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Arizona Desert Bees?

 
Jeff Rash
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Location: Arizona & North Dakota
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Hey Everybody,

First post so forgive if I don't have the vernacular down.

I am building a homestead or more likely a permaculture farm in the Arizona desert. I had to leave because of the extreme financial duress in this economy. (Small town.) But I still find the idea of living there attractive, still own the property and want to return to the area.

One of the most amazing things I discovered was how to grow large amounts of food in the desert, without much water. But to support that, it occurs to me I will need natural pollinators. The idea of honey bees, given their bad rep, is not a place I want to start. These low maintenance mason bees I just ran across seem like an ideal insect to encourage, but will they do ok in the desert? What kind of habitat changes would I need to encourage?

Keep in mind, this is a brutal environment. Tons of sun year round and and summer highs as much as 120F. Winter lows reach near single digits. (Got to 9F once.) That's a pretty serious spread. No trees, no grass, no nothing yet for animals and insects to sustain themselves on. (Yet there are no lack of wild critters.) Only rains 16 days out of the year on average. I do have access to nearly unlimited water though and could create drip systems anywhere. (Plus I invented a way to grow corn and other grain crops with minimal water, using some modified farming methods.)

Looking to crow corn, other serial crops, fruit trees- everything needed for a good round diet. Want to get big eventually and maybe sell to gourmet restaurants out in Vegas.

I am also getting ready to have a job that supports permaculture too. So hopefully won't "bee" much longer.

Small amounts of docile bees like this would be awesome! Any advice?

Jeff (YLEKIOT)
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Jeff - sounds like you're in some part of Southern AZ if your temps get that high? (I'm in Phoenix).

I get a ton of solitary bees in my yard (mason's are solitary) here in the middle of downtown Phoenix - just plant an abundance of flowering plants and they will come. They are especially fond of rosemary flowers, any of the brassicas that have gone to seed (they love broccoli flowers - I've had 100s of them busily working about 8 broccolis gone to flower) and other flowers as well - no problem! Right now I have a couple of bee blocks - which they do use - but I plan to make some habitat for them as described in the video above your post here.
 
Jeff Rash
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Location: Arizona & North Dakota
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Jennifer,

Thanks for your reply! I am in Kingman, actually. Being from Phoenix, you know what I mean about brutal heat. We are not usually as hot as Phoenix, but that sun is just one huge hot orb in the sky during the summer! Because we are around 3,500 feet, we get cold winters and it is still low enough to make for hot summers though.

As to solitary bees, we seem to have plenty of those around too, but I was unsure what they actually ate. If I really start growing a lot of food, I want to make sure I get enough bees, especially since I want to plant an orchard with fruit trees.

But it sounds very much like I should simply "build it and they will come."

Kingman has zero modern agriculture, with only oddballs like me attempting to grow anything. That means the pest population is low too. I don't really use any pesticides or anything and my horse supplies MORE than enough fertilizer. What I do loose to pests is minimal, with my biggest loss being some sort of moth that lays its egg into my corn ears.

All in all, its a paradise in the making. If I can get things up and running and use trees and other simple methods to help cool my home, I think it will be quite sustainable with even a small income.

Going to check out your abundant desert site- thanks!

Jeff
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Jeff Rash wrote: But it sounds very much like I should simply "build it and they will come." Jeff


Yep - both "build it" (bee hotels as in the video at the top of this page) and "plant it". I think you will have great success with this method! If I can attract bees living in the middle of a huge, polluted, super arid, amazingly freaking hot city - you shouldn't have a problem in Kingman! (pretty place!). If you're planting fruit trees - bees will put the word out! A few of my fruit trees are budding right now (how hot has it been this winter, eh?) and bees are on the buds acting all impatient. Then they zoom back over to the rosemary to content themselves until the flowers on the fruit trees are actually open. Goofy bees.

Here's a good article about bees in the desert from DesertUSA: http://www.desertusa.com/mag07/mar07/bees.html
 
Jeff Rash
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Location: Arizona & North Dakota
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Well I suppose it pays to be informed on the progress of those fruit tree buds! I think that bugs like this are way smarter than we think. They are likely laying out a mental calendar based on the progress of those trees.

I suspect , but have no way to prove it, that they "know" far more than we give them credit for. I suspect that they need more than rosemary pollen to provide for themselves and their young and they are building everything around when those flowers are ready to pop open.

Right now though, I could do with the "mild" winters of Arizona. I am stuck working in North Dakota. It's currently negative 11F outside and not a bud in sight. But it really does feel like Spring is attempting to rear its head at times.

I am stuck up here for a few years yet, until we get things under control financially. Then I hope to return to the region. God willing of course. We will see.

Jeff
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Jeff Rash wrote:Well I suppose it pays to be informed on the progress of those fruit tree buds! I think that bugs like this are way smarter than we think. They are likely laying out a mental calendar based on the progress of those trees.

I suspect , but have no way to prove it, that they "know" far more than we give them credit for. I suspect that they need more than rosemary pollen to provide for themselves and their young and they are building everything around when those flowers are ready to pop open.
Jeff


I suspect you are right! It's like me, going out to squeeze a plum to see if it's ready yet....

And I'm sorry you have to freeze up there in Fargo - yikes! Talk about extreme weather!
 
Jeff Rash
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Location: Arizona & North Dakota
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You know it is an odd thing about the weather here. Even when it's below zero, it is tolerable- so long as the wind does not blow. But once the wind blows more than slightly, ouch.

In Kingman Arizona, the wind often blows and even a day in the 30's feels like death. I finally figured out that its the humidity difference. Dry as it is in AZ, it makes the cold far worse. The other day it got to a high of 20 here in ND, no wind and everybody was out walking their dogs and acting like Spring had come, lol.

I could live here in ND, if I had a farm and some room. But being in a rental house is killing me and has me looking back to that dry old desert for a return. Put a lot of time and trouble and money to bring that place to a state where it was ready to sustain us and the bottom fell out.

Its funny, the old saying about money that's not earned is true. We proved it out in Kingman, that's for sure! All that "free" federal money given to "stimulate" the economy really did a number on the locals, self included.

But God willing, we will be back. I do have a good feeling about the place and hope we can make it happen.

Jeff
 
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