Paucity of honeybees

mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)June 14, 2014

I'm not sure if I'm noting concern for no reason, but I haven't noticed a single honeybee yet this season. Now, in all fairness I'm not outside that much, but I do mosey out there to tend things on the patio and enjoy WALAT-ing and am constantly looking out the window when I walk by (my beds are planted to be viewed from the house as well as outside) and nothing - not a single honeybee. The bumblebees found the salvia by the window, and I've seen a good number of them. Nothing to speak of on the catmint, and the insects are usually all over that. Is it too early in the season to be concerned about the honeybees? Maybe when more summer flowers/vegetable plants get blooming I'll see them out in droves - ? .

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I have lots. I found a wild hive in my gorge. You could start start encouraging mason bees by supplying homes.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 11:02PM
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jerijen(Zone 10)

There was a wild hive next door to us. We saw honeybees EVERYWHERE -- Lovely, gentle honeybees.

Now, the property is for sale, so the owner had the hive exterminated. And we now see no bees. To make matters worse, the State is spraying all local citrus with Imidicloprid, as we are under quarantine for Asian Citrus Psyllid.

We are going to have many Silent Springs.

A bee -- before the slaughter.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 11:05PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

My sister ordered two hives this year for her new property, she's getting into beekeeping. If I had acreage, I would take up this hobby too - but that is not feasible here in suburbia on 1/4 acre.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2014 at 11:08PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I haven't taken time to notice yet, but I've been seeing a shortage of bees in general for awhile. I have a small 1/4 acre too, so I wouldn't want to try a hive either, but I've been putting up bee houses for the past two years and have not seen one use it yet.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 3:29AM
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Campanula UK Z8

The most successful honeybees in England are the colonies which are raised in urban surroundings, particularly rooftops - the flightpaths are undisturbed and they are not a nuisance to nearby residents. Those of you with smaller gardens could consider the possibility of raising the hives onto roof level or on top of a garage....or even up in a tree (we are going to try traditional skeps hanging in the oaks next spring). Country bees everywhere are competing with intensive agriculture and associated pesticides....and yet, there is a growing interest in bee-keeping which may yet save our bees from utter devastation. My daughter is our bee-keeper - here's ours.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 6:42AM
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flowergirl70ks

So far this year, one bumblebee. Honeybees around here, not for many years. corn farmers caused us this problem.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 8:10AM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I stopped growing Datura because I was concerned that they would mess with the quality of my neighbors honey. Those wild bees for wild over that datura. They go nuts inside the closed bud and break the blooms.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 9:21AM
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gardenweed_z6a

My nearby neighbor kept beehives for decades before I moved here. Since then, his hives have decreased and just two years ago, all his bees died due to CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). He has bees again but keeping the hive healthy and thriving is problematic for a variety of reasons.

So far this year I've seen a single honeybee on one of my perennials. I garden for the pollinators (bees, butterflies & birds) so am concerned there are fewer honey bees than in previous years. I adhere to organic gardening principles and practices as do most (but not all) of my neighbors.

I haven't seen bees active on my several catmint but will keep a closer eye on them as the season progresses.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 9:24PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Today, I noticed on one of my Viburnums that just finished flowering, that a small percentage of the possible berries are developing. I'm thinking that is a lack of pollination, but I'm not sure.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 9:34PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Maybe it's a very local thing but there have been honeybees here again for the last couple years. I'm glad to see them, for a while it was pretty quiet with few bees or any pollinators.
Now there are wasps and small bees and plenty of bumblebees. I'm thinking it might have something to do with (surprisingly enough) the development of a nearby industrial park. It was all mining spoil but during development the land was cleared and grass planted, all the weeds and wildflowers seem to be helping.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 10:13PM
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SunnyBorders(5A)

For the last few years we've seen small honeybees very early in the growing season and afterwards none.

Ten years ago or so, I'd be working in the middle of honeybees while staking or deadheading tall perennials (e.g. culver's root) in July. I miss their company.

Picture April 12, 2014.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 11:51PM
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Laura twixanddud(5b MI)

I have not seen any honeybees here in the past two or three years. Lots of bumblebees, but no honeybees. Sad, and scary.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 6:28AM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

I don't normally see honeybees until later in the season. However, I was just commenting to my DH that I was surprised how many honey bees are in the garden already. It seems early, and there have been a lot. The tree peonies had many on them, and I've never in 12-13 years ever seen honey bees on them. Maybe someone nearby started some hives? Not sure why there's a positive change here, but I'm very happy for it.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 6:50AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Campanula, youâÂÂre lucky your daughter enjoys bee keeping. ItâÂÂs nice to see the next generation taking on an appreciation for the natural world.

I know another GW member locally who tried hives but lost them all. I donâÂÂt have a flat roof that would make putting a hive up higher something very easy to do. I would like to see a photo of the skip hanging in an oak tree when you are able to do that. Sounds like an interesting solution.

One issue IâÂÂve considered, is that I am one of the few people in my neighborhood who gardens to any extent. So I wonder if it would be fair to the bees to try a hive in an area that didnâÂÂt have enough plant material to provide what they need.

Thyme2, youâÂÂve reminded me to consider the timing of honey bees, maybe itâÂÂs too early here. And to think about if thereâÂÂs been any positive changes.

I did see a lot more Bumble Bees this spring. About 5 years ago, we had an alarming amount of Bumble Bees dying all over the garden in September of that year. The next spring they were in much reduced numbers, so it is good to see at least they have rebounded, finally.

And I just thought about the fact that I pulled out a lot of perennials last fall and have not replaced many yet. So I will have fewer blooms to attract them. WeâÂÂve been busy reconstructing the vegetable garden, but weâÂÂre about at the end of that project and I guess I better get busy adding back in more plants for the pollinators. And noticing whatâÂÂs going on with the bees this year. IâÂÂve been much too distracted in the garden this year so far.

I have been seeing more small butterflies this year. Varieties that I havenâÂÂt seen before. So, that is a positive.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 7:12AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I just began placing Mason Bee houses in my yard. I can see that at least 4 of the tubes have been filled, so I'm thrilled. I'm also planting early blooming shrubs and trees to encourage them to stay close and increase their numbers. I've read many post on other forums of people providing nesting sites for Mason Bees who've had huge populations develop over a few years. I don't live close to any orchards, but we also need pollination of our wild berry bushes and trees to support the bird and rodent populations.

Martha

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 8:01AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Martha, I bought Mason Bee houses from FEDCO this year. I tried a different kind last season and had no visitors. None this year either. I am trying to figure out why. My only suspicions are that I put them out too late, or I am placing them wrong.

I would really like to see what kind of house you are using and hear about where you placed yours and how early you were able to get them out there.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 8:16AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Prairiemoon2,
I'll go out once I'm dressed and take a picture. Mine went out early to mid May, so also late, but we had a long, cool spring and all the blooms were delayed. Mine is hung under the overhang of the roof of my garage. I thought it might be too high, but was hoping the protected spot would compensate for that. It's on the southeast corner of my south facing garage of my generally shady house. We have lots of very tall oaks and pines, but the opening where the house sits does get some mid-day sun and dappled shade at other times. My two acres backs up to a 40+ acre swampy area that is the flood recipient for a nearby commercial area at a busy interstate off/on ramp. I have no idea what sorts of plants or trees are growing in the swampy area, since there is no access by car or foot. There are certainly deer, and there were fox when we moved in 2 1/2 years ago. We also have a nice variety of common birds with quite a few woodpeckers. Several nights this summer I've heard something shrieking as it attacked or was attacked by something else that sounded largish. Too much info? Anyway, you get a picture of our setting. I'll go throw clothes on and snap a few pictures.

Martha

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 8:49AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I would be pretty excited to have tubes filled in the Mason Bee house. We must have put our house out at least in early May. Funny because I saw a handful of bees in early April which surprised me. I had three of them in my kitchen one day, which I don't think has ever happened before. My mason bee house had not arrived yet. Sounds like you didn't put yours out any earlier than mine, so maybe it is my location.

I have mine screwed onto a stake that is about the height of my stockade fence 6ft high. It has a little overhang on the house above the tubes supposedly to protect it from weather, but maybe it's not enough. It is facing East but it's in the Northwest corner of my yard. I have vinyl siding on the house and I've been leary of screwing anything into the house.

With your undeveloped area nearby, I'd think that would attract beneficials. We are in a neighborhood of small lots with very little gardening going on. One small park a few blocks away, but nothing but lawn and trees there. No woodland nearby. I know one other household one street over that has an extensive garden of shrubs, other than that, lawn, fence, foundation plantings. I think bees would have a hard time locating in this area and finding enough to survive on.

I forgot I have clover in the lawn, which should be a good source for bees. I was just outside and I was staring at the back lawn for about 5 minutes. It has a good stand of clover blooming right now and I didn't see any bees. It has been blooming for over a week, so maybe they've already been and gone? It would be nice if we could do bee counts, but I canâÂÂt imagine being able to. [g]

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 9:51AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

OK. Here are some pictures of my Mason Bee House. For those not familiar with them, they are a native bee to North America. Honey bees are actually foreign and were brought here by Europeans. So, all of the pollinating that occurred prior to settlement was done by native insects and birds. Mason bees are solitary, meaning they do not live I large groups like honey bees. An individual female will lay fertilized eggs in a hole somewhere one at a time. She will collect pollen and store some in each nest that she creates, so when the new bee "hatches" it has something to eat while it develops. By fall each bee larvae has matured and will go into pupal form and stay that way for the winter. When spring comes, first the males emerge and they wait for the females so they can mate immediately. Then the males die and the females go about finding new holes and starting the process over. Interestingly, the females will look for a deep hole, 6-12 inches long. They will first lay a female egg or two, followed by males. So, in spring, the males are closer to the exit and emerge first to be ready for the females when they emerge. Mason Bees are more efficient pollinators, because they actually try to collect pollen as opposed to honey bees who are looking for nectar. Mason Bees also fly in cooler weather, so earlier in the season and earlier in the day. And, since they don't have a hive to support, they don't have separate types of worker bees or nursery bees or one special queen bee. They just need to find holes that are deep enough and protected from the elements so the eggs and pupae are kept safe through the winter. That's where we come in. As habitat and dead/dying trees are harder to find, Mason Bees have to fly further and further between their pollen sources and spots they find to lay eggs. If we all place pieces of wood drilled with holes or prepared rolls of cardboard or paper in protected areas on the south or east sides of homes or trees and provide some protection from rain/wind, we can increase the number of Mason Bees available to pollinate our crops and flowers. Here is a picture of my first attempt which I ordered online.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 10:01AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks Docmom for the photo! Yes, you have a much deeper ledge there to install one under your roofline. I like your textured roof and the color with the brick of your house is a nice fit. ThereâÂÂs just no room under my gutters to install a house, with no overhang really. I think IâÂÂm going to have to try to figure something else out and move mine.

Thanks for all that detail about the Mason Bees. Some of it, I was unaware of. IâÂÂm really glad that yours is working!

Where did you order your houses? And will you have to clean them out at the end of the season? I imagine thereâÂÂs no chance of a different bee or wasp taking up residence, right?

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 12:03PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

There are other types of solitary bees that might use them, I think. Some wasps will try to get at the larvae, and mites are a common problem. So nice this is my first year, I don't have any experience with any of those. One idea I've had is to use Pringles containers, but wrap them with waterproof tape and put cardboard rolls deep inside them. That would provide protection even if they were out in the open.

Martha

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 8:14PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

There are other types of solitary bees that might use them, I think. Some wasps will try to get at the larvae, and mites are a common problem. So nice this is my first year, I don't have any experience with any of those. One idea I've had is to use Pringles containers, but wrap them with waterproof tape and put cardboard rolls deep inside them. That would provide protection even if they were out in the open.

Martha

    Bookmark   June 16, 2014 at 8:15PM
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gringo(z8 VA)

I'm somewhat concerned about the lack of actual honey bee ALL across our country.I had heard of colony collapse, but apparently that was blamed on mites...
Then, there were colonies that survived that problem, showing some resistance to the mites.
But someone mentioned, about a pesticide (one, by name) & it may be a combination of the use of many pesticides! I just read yesterday, that one of the big box stores, is changing their position on the use of pesticides, by the growers of the plants they sell, en masse. While another big box, hasn't addressed the issue yet.
So, therefore it can't be all blamed on "Colony Collapse" anymore & apparently, humans using things such as BT & other chemicals such as various weed killers & pesticides, may be the true reason. Much of commercial pollination depends on bees & am shocked, anyone would try to get away with actually destroying a hive. I suppose simply out of ignorance, about the serious problems, honey bees face.
I've had to resort to pollinating by hand, just for many many flowers in particular, to get any seeds produced at all, for years now...

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 9:13AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

Someone in my area had a hive maliciously destroyed by a neighbor -- I believe the neighbor either poisoned the hive or set it on fire, I don't remember the details, it was last year or the year before. That is sad to destroy a hive like that, not to mention the destruction of property angle. I'm not sure if the homeowner (beekeeper) took the person to court - like I said, I'm sketchy on the details. I think it comes down to ignorance -- people think bees are aggressive and don't want them around. I'd never have a hive in suburbia for that reason - the neighbors would be in an uproar. Give me an acre or two of land, though, and I'd defintely take up beekeeping as a hobby.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 3:25PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I walk right up to my neighbors 2 hives and the bees fly around me. I guess they have not been africanized yet. One can rehabilitate them if they do. I think that is hysterical. Rehabilitated bees.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 3:35PM
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