Entries tagged with “bees”.

I only know a few but found this to be a great tool that can help us learn: Ant and Bee observer cards from encyclopedia online!



Observer cards are designed to foster the art and science of observing nature. Sets are cards are organized around Families of plants, animals, and fungi. Each set provides information about key traits and techniques necessary to make accurate and useful scientific observations.

The tool is not designed to identify species, but rather to encourage detailed observations. Of course, identification can be possible with careful observations but the focus here is on the process of observing.

For example, if you set out to observe pine trees, what features, traits, and environmental factors are important to record? What photographs or drawings make your observations more informative?




DWMP_bee_dogbane_20120608_5Pesticides in general are being used in far too cavalier a way nowadays – especially in our neighborhoods and around our homes. We’re simply poisoning our environment – poisoning ourselves, yet we’re not recognizing the signs that wildlife are giving us – even when they keel off at our feet.

Sure, there are situations where pesticides may be needed but it should be the exception, not the rule – and we shouldn’t have these crazy neighborhood contracts for recurring spraying – that sort of spraying is simply irresponsible.

I was at Home Depot last week picking up a planter in the garden dept and an employee wheeled up a whole shopping cart full of pesticides and herbicides and told the cashier – tell everyone these are free.  She did, and you should have seen the swarm of people around that cart, taking their poison. As I made my way to register, she tried to push some on me.  I declined – frankly, I was too shocked by it all, but in retrospect, I wish I had spoken up to all those people taking their “goodies”. I wish I had told them to wake up and smell the flowers, not that noxious smell of pesticides and herbicides, and to stop drinking the Kool-Aid of the chemical companies. It’s not healthy. I wish Home Depot stocked this brochure at their register or in their aisles, but then again, I guess it wouldn’t be too good for business.

Take a look at that brochure – are any of those products sitting on shelves in your garage?  If so, it’s time to come clean and kick the habit.

We live in our environment, it’s not something separate from us. It’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we walk on, the food we eat. And, what your neighbor sprays effects you and your family too.

Xerces Society provided a great summary of the pesticide problem that includes some terrific links and action we all need to take. And note, the pesticide problem is not just one where we need to complain to our government leaders – we need to be talking to our neighbors and Home Owner Associations – that’s where the biggest problem lies. Tell everyone you know to stop with the pesticides. simple stop. Stop the indiscriminate spraying. We don’t live in the 1950s or 60s - we know better by now.

From Xerces:

Two weeks ago, the largest native bee kill ever recorded occurred in Wilsonville, Oregon. More than 50,000 bumble bees died when 55 linden trees were sprayed with the pesticide dinotefuran (also known as Safari) in a Target parking lot. This loss represents potentially hundreds of wild bumble bee colonies.

Incidents like this one can easily go unnoticed, and may be happening frequently. The pesticide responsible belongs to a relatively new and controversial group of chemicals called neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees, very long-lasting, and because they make flower nectar and pollen poisonous, there are growing concerns about their safety for pollinators. This year, the European Union cited risks to pollinators and banned certain uses of neonicotinoids for the next two years.

In urban areas, pesticides are used primarily for cosmetic purposes – to have a weed-free lawn, a blemish-free rose, or an aphid-free linden tree. The risk of losing valuable pollinators, such as bees, far outweighs any benefit of this type of cosmetic use.

These products have a wide variety of names (list of names). However, they all have one thing in common: they contain toxic neonicotinoid insecticides.

To prevent more large-scale bee poisonings, pollinators need your help.

Today, ask your Home Owner Association Board, mayor, city council, or county commissioners to:

  • Stop using neonicotinoid pesticides on property they manage (or at least, ask them what they use and why and research it!)
  • Require warnings be posted alongside displays of these chemicals at hardware stores and nurseries.
  • Ban the use of neonicotinoids for cosmetic purposes on ornamental and landscape plants within their  jurisdiction (similar to the ban now in force in Ontario, Canada).

You can protect bumble bees and other pollinators (and the rest of us) from these highly toxic insecticides.


Last weekend we celebrated National Pollinators Week with a great program on our native springtime bees, by Denise Shreeve.

Denise shared all sorts of great information – here are just a few of the tidbits that we picked up”

- Did you know….Honey bees are NOT native bees? Nope – they were brought over from Europe.

- Our native bees, like the Orchard Mason Bees and Leafcutter bees, are stingless and they stay close to home – only roaming in a radius of about 300 feet (about 6.5 acres)

- Orchard Mason Bees and other native bees are extremely productive pollinators because rather than collecting pollen in baskets like the honey bee, they have lots of hairs on their bodies and ooooo just get the pollen all over and spread it from plant to plant

We loved Denise’s presentation and really enjoyed seeing and touching the bee cocoons and other artifacts from their development.

Learn more about our native bees at Denise’s website: http://ournativebees.com/


Thirteen years ago, when we first moved to Loudoun, I innocently picked up a little book. It was called The Orchard Mason Bee, by Brian Griffin.

I had just purchased (out of curiosity) these funny blocks of wood with holes drilled in them and nailed them to a tree at the end of our driveway. Why? Because that’s what the instructions said to do.

I was new to so many nature things but was like a sponge, trying this and that, wondering if nature would play along with the different “experiments” I was doing.

I was doing things like planting perennials (would they really return the next year?), selecting “butterfly plants” (would all these different species really find these plants?), digging a pond (are there frogs in our woods watching us dig? will they come check out this new water feature?), building bird houses (will these beautiful bluebirds like them?), making a rock pile for snakes (wondering, do we have snakes?).

Oh the list goes on….and it included setting up these (and other) bee boxes.

Well one night before dozing off, I was reading this little book on the Orchard Mason Bee and in it Brian Griffin wrote that the bees will go inside, lay an egg, add mud to create a cell, and fill up these holes. The adults would die, and next spring the young would emerge…

I was amazed and excited - I had never heard of such a thing!  I jumped out of bed, grabbed a flashlight and ran out to the end of the driveway to look at these bee blocks.

What did I see? All sorts of mud-packed holes!  The bees had been there and had done their thing!

(The photo here is of a bee set-up from this spring. You can see the holes all filled with mud. I got this set-up from Knox Cellars which is run by Brian Griffin and his family.)

So, why do I share this crazy story?  Well we have an amazing treat for you!

On June 23rd, Denise Shreeve of Our Native Bees in McLean, VA will be doing a program for us!

Here are the details.  I’m really excited for this! I hope you can join us. Another time, I’ll tell you about the adventures with bumble bees in our house that led to me building and setting up some “humble bumble homes”.

Native Bees and Bee Houses ― Saturday, June 23, 10:30am.
Bumble Bees, Orchard Mason Bees, Leafcutter Bees and others are excellent pollinators and welcome additions to any garden. Since they don’t sting, it’s fun to watch them build their nests! Join us for this program as Denise Shreeve, founder of Our Native Bees in McLean, VA, discusses the different species of native bees in Loudoun. She’ll discuss how and where they nest, their favorite plants, and how easy it is to entice them to your yard. Bee houses and nesting supplies will also be available for sale. Location: Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Leesburg. The program will be in the Education Annex. Questions: contact Nicole Hamilton at nhamilton@loudounwildlife.org


The Xerces Society released its report a few weeks ago on research done regarding the honey bee die-off.

You can download the full report here: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Are-Neonicotinoids-Killing-Bees_Xerces-Society1.pdf

Some of the major findings of the report include:

-  Products approved for homeowners to use in gardens, lawns, and on ornamental trees have manufacturer-recommended application rates up to 120 times higher than rates approved for agricultural crops.

-  Many neonicotinoid pesticides that are sold to homeowners for use on lawns and gardens do not have any mention of the risks of these products to bees, and the label guidance for products used in agriculture is not always clear or consistent.

-  Neonicotinoid residues are found in pollen and nectar consumed by pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The residues can reach lethal concentrations in some situations.

-  Neonicotinoids can persist in soil for months or years after a single application. Measurable amounts of residues were found in woody plants up to six years after application.

-  Untreated plants may absorb chemical residues left over in the soil from the previous year.

-  There is no direct link demonstrated between neonicotinoids and the honey bee syndrome known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). However, recent research suggests that neonicotinoids may make honey bees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens, including the intestinal parasite Nosema, which has been implicated as one causative factor in CCD.


Check this out online (you can even watch a scroll of where people are signing on from:  http://www.yourgardenshow.com/news16

Bee-a-thon 2011 – Taking World by Swarm
July 16, 2011 – Noon to Midnight Eastern Time
Citizens, Science and Social Media Join Together to Kick Off The Great Bee Count July 16

On July 16th, from noon to midnight, YourGardenShow.com is presenting Bee-a-thon 2011, the first-ever, free online “town hall” event broadcasting live to a worldwide audience to shed light on the plight of our disappearing bee populations.

Bees and pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food and contribute billions of dollars to global economies, so their dwindling numbers affect everyone.

The Bee-a-thon live online event brings together top bee experts and environmental players with backgrounds in science, activism, conservation, arts and education who will be interacting with viewers via a user-friendly live chat area and providing inspiring ways to help the bees this summer.

People will be tuning in to the event for anywhere between 12 minutes or 12 hours, from living rooms, gardens, mobile devices and “backyard bee parties.”

PRESS RELEASE: http://www.yourgardenshow.com/news16
Twitter hashtag: #iseebees


June 20-26, is National Pollinator Week:

Five years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of the final week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. 

In just three years Pollinator Week has grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.

The growing concern for pollinators is a sign of progress, but it is vital that we continue to maximize our collective effort.  The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture signs the proclamation every year.


I wish I could embed this video on the blog but it’s not that kind of link so….. here’s the website:


This is an exquisite 7-minute clip on so much more than pollination. The presenter, Louie Schwartzberg, asks the question, “What motivates the pollinators?”  Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch offered the explaination, “Nothing lasts forever, everything eventually wears out.” This is a question about life itself and the imagery of the film clip is a wonderful journey in that.

One commenter posted, “I am saddened to realize that most of the pollinators in these clips are seriously threatened – The honey bees by hive collapse syndrome, the bats by a fungus, the butterflies by habitat loss.”  I think that’s a pretty key obersvation.


As we get out into our gardens this spring, we have a nice opportunity to do some native plantings. 

Native bees are one of our most important pollinators and they’re really incredible to watch. 

As you start observing them you’ll also start to recognize different species that we have here in Loudoun – there are lots of different species!

The Xerces Society has put together a nice tip-sheet on plants that are great for our native bees.

Beautiful for your garden, great for the bees!  You can download it here.


I saw this publication posted on one of the local listservs that I follow and thought it was a good one to share.

While it says Delaware in the title, most of the plants listed in here are also native to our area so it’s a nice reference for Mid-Atlantic states. 

I especially like how it has not only color photos and descriptions of plants but also the different types of beesthat will be attracted – not just honey bees but also leafcutter bees, carpenter bees, orchard mason bees, bumblebees and more.

Bees are so important to our entire ecosystem, and as one person put it, “Bees are not optional.” 

Through our gardening and our nature explorations we can both learn about the wide variety of bees and the roles they play around us.

You can download the publication here.