Desert Pollinators

 

Bee on the wing and prickly pear
Bee on the wing and prickly pear

 

 

Gray hairstreak on Desert willow
Gray hairstreak on Desert willow

 

 

 

Tiger swallowtail on penstemon
Tiger swallowtail on penstemon

 

Female Carpenter bee and ocotillo
Female Carpenter bee and Ocotillo

 

Pepsis wasp on sotol
Pepsis wasp on Sotol

 

Photos by Benny Pol

Posted by Sylvia Hacker, Dona Ana County Master Gardener, New Mexico

 

 

 

Bees 101 – 2013 – WOW a Tough Year on Honeybees!

Well, the honey harvest is over and the bees are busily getting ready for winter.  Just as in the spring, there are flowers that the honeybee visits to bring in pollen and nectar.  There are not as many flowering plants that contain nectar in the fall, so feeding the honey bees with sugar syrup may be necessary.  So far in 2013 in North Carolina and in most of the Southeastern part of the US, there has been a drastic shortage of both pollen and nectar all year long.

Three of our Four Hives
Three of our Four Hives

As I stated in a previous blog, the weather has a lot to do with the bees success or failure.  In 2013 we had late cold spells in March and April and then continual rain through most of May, June & July.  The cold made it hard for the Queen to lay and for the worker bees to be able to keep the brood warm.  The cold also made the honey flow in 2013 very short.  The blooms on the flowers froze or the blooms were never produced by the plant or tree.   This cold weather made it impossible for the bees to collect, make and store honey.  Most of the  nectar that the bees collected was used immediately to feed the Queen, the brood and themselves.

Then the rain started.  It rained all spring and a big part of the summer.   It rained almost everyday and when it rains, not only are the bees stuck in the house, but when the rain stops, all of the nectar and pollen have been washed out of the flowers.   When we went into the hives to check things out, we saw very empty grocery cupboards!

So we fed the bees sugar syrup and pollen.  The sugar syrup is mixed with a solution called “Honey Bee Healthy”.  It is a product that closely mimics flower nectar.  We also fed the bees pollen.  It comes in granular form and we just poured it into a bird feeder and hung it about 100 feet from the hives.

Old Bird Feeder Used to Feed the Bees Pollen
Old Bird Feeder Used to Feed the Bees Pollen

 

It’s Necessary to Go Into Your Hives Monthly

The bees were nourished from the sugar syrup and pollen substitute until the weather broke.   Finally, about middle July, the rain stopped and the bees were then again free to gather nectar and pollen from the flowers in the area.   Who would ever think that in a wonderfully green agriculture area like North Carolina, our bees would be starving.   For those beekeepers that did not go into their bees, at least monthly, bee hives were probably lost to starvation.

Our bees are now filling up the hives with brood and food in order to make it through another winter.

Gladys Hutson
North Carolina -Union County Extension Master Gardener
Union County Beekeeper’s Assoc.

 

National Moth Week July 20-28

National Moth Week Logo
National Moth Week July 20 – 28

This week we are celebrating National Moth Week which gives us a chance to participate in some wonderful citizen science projects and some great opportunities to be outside after dark hunting moths with flashlights in a fun exercise called “mothing.” Last month we celebrated National Pollinator Week, so I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate moths, not as voracious caterpillars, but as beautiful pollinators.

How to go mothing
How to go mothing (photo courtesy Liti Haramaty, National Moth Week)

 

I remember the first time I saw a moth pollinating flowers. I was busy weeding purple thistle when I saw something darting and hovering around the purple flower heads. At first I thought it was a hummingbird because it could hover over the flowers like those tiny birds but I later learned I’d been watching sphinx moths. While most moths are out at night, these moths were diurnal, meaning active during the day.

 

National Moth Week 2013
Left to right Luna Moth (photo courtesy Liti Haramaty, National Moth Week); Sphinx moth (photo courtesy Colorado State University Extension ) Rosy Maple moth (photo Liti Haramaty, National Moth Week); Clear-wing moth (photo courtesy Connie Schultz)

 

The moths that are out at night are still busy pollinators due to the special plants they pollinate. These plants bloom at night, bearing white or pale colored flowers that reflect moonlight making it easier for the moths to find their flowers, like the Madonna lily (Lilium candidum), night-blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum), or some yucca species. Some, like Nicotiana alata, also wait to release their fragrance until after dark to help attract the moth pollinators. For more information on identifying some of the most common pollinator moths, try this blog from the University of Minnesota.

If you’d like to see more pictures of moths, the National Moth Week also has a  Facebook page. I was amazed and entranced by the many beautiful moth photos they posted almost daily. I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of moths. Somehow I had the mistaken impression that moths were dull gray and not very interesting but now I think they rival butterflies for color and beauty and they’re just as important as pollinators.

To learn more about moths and other insects or to learn more about other citizen science opportunities, try these organizations below:

Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC