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February 27, 2007

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Bill N.

Every spring the old antique rose bushes in front of my house bloom
and then they crawl with wild honey bees, every spring except this one.
Two bees so far this year, and I've been watching for them. Two bees,
so far. There are no commercial hives within miles of my in-town house.
Normally, I have dozens of wild bees crawling all over my roses, and all
of the flowering plants in my garden at any given moment. This year I
have perrenial flowers with empty seed pods. This I have never seen.
I'd like to see someone explain this to my satisfaction, truly.

GreenmanTim

If we had planted American chestnuts as street trees in monocultures, as we did elms, then yes, I believe we could identify that as a critical vector.

Biotunes

I do not like the comparison of what is happening with bees with American elm and Dutch elm disease, which of course involved a native species, destroyed by an alien one. Agricultural monoculture would be a much more apt comparison - such as when a particular crop is almost destroyed by a new pest. A good example is the citrus industry in California, which many people may not know almost was obliterated over a hundred years ago because of the cottony cushion scale. In that case, a miracle biological control agent, the vedalia beetle, was found and it controlled the devastating pest (one of the few cases in which biocontrol has actually worked really well).

Should we also blame the destruction of American chestnuts by the Asian chestnut blight on the fact that many of our eastern forests were dominated by chestnut? That doesn't make sense to me.

Jenn

Thank you! I am working on a citizen scientist project looking at organism interactions with purple loosestrife so any data about pollinators seeking it out preferentially would be interesting.

A while ago I blogged about efforts in California to be proactive about the honeybee issue - they want to import east coast Bombus impatiens instead (http://invasivespecies.blogspot.com/2007/01/bees-bees-everywhere.html).

GreenmanTim

Jenn, one source is from Byczynski, Lynn. 1998. Encourage native bees; increase your yields. Growing for Market. May. p. 1, 4-5. She is referenced at http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/nativebee.html#by in a paragraph that notes:

"Hornfaced bees (Osmia cornifrons) are excellent pollinators of apples, but they are active before apple trees bloom. In Maryland, the bees use winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), which finishes blooming just as apples come into bloom. After the apples bloom, Tatarican honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) begins to bloom, and the bees then use this plant for forage."

The loosestrife question was raised by beekeepers while I was serving on the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group. I bet Rena Sumner of MNLA or Cynthia Boettner at the Conte Refuge could put you on the right track for a reference. Les Mehrhoff too, of course. Let me know if you need contact info for these folks.

Jenn

Pity the poor *beekeepers* really.

Don't forget, June 24-30 this year is National Pollinator Week in the US (http://www.nbii.gov/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=222&&PageID=937&mode=2&in_hi_userid=2&cached=true). I just invested in a solitary bee nesting kit, I am curious to see who will take up residence in it this summer. Cannot wait for those stamps to come out either *drool*

P.S. - Got sources for that note about honeybees preferring invasive plants?

GreenmanTim

I'm tempted to riff on the metaphor of "guest worker bees" and de-"colonization" of the market, but shall exercise appropriate restraint. ;-)

Sissy Willis

Exactly what I was about to comment, re vulnerability of the American Elm monoculture, just before I got to your last sentence.

If the foreigners can't do it, maybe the All-American bees can make up the difference?

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