An Alarming Sunday Afternoon

northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)August 10, 2009

Hello everyone:

I am a little bit worried about something I observed this afternoon. I live in Ottawa, Zone 5, much like upstate New York. We have had a very poor summer - quite cool and wet with the odd real summer day. Our gardens have not been doing well - particularly the vegetable gardens. My pepper plants are very small, as are my okras, and cucumbers. My tomatoes were put in late but are O.K. What is most surprising, is that many things - peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, okras are laden with blossoms, but no or very few fruit. Only one of my peppers (a Jalapeno) has produced 2 fruit to date. Two chilli plants have one (green)pepper each. Several of the tomato plants have lots of blossoms but few have small fruit. My friend who lives in Montreal is complaining about the same thing. She says her pepper blossoms are all dropping(mine may be but I have been distracted all summer by a renovation). Anyway, this afternoon as I sat on the deck I noticed there was a strange, kind of eerie feel to my backyard. There is lots of colour in the garden because lots of perennials in bloom, but what I soon realized was that there was NO wild life in the garden. No birds, no butterflies, no bees!! Right now my asclepias is in full bloom but not a monarch has been seen this summer. My agastache, and Giant Balsam, which are bee magnets are just standing there. It was uncanny. My yard is usually full of honey bees and yellow jackets but there are none. Is that why we are having no fruit? Are we lacking pollinators? I then went out into the front yard and saw one solitary yellow jacket at my Hosta Yellow River, and when I returned to the back I saw a honey bee 'diving' into a balsam flower. At this time of the year, I usually see hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Bees, butterflies, and wasps are usually fighting for space on the asclepias. I am usually dodging bees when dead heading in the garden - a yellow jacket stung me on the cheek two years ago. I saw a post on another forum a few weeks ago when a poster was 'taken to task' for suggesting the use of a chemical spray for the red lily beetle. It was suggested that if we continue to try to kill things off we will kill of the bees. In fact, it was mentioned that there is something affecting bee populations world wide. Have we killed them all off with pesticides? This feeling really woke me up!! It really brought home to me the importance of staying away from these chemicals. I am so glad that I have persevered in staying away from chemicals for the last 25 years. I will be checking daily to see if the situation continues. If anyone else is having a similar experience, I would like to hear.


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nancy_drew(5 nw chgo burbs)

I think you are right about a lack of pollinators. I have noticed the same thing in my area. I did see a few honey bees, I'm hoping to attract a lot more next year.

I had a bad experience at the pool this year... still haven't gotten over the guilt! We have had nest of yellow jackets in our water fountain. I never took any action against them. I kind of enjoyed seeing them come and go... (Please don't tell my neighbors! Some of them just don't get it!) Unfortunately the fountain broke and a new one was installed.

The survivors took up residence in our trash can lid. The other day while emptying the trash, I found the nest after they swarmed when I lifted the lid. Yellow jackets everywhere! There was a rather large honeycomb attached to the inside of the lid, I was afraid that some poor kid might get stung while sticking their little hand in there to throw something out. I HAD to spray the nest and in the process, I killed off about a half dozen of them. Oh, the guilt!!!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 11:55AM
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When it comes to Yellow Jackets in such a situation, please don't feel any guilt. After having been stung by them 14 times from the knees to the ankles in one fell swoop a couple of years ago, well, I can still imagine the pain!


The one thing missing for us is the Monarchs and other butterflies. I usually raise them but this year they have not been seen on the peninsula at all. :O( There is still a good population of bees, beneficial wasps, and small moths. The hummingbirds are plenty, but today I realized that they will be heading south very soon.

Our summer was wet and cool. Had our first sunny weekend just this weekend past. Hoping for a nice fall.

What has me worried right now is that the squirrels and chipmunks are collecting goodies for the winter in a panicky manner. That is NOT a good sign even though we are being told that we will have an El Nino winter.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 5:22PM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

Tiffy, I second your motion about guilt over yellow jackets. That's how one got me in the face. They made a nest through a crack in the garage, and I was trying to get them out. Then I was emptying my composter to re-stock it and found a nest in there too. They tried to swarm me, but I escaped them.

But I am so sorry about the Monarchs. Saw just one of them and it passed through my yard, and it flew away. I did see a couple of Painted Ladies, but usually there's a fight between Monarchs, and wasps over my Asclepias, but there are only a few wasps this year, and my Asclepias is already setting seeds.

Didn't know about the squirells - I have been putting nuts out for them to keep them away from my plants. Like you, we have had dreadful rain this summer - some areas have had flooding, landslides, but thankfully we only had a little trickle through one basement window and our backyard under water for a few days.

My Yvonne's Salvia is just starting to bloom - they were so decimated by slugs. I hope they bring some late hummingbirds.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 8:47AM
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No monarchs here either. My container garden has lots of bee/wasp life, a few small butterflies from time to time, and has a hummingbird visitor only twice. I've seen one or two swallowtails since I've been here (May), and perhaps a viceroy, but no monarchs at all.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 7:43AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

A few monarch and swallowtail butterflies have been coming to my gardens for a couple of weeks. Hope to see more monarchs as they migrate down. Also have had smaller butterflies most of the summer as well bees and hummingbirds. Saddly I had no self sown red salvias this year and didn't ws any as had so many self sown last year. Fortunately hummingbirds also like other flowers.

Echinops in bloom attracts lots of bees and large black flies but I find the aroma distasteful. Not sure if I will keep these plants.

No yellow jackets yet though late August is the peak time for them. Perhaps our drought has kept their numbers down along with mosquitoes.

Very few mosquitoes all summer, wondering about the effect on birds. Our neighbor's three cats have taken to stalking my birds. They hide amongst the garden plants or lay on a pile of wood until I shoo them away. Yesterday I saw a hawk in the back yard. Chickadees and cardinals still come to the feeder but not many finches.

Squirrels and chipmunks have been active all summer, digging here and there. Someone is feeding them peanuts as I found one growing in one of my small pots. Kept it since the original plant was dug up and dead. All the pots have had sunflowers growing in them at one time or another.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 12:23PM
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lois(PA Zone 6)

The bees got off to a late start here in SE Pa, but by July I was seeing a lot of them. For a couple years I had seen hardly any honeybees, but I suspect someone started raising them nearby since now I see a few every day.

Bumblebees, now. I was a bit worried about them earlier since I did not see very many. But by mid July, they were all over the place. They love the six hills giant catmint and lavender.

The butterfly bush was also late in attracting butterflies, but starting in August it had a few monarchs and lots of swallowtails.

Your poor fruit performance could be weather-related in a couple ways. Most insects will be less active when it's cooler and therefore not reach as many flowers, and also any fruit on the heat-loving plants like peppers will be slower to develop when it's cooler.

About the only thing you can do is wait and if next summer is warmer, see if that makes a difference in the number of bees you see.

Lois in PA

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 10:33AM
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northerner_on(Z5A ONCanada)

It seems those of you in warmer climes have been having average summers. Perhaps it is the cold, wet, weather here at work. I read an article recently advising we hand-pollinate our squahes and pumpkins because of the dearth of pollinators. At least now I know how to tell the males from the females. My zucchini are suffering because they are being hidden by tomato plants. I have seen a couple of small ones but I may want to resort to hand pollinating later. I like to freeze zucchini for bread and pies during the winter. There have been a few more bees over the week as we are in a heat-wave - summer has finally arrived. It has reduced the mosquite population quite a bit, and suddenly some of the veggies are growing leaps and bounds. I have been rewarded with some zinnia blooms, a beautiful dwarf HH, and a wonderful creamy/white datura today!! Things are looking up!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 1:26AM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

Northerner: I'm pretty far south of you, it's zone 6, and usually have hot summers, on the dry side. But this has been the coolest, wettest summer that I ever remember in the 30 years that I have lived here. We usually have quite a few days in the 90s during July and August, occasionally above 100, but this year have never hit 90. I never remember this much rain, either. The last couple of weeks have been dry, though. There have been storms scattered about but none at my house, and things are really getting dry. I had to water today. Powdery mildew and black spot are going crazy.

My plants did well earlier in the year, lots of rain helped that I guess, but now perennials want to go dormant already and annuals are giving up too. Our high today was supposed to be 75, low tonight 52! Our 10 day forecast is all dry sunny days, lows 50-60 and highs in the 70s. Way too soon for this weather.

I do have lots of pollinators, though. I've had more bees (honeys and bumbles) than I've had for several years, lots of birds including hummingbirds, and finally now monarchs though they've just showed up in the past few weeks.

And I have way more black lady bugs than red this year, too. Never seen that before, either. So what's up with that?


    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 8:43PM
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glad2garden(5, Chicopee, Mass)

I spray my yellow jacket nests with Pam when they are in for the night. When you spray the nest they will abandon it. It works just as well as wasp spray, but a lot less toxic. You can even spray the wasps directly and they will die.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2009 at 12:49PM
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irisgirl(Z5 - CO)

Here's a way to help! Check out the link below to the Sunflower Project. Plant the variety they recommend (Lemon Queen), and participate in their counting process during the coming growing season. It's much like the Backyard Bird Count. And bees are every bit as important as birds!

You can also put up houses for some kinds of bees (mason bees in particular) see '' and "'

Here is a link that might be useful: The Hunt for Bees

    Bookmark   December 22, 2009 at 12:14AM
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