Honey tasting, talk, and a movie with Friends of Bees

Spring bulbs such as this grape hyacinth feed hungry bees

Spring bulbs such as this grape hyacinth feed hungry bees

Our first event, showing “Vanishing of the Bees” at the Watertown Library has been RESCHEDULED!

Friends of Bees are hosting our first event  at Watertown Free Public Library
on Tuesday May 6 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. We’ll have a honey tasting, an informative discussion, and a movie, Vanishing of the Bees.

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Dear Lowe’s: Please stop selling plants treated with neonicotinoids

This Agapostemon bee has something to say.

This Agapostemon bee has something to say.

As I mentioned before, last Valentine’s Day Home Depot and Lowe’s were swarmed by bee-lovers asking them to stop selling neonicotinoids and plants treated with them. The good news is that Home Depot is working on doing better. The bad news is that Lowes won’t even say that they’re not changing anything.

Accordingly Friends of the Earth are calling for a new round of pressure aimed at Lowe’s. So I have signed the latest petition. I dislike signing a petition with a pre-written long letter, so I changed the text to my own not-quite-so-long letter. Here’s my version:

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Be sure your bee-friendly plants are bee-safe

Honeybees love herbs, such as this marjoram

Honeybees love herbs, such as this marjoram

Last Valentine’s Day, Home Depot and Lowes locations across the country were swarmed by beekeepers, gardeners, and other bee-lovers. The bee activists delivered valentines bearing thousands of signatures asking these stores to stop selling pesticides containing neonicotinoids and plants treated with neonicotinoids. So what are they and what makes them so terrible?
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Confessions of a Bee Rancher

Three bumblebees enjoying blanket flower

Three bumblebees enjoying blanket flower

When I first heard about the decline of the honeybee, I started paying more attention to the bees in my yard. To my relief, I saw that honeybees still came to visit. And of course there were bumblebees. Then I noticed these beautiful little shiny green insects, and they turned out to be bees too! I had no idea there were so many species of bees, just in my garden. By taking photos and posting them to BugGuide, I soon discovered a dozen different kinds of bees. There’s honeybees, and bumblebees, jewel-like green Agapostemon bees, black long-horned Melissodes bees, Squash bees, Early Miner bees, Carpenter bees, Small Carpenter bees, Wool Carder bees, Leaf Cutter bees, Halictid sweat bees, and Lasioglossum sweat bees. And Cuckoo bees, so that’s a baker’s dozen.

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Guess what: Bumblebees can sting twice

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Bumblebees do not care if an intrusive gardener cuts down some overenthusiastic butterfly bush. They hardly notice if that gardener carries away that branch, should there happen to be luscious purple flowers to forage on. But if the bouncing of that branch drops that bee down the collar at the back of that gardener’s neck, bumblebees do not take kindly to being confined under the fabric of your shirt.

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Small carpenter bees everywhere

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The Eastern Carpenter bees have tiny little cousins, called naturally enough, the Small Carpenter Bees. Instead of digging into wood, the Small Carpenter bee nests in a broken or cut stem, adding cell after cell, forming a row of larvae. When she gets to the end, she builds a cell for herself and there she rests until her brood emerges.

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Carpenter Bee on patrol

Carpenter bee on patrol

Right about when the bumblebees show up, the Carpenter bees come out too. Bumblebees are placid, fuzzy fellows that take no notice of you. While they look like extra large bumblebee, the Eastern Carpenter Bees have a shiny tail, and the males will get in your face, and tell you in no uncertain terms to get out of their territory. You can tell the males by the way they patrol a nice patch of flowers, and by the pale patch on their face. For all that sass, male bees are all show and no stinger. (What they have instead of a stinger is deployed for the lady bees only.)

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Miner bees are where it begins

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National Pollinator Week officially began yesterday, so that’s my excuse for doubly belatedly posting about the bees that have emerged so far this spring. Spring begins with bumblebee queens hunting for a sheltered spot to build a new nest. On sunny days, honeybees come out to forage and replenish their stores as winter ends. And the bees in my yard that only come out in spring are the Early Miner Bees.

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Found some pollinators in the chives

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Sunday was a beautiful sunny day to go visit the Pollinator plot at the community garden. The chives have been flowering for some days, and I was looking forward to seeing the bees. Sure enough, the chives were hosting a bee party.

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It’s not too cold for peach blossoms

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The peach tree has clusters of pink blossoms poking out from the ends of its branches like brightly painted fingernails on fingertips.

The plum tree is still covered with fluffy white blossoms, but it’s been too cold for many bees to show up. On one sunny day last week, a honeybee visited the plum tree and maybe a half dozen small, seemingly black bees. The one clear photo I got only shows its tail, but more importantly shows its true color: darkest almost blackest green, a color shown mainly in the shimmer.

That color makes me pretty sure that they’re small carpenter bees, or Ceratina. They probably overwintered in the stems of shrubs in the yard, or maybe the sumacs growing next door. This is why I leave a lot of stems standing until spring before I cut them down. It’s nice to see them come back, and I’m sure we’ll see them again.

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