado Potato Beetles, we know that it kills all soft and hard bodied insects on the plant. If we spray insecticides, we know it kills all the worms in the ground. We have bee boxes around the cucumber fields and we know that half of the bees in the boxes disappear by the end of summer, even when they are inside of the cages. It has to be the chemicals we spray on the plants. It is the only logical explaination!”

Of course, at this point, the three men in the car gave me withering looks that pretty much said, “You are an idiot. You are a woman. You know nothing.”  Trust me, this is a look given to anyone in a land grant institution that doesn’t put the great ‘god’ Monsanto up on a pedestal and worship vigorously.

In case my past posts haven’t indicated it, I loath Monsanto and the chemical companies. I believe that we do not know the full extent of the damage they are doing to our environment and to us.

And, someday, if my body is ever found dead in a ditch or floating in a river or under concrete, my family knows to point the police in the direction of the nearest Monsanto representative. Seriously. I am that vocal about it.


So, today, a friend of mine on Facebook posted this article, and after I recovered from my bout of back slapping and hooting, I had to pass it on to you. Courtesy of Yahoo! Finance, I bring you this article that reflects that common sense has once again prevailed. (And that those who are brainwashed in order to get grant money DON’T always know everything… as I might have said to my advisor on my last trip out of his office door when I had my diploma in my hand…)

dead honeybee

Scientists May Have Finally Pinpointed What’s Killing All The Honeybees

Business Insider

Where have all the honeybees gone?

A new study seems to strengthen the evidence linking pesticides used on crops to colony collapse disorder in honeybees.

Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, is a phenomenon in which honeybees inexplicably disappear from their hives. The bodies of the dead bees are typically never found.

Researchers led by Chensheng Lu of Harvard University have pinpointed the collapse of honeybee colonies on a class of pesticides known as neoniotinoids — insecticides that also act as nerve poisons and mimic the effects of nicotine. Scientists specifically looked at how low doses of two neonicotinoids — imidacloprid and clothianidin — affected healthy bee hives over the course of a winter.

The results of the study “reinforce the conclusion that sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids is likely the main culprit for the occurrence of CCD,” the authors wrote in their paper, published May 9 in the Bulletin of Insectology.

Disappearing Bees

Colony collapse disorder was first widely reported in America in 2006. Since then, a complex web of factors has been attributed to the mass honeybee die-offs, including everything from disease, parasites, and poor nutrition to the stress of being trucked around the country each year to pollinate different orchards.

Many scientists have theorized that a combination of these factors with exposure to pesticides could be causing the CCD phenomenon.

In contrast, the new study found that long-term exposure to small amounts of neonicotinoids wasn’t compromising the bees’ immune resistance to pathogens. The hives had just as many infections when they weren’t exposed to pesticides. This suggests that “neonicotinoids are causing some other kind of biological mechanism in bees that in turn leads to CCD,” scientists said.

Three neonicotinoids are currently banned in the European Union, but these pesticides are still widely used in the United States. Most corn planted in the United States, for example, is treated with neonicotinoids. And while bees don’t pollinate corn, they are exposed to the chemical since the corn’s pollen floats to flowers and other crops nearby.

The Experiment

In October 2012, the Harvard team setup 18 hives at three locations in Massachusetts. At each location, four hives were fed high fructose corn syrup laced with neonicotinoids and two were left untouched. Researchers planned to monitor the hives over the winter since that’s when the die-outs occur.


Bulletin of Insectology

A chart shows the diminishing number of bees in imidacloprid- and clothianidin-treated colonies (the red and blue lines, respectively) between October 2012 and April 2013.

By the spring of 2013, researchers said half of the colonies treated with pesticides had abandoned their hives — the key symptom of CCD. The ones that were left weren’t in good shape. Their honeybee clusters were very small and either lacked queen bees or developing bees, the study said.

Only one of the untreated colonies was lost, and in that case the bees’ bodies were actually inside their hives and showed symptoms that appeared to be caused by a type of parasite.

The new study replicates a previous experiment done by the same group in 2010. In that study, the team only tested imidacloprid and found a higher rate of collapse — 94% of pesticide-treated colonies disappeared. They think the disparity might be related to a colder winter, which stresses the bees and exacerbates the effects of pesticides.

It’s still not clear what role neonicotinoids  play in causing the honeybees to leave their hives during the winter, but the researchers note that it might be related to “impairment of honey bee neurological functions, specifically memory, cognition, or behavior.”

It’s been previously suggested that neonicotinoids affect the bees’ ability to remember how to get back to their hives. The bees get lost, which would explain why beekeepers usually can’t locate the dead bodies.

Study Challenges

Some bee researchers have found several things to gripe about with this study, including the small sample size, which was also a criticism of the initial experiment.

At IFLScience.com, entomologist Jake Bova notes that hive abandonment is not a definitive sign of CCD. “Honey bees may abandon their hives for any number of different reasons, and this study doesn’t control for any of them.”

Other critics have taken issue with the delivery method of the pesticides. In response to the first study, May Berenbaum, head of entomology at the University of Illinois, noted to The Boston Globe that there’s been “no evidence of neonicotinoids in commercially available high fructose corn syrup” and that fact “undermines the premise of bees being exposed to pesticides through the food provided by beekeepers.”

Further, The Examiner’s James Cooper points out the study was published in an “obscure Italian journal” with a measly impact factor of .375 (for comparison, the journal Science, one of the most reputable in the world, has an impact factor of 31.027).

Cooper also said the authors “do not account for the fact the France still observes CCD each year, even though they banned neonicotinoids 5 years ago.”

Our World Without Honeybees

Objections to the study seem to belie the fact that any research on colony collapse disorder gives much-needed attention to a global crisis that puts us all at risk.

One-third of the food we eat depends on insect pollination, mostly by honeybees that are raised and managed by beekeepers. There is no good replacement for honeybees, which are easy to manage in masses and are unmatched in the variety of crops they can pollinate. Everything from apples and cherries to broccoli, pumpkins, and almonds depends on honeybees.

Over the last six years, American beekeepers have lost 30% of their hives each winter on average. Some winter losses are expected, but normally in the 5 to 10% range.

The Harvard study comes out just before the United States Department of Agriculture is set to release its annual report of winter honeybee losses. In a media alert, the department said that losses are “expected to be significant due to several contributing factors, including exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides.”


(Above content is copied from http://finance.yahoo.com/news/scientists-may-finally-pinpointed-whats-221000439.html .  Dina, you rock! Great article! Thank you Yahoo! for permission to blog about this article!)


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Battling Hollyhock Rust!

“The last few years my hollyhocks get yellow spots on the leaves. They are mustard colored. What is causing it?

V Clarkin”


Hi V,

Thanks for your question regarding your hollyhocks. Sounds like you have Hollyhock Rust!

Hollyhock Rust

Hollyhock Rust often occurs on the underside of the leaves and looks like someone peppered the plants with dry mustard.  As the fungal rust develops, the upper side of the leaf will have beige to yellow blotches on it.  If left untreated, the entire plant will become infected, with the leaves dropping, the stem becoming spongy, and the plant eventually dying.

If you believe in using chemicals to control disease, you can douse the plants in an all-purpose systemic action fungicide every two weeks from early spring through the end of the season.  Keep in mind that these types of fungicides will affect the pollen and nectar of the plant and poison bees that visit the flowers.

If you wish to treat it organically, you should remove the leaves as soon as they become infected.  When late fall/winter comes and the plant has died back, remove all debris from the plant — if left behind, it will infect your plants next year.  If you have other Mallow family members in your garden (Hibiscus, Marshmallow, Lavatera, Common Mallow, and Mallow family weeds), remove the plant debris from these too as they will also harbor the fungal spores through winter.  Put this debris in a garbage bag and send it to the dump or burn it.

I hope this information helps you out. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

National Pickling Cucumbers throw the ‘Nubs’

“We have been very happy with most of the vegetables we grew this year, but have had problems with our cucumber crop, though.  We got National Pickling Cucumber andthe yield is fair, but the strange thing is that we have TWO different types of cukes growing, one of which is oddly shaped and very seedy.  The “bad” ones have a yellow thick skin, they are bulbous with a pointy tip on their ends.  We have planted cukes in past years and never had problems.  Do you think we had a package with mixed seeds?  The cucumber plants are in our garden in one row; corn is in the row next to these.  Honestly, I am not sure if both types of veggies grow on the same plants.  We also have cucumber plants growing beneath the corn; just about every cuke I’ve picked from under there is oddly shaped and colored.  I have used some Miracle Grow plant food on the plants once a week.  We started these plants from seed directly in the garden, not in pots.


100_0720100_0722Thank you,



Hi Keith,

Thank you for the photos.  First off, good news: all of your cucumber plants are National Pickling Cucumbers.

The rounded fruits that you have been harvesting are due to a stress response in the plants to temperature.  It is related in part to poor pollination.

If your weather has been unseasonably cool and wet (highs in the 60s or lower): your bees have not been as active and therefore haven’t been doing too good of a job at visiting each flower. Cool temperatures make bees more sluggish and wet conditions (either from overnight precipitation or heavy dew) make wet foliage and flowers more difficult to navigate when you are a winged insect packing pollen.

If your weather has been unseasonably warm (morning temperatures in the upper 80s plus or overnight temperatures 78 or above): pollen if viable for only a short amount of time and is temperature dependent.  The higher the temperature is overnight or during the morning hours, the short the viability of the pollen.  Even though the bees might be going crazy in your garden, they are there for the nectar inside the flowers (which is temperature dependent also, but does not start to deteriorate until temperatures reach about 110 or above).  For the bee, picking up pollen is just an added bonus for the gardener.

For both conditions: A female flower needs to have as many grains of pollen  to end up on the stigma as there are ovules (future seeds) in the small cucumber that is waiting to grow at the base of the flower.  With the way cucumbers work, the first pollen grains go to the ovules that are nearest the stem and things work their way towards the blossom end.  If there is not enough pollen on the day that the flower is open (from lack of bee activity or lost viability due to cooked pollen), then the ovules that did not become fertilized will not grow.  The lack of growth causes the tissues around it to not form and you receive fruits that are ‘nubbed’.  As a gardener, you leave that fruit on longer because you are waiting for it to grow to a normal size (or in my case, do not notice it until it is a fat yellow ball that is easy to notice). What actually has happened is that it becomes overgrown and turns yellow.  If you cut open yours, you would see the the
upper part of the cucumber is fully developed like normal and the seeds are very mature, but the lower portion will not look much different than if you
sliced open the cucumber that is set below a female flower that hasn’t opened yet.

The plants that are producing the fruits will revert back to their normal selves once the stressful temperature conditions go way.  You want to make sure that you pick off any you see as soon as you notice them, as allowing them to grow to being yellow will falsely induce the plants to assume that they have produced seed (their goal in life) and can now die.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Garden Must: Wood Hyacinths

Normally most of my posts are of various questions that I receive through my blog.  However, for the last few weeks, I’ve been itching to have to sit down and plug a flower that I’ve recently become acquainted with… and probably addicted to.

Last fall I had the opportunity to get some free bulb samples.  Given that I knew I’d be moving soon, I planted my bulbs at DF’s house.  Turkish Tulips, Giant Alliums, Grape Hyacinth, Scilla, Darwin Tulips, Generic Daffodils and Narcissus, Hardy Glads, and… Wood Hyacinths (Hyacinthoides hispanica or ‘Spanish Bluebells’).

Growing up, my Mom and Grandma were really into tulips and daffodils and ‘new and different’ was if you had a hyacinth.  Living in the country, most ‘different’ bulbs just didn’t make it because they were soon gobbled up in the night by a gopher or a vole.

In graduate school, there was a cluster of wood hyacinths on the south side of the Horticulture Hall.  They were in a small, dry-looking cluster and had white flowers.  They never got too tall and weren’t anything to shout about.  I chalked them up to being one of those flowers that I’d only have in the garden if I had every possible flower that could grow in my area.

So, getting these Wood Hyacinths didn’t really excite me as much as the other bulbs did, but I put them in anyway and waited for spring.  Once things had warmed up, I had lost my list of what was where and was trying to figure out what the liatris-like flowers were.  They were not blooming yet, but just kept getting taller.

A couple weeks later when I was up in the area to see my flowers again, I just about shocked DF with my exclaimation of “what are those?!?”  I could not believe my eyes!  Those wood hyacinths were GORGEOUS!  They were full of bees and even the hummingbirds would enjoy them.

Needless to say, any other color of wood hyacinth that is offered in the catalogs WILL be joining my garden!  From what I have found, you can buy them in Indigo Blue (what I have), Pink, White, or Light Blue.

I happened to be on campus the other week and noticed that the area where they had had the wood hyacinths has been paved over for a bike parking area.  I’d pave over those too.  I don’t know what was wrong with them or if they were a dwarf variety or what, but they were not representative of the beauty that is the Wood Hyacinth.

So, as the Fall 2012 catalogs begin to filter into your mailbox, I encourage you to take a good look at the Wood Hyacinths.  They are a flower that will do well in any garden and are sure to please you.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.