Pipevine Swallowtail

Today I saw a beautiful black butterfly flapping its wings as it drank from the butterfly bush. I thought “Black Swallowtail!” and grabbed my camera.
It did not take well to being photographed, let alone chased all around my yard. But it kept circling around and eventually it came back to the butterfly bush.
Then I got an id and found out it’s a Pipevine Swallowtail and one of several large black butterflies that are often confused with each other. Beautiful no matter what it is.

Posted in Bees | Tagged | 1 Comment

Good Bee Hunting

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I found lots of bees today on my way to and from my community garden plot. On the way over, I saw some beautiful coreopsis with cute little Halictus (I think) sweat bees filling their saddle bags with pollen. In the Pollinator Plot, bumblebees are still buzzing in the borage. A couple of Hylaeus bees were hopping in and out of blackberry flowers. (I found another Hylaeus in my raspberries a couple days ago. You just might be able to see the yellow marks on its shoulders.) When I passed the coreopsis on my way home, a green Agapostemon had come to visit, but I didn’t get a picture. Finally I walked by a gas station with a lovely planting for honeybees: lots of clover and salvia both purple and white.
Friday of Pollinator Week is a good day for bee hunting!

Posted in Bees, garden | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Good Bee Hunting

What to plant for bees

Agapostemon bee coming in for a landing on Mountain Bluet

Green Agapostemon bee with stripey tail coming in for a landing on Mountain Bluet

It’s Pollinator Week and everyone wants to know what to do for the bees. The one best thing you can do for bees is to plant flowers. The bees will find even little flowers in a windowbox or a small container. But what kind of flowers?

Ideally for native bees you want to give priority to flowers native in your region. All bees prefer old-fashioned single varieties of flowers. Some modern ornamentals have had the pollen bred out of them. Doubled flowers don’t have any room in the center for bees. Bees generally prefer blue, purple, white, or yellow flowers. Whatever you plant, aim for a variety of flowers so that something is blooming throughout the year. And always looks for plants and seeds that are organic and/or untreated with systemic, persistant pesticides.

This list is by no means complete. Nor do I confine it to native plants. (That’s another issue.)

My Bee All-Stars: These are plants that make me happy watching all the bees. Some are wildflowers you might call “weeds”. This group is roughly in order of flowering.

Crocus, Grape Hyacinth (Muscari), Mountain Bluet (Centaurea),  Borage, Raspberries, Nepeta “Walker’s Low”, Salvia, Blanket Flower (Gaillarda) , Butterfly Bush (Buddleia), Oxeye Sunflower (Heliopsis Helianthoides), Anise Hyssop (Agastache), Sunflowers, Purple coneflowers (Echinaecea), Joe Pye weed, New England Aster, Goldenrod, Sedum “Autumn Joy”. For the wildflowers add: Bladder Campion, Daisy Fleabane, St. John’s Wort, Hawkweed, Wild Aster.

And other sources recommend many more flowering plants that can be grown in the Boston area. Continue reading

Posted in Bees | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on What to plant for bees

Another bumblebee in the raspberries

A couple weeks ago, my old camera’s sensor stopped working outside, though I can still take video with it. (Like this.) I tried to put off getting a new one, because I knew I would get obsessed. But with National Pollinator Week coming and lots and lots of bees appearing in the yard, I couldn’t wait any longer. So I just got a very nice used Panasonic Lumix LX3. And back to the raspberries I went, hunting bumblebees.

Posted in Bees | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Another bumblebee in the raspberries

7 Ways to Help the Bees

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s National Pollinator Week, a good time to talk about what we can do to help the bees. Bees are so not different from us. All they need is safety, food, shelter, and a little help from our friends. By safety, I mean no pesticides. By food, I mean flowers. By shelter, I mean a little space set aside.  By help, I mean speaking up. Here are seven ways you can give bees a helping hand:

Continue reading

Posted in Bees | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Let’s spend a couple minutes watching bumblebees

It’s the first day of National Pollinator week, and the raspberries are flowering. So are the strawberries, the bladder campion, the mock orange, and the catmint. June is a good time for bees!

So here’s a quick video I just took of the bees and blossoms. The focus isn’t great, but you can see several bumblebees, a big fat Carpenter Bee, and a few little bees darting around. Count them, and leave a comment with how many you find!

Posted in Bees | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Let’s spend a couple minutes watching bumblebees

Honey Tasting and Movie: Queen of the Sun

Friends of Bees

Friends of Bees

On Wednesday June 25, Friends of Bees will be showing Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? at Watertown Free Public Library. Queen of the Sun is a beautiful and fascinating movie about our relationship with bees.

The evening will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a honey-tasting hosted by Follow The Honey. At our previous event, they brought eight amazing and completely different honeys!

At 6:30 – Bob DiRico from Watertown Department of Public Works will speak on Watertown’s bee-friendly efforts.

At 7:00 – Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?

Hope to see you there!

Friends of Bees is a group founded by members of Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment to raise awareness about bees.

Posted in Bees | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Honey Tasting and Movie: Queen of the Sun

Now here’s a Miner bee!

Early Miner Bee

Early Miner Bee

In spring you may see lots of little bees emerging from the ground or your lawn. The ones I find are little brown Early Miner Bees. First are groups of them zooming around. These are the males, who emerge first. Next come lone bees hunting around on the ground. These are usually the females looking for their nests, or good places to dig one. Or you may well find them in the trees, pollinating flowers.

Continue reading

Posted in Bees | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Now here’s a Miner bee!

Garden Tour in Watertown for the Bees

20140502_honeybee_muscariThis Sunday, May 11, from 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm. I’m participating in the Watertown Chemical-Free Garden Tour. This is a semiannual garden tour featuring yards and gardens where no chemicals have been used for at least a year. Needless to say, eschewing chemicals and pesticides is vital for all bees. In this tour, many of the gardeners are featuring what else we are doing for bees, from planting flowers to keeping hives and offering bee hotels.

My garden is a stop on the tour. With the delayed spring, it’s looking nicer than it usually does in May. The bulbs are still open in full force and the pear trees are flowering. Honeybees are visiting, Miner Bees are stocking their tunnels, bumblebees are searching for nesting sites, and my annual male Carpenter Bee is patrolling his usual spot by the door. He may even try to get in your face as you come up the stairs. But don’t let his bluster fool you: unless you’re also a bee, he can’t do anything to you.

Hope you can come see some bees!

Posted in Bees, garden | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Garden Tour in Watertown for the Bees

Are the bees coming out?

Not a bee, but a Saw Fly.

Not a bee, but a saw fly.

Last week, I saw a bumblebee go by a window, and dashed out to see where she was going. I missed her, but I did find this bee-like bug, resting on the stamen of a crocus flower.  It had a cute little face and long antennae like a bee, but it didn’t seem all that interested in pollen. Could it be a bee?

Continue reading

Posted in Bees | Tagged | Comments Off on Are the bees coming out?