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where did my pollinators go?  RSS feed

 
steve bossie
Posts: 321
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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last year i had bumble bees and hummingbirds everywhere on my property all over my flowering fruit bushes and apple trees. this year i have 7 elderberries
that are covered w/ blossoms that are falling off without being pollinated. this spring my hummingbird feeders went untouched. last spring there were dozens around. I've seen a few small bumbles in my raspberries but not many. i don't spray or use herbicide and both my neighbors have many fruit and apple trees as well so there should be plenty around. i leave piles of brush for the bumbles and even made mason bee blocks to encourage them to breed nearby. I'm in a fairly rural area. i have a lot of fruit bushes and raspberries. this really worries me!  any ideas what might have ran off the pollinators?
 
Casie Becker
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My first thought was to see if you'd had an unusually cold winter. The reports I'm finding suggest otherwise. The next thing I looked at was the drought conditions. Are you in one of the areas suffering from drought, right now? 
 
steve bossie
Posts: 321
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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Casie Becker wrote:My first thought was to see if you'd had an unusually cold winter. The reports I'm finding suggest otherwise. The next thing I looked at was the drought conditions. Are you in one of the areas suffering from drought, right now? 
quite the opposite . we had a very wet late spring early summer and the winter was a lot warmer than the 2 before it. i just talked to my neighbor who also has a lot of berry bushes and fruit trees also and he's noticed  they are lacking at his place also. we aren't near any cities or even big towns so i can't blame it on pollution. i should be looking at a huge crop of elderberries by next month but all the flowers are falling with no little green berry starting to grow! i sat in front of those bushes for a half hr. on a nice calm sunny day and i didn't see one bee or butterfly land on those huge flower clusters! just the sweet smell should bring in at least a few! its very disturbing!
 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Sorry, that was my best guess. I've seen fewer hummingbirds than usual this year, but I'm a long way from you and have plenty of other pollinators.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 321
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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2 years ago i planted most of my berry bushes . back then the only thing on my property to bring them in was my feeders and my raspberry patch. i had tons of bumble and mason bees all over the flowers. the field next to me is all chokecherry bushes and they were loaded with bees. my humming bird feeder was a combat zone of hummingbirds fighting for a spot. now my berry bushes have tons of flowers and no bees. didn't see 1 humming bird either. maybe its just a off year. i hope so or I'm never going to get berries from any of my bushes. I'm going to call the cooperative extension to see what they have to say about this. thanks for your input. you folks still roasting down there? i was stationed in el paso when i was in the army.
 
Casie Becker
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Texas always roasts in the summer. Though Austin trades some of the heat in for extra humidity. Still not as bad as Houston. This year hasn't been as bad as I've seen in the past. As much as we've had 100 degrees in the forecast, we've actually stayed under that for most of the summer.

As far as I can tell, we've actually managed to schedule our vacation so that we're going to be out of state for the hottest week of the year. In about two hours we're leaving for Montana.

Do you have much planted other than the berry bushes to draw in the pollinators?
 
steve bossie
Posts: 321
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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i have planted strips of wildflowers and lupines around the edges of the property and the field next door. all my neighbors have apple trees and various flowers. i have 13 varieties of berry bushes that flower from late april through the summer. i can't see how i could make it more attractive than that! yeah el paso was hot but no humidity. it doesn't get much over 80 in the summer up here but when it does its sticky as hell! just came back from s.c. was 100 and 80% humidity! was glad to come home!
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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We plant known flowers especially for what we want to attract.  Hummingbirds are attracted to red so we try to plant red or orange flowers.  We also put red solo drinking cups on sticks to attract them.  Best wishes on attracting them.
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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This year we are seeing something similar.  DH complained that the vegetable garden has no bees.   I checked the Monarch Garden and I have lots of bumblebees on the blue sage.  Only one honey bee on the firewheels.  Later I noticed some sort of bee (?) that looks like a spider with wings.

I found this thread that I think may explain what is going on.  https://permies.com/t/36519/critters/nectary-plants-improve-pollination

Let's say for an example:  The vegetable and Monarch Garden is in Zone 1, the water trough is Zone 2 and the Sunflower Patch is Zone 3.  A few bumblebees and various bees and butterflies in Zone 1; Honeybees can be found in Zone 2 getting water and lots of honeybees in Zone 3 on the sunflowers.  So I think some of the information is that thread is correct.

So the question is how do we pollinate the vegetables in the absence of pollinators?  What vegetables are self pollinated?  Which ones must we hand pollinate?

We have corn, eggplant, squash, spinach and watermelons that I think we may need to hand pollinate.  I think the tomatoes, peppers and beans will self pollinate?
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1700
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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honey bees are colony feeders - they preferentially go for a single source that they whole colony can work simultaneously. They recruit foragers to that single source through a combination of scent and the waggle dance. In general you don't see honey bees spread diffusely over a wide range of different flower types, unless there are no large single sources available.

In my case the honey bees are hitting the Lime trees and the blackberries preferentially over everything else at the moment.

On the other hand, bumblebees are more opportunistic and will forage over multiple sources within a smallish area of their nest. Maybe you simply don't have many nearby nests this year?
 
steve bossie
Posts: 321
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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well this is a new summer and some of my hummingbirds are back. seen a few bumbles and some mason bees around. not huge amounts but enough to do the job. we don't have honeybees up here as its too cold for them. some people have them but the hive needs to be moved in a shed by nov. or they will freeze. 10 of my 13 varieties of fruit trees and bushes have blossoms on them. and i added 6 more types. thimbleberry, ohio treasure black raspberry, arctic raspberry, anne raspberry, caroline raspberry, and regent serviceberry. going to be busy making jam, juices and freezing fruit!
 
Casie Becker
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Could your spider with wings be a tarantula hawk? That's actually a species of wasp. Supposedly the second most painful sting in the world, but except a few hours of screaming agony they don't actually do much damage. We had a huge population of them a couple of years ago and they weren't aggressive like hornets or yellow jackets. I actually don't think I've ever heard of anyone being stung by one except that guy who was purposefully getting stung to rate the different pain levels. I'm not suggesting it doesn't happen, just saying they're not primed to sting at the least excuse.

I mostly see huge amounts of honeybees on the matchstick plants. I suspect that is a very good pollen producer because every bee I see working them has full saddle bags. Could planting something like that help them raise more young?

I usually hear people talking about the nectar sources for food and honey, but I've picked up an impression that they need the high protein in pollen for raising brood. Do people planting for they bees also select plants based on pollen production?
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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It doesn't look like a tarantula hawk.  It is fat and gray about 1/2" long and almost as fat. It doesn't look like it has wings but it appears to fly to the next plant.  They are all over the firewheels but they are not there early in the morning.
 
Marcus Billings
pollinator
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Location: South Central Indiana
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Not sure about Maine, but this has been a very weird year for foliage and associated fauna in Indiana.  Most of the US had an unseasonably warm winter, and many people are reporting less insects, go figure.  I have some lesser bumble bees, but not many honeybees (I do not personally keep any but usually have a thriving contingent on my property) and no greater bumbles.  Walking across fields of white clover and I can walk several yards without disturbing a pollinator.  Also, we had some cyclical cicadas emerge four years early!  Foliage is still thin on some trees like my Montmorecy Pie Cherry, but huge cherry crop.  Many trees have small leaves and just look somewhat anemic.  Again, a strange year.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 321
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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we had a average to cold winter with average snowfall with a long, cold, wet spring. everything was late to put on leaves and blossoms. up to 2 weeks late. bumble bees and mason bees usually aren't bothered by this as they stay dormant till' the temps. are high enough to come out. hummingbirds have a hard time if they arrive up here and there isn't any blossoms yet so i make sure my feeders are out by mid may to help them out.
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Those bees that I thought looked like spiders might be gray mining bees or some sort of ground bee.  I have not found a good image of one yet.  They may have done their thing and seem to be gone.  Many of the flower heads have torn up looking damage that I think they may have done.

While I see lots of bees, I don't see a lot of the same kind other than the ones I mentioned.

Where I live is very rural and mostly goat and sheep ranching so I doubt that there are many beehives other than hobby beekeepers if any. So where do honeybees and mason bees live?  I have seen some metallic bees but not many.  We have lots of brush piles so I am assuming that they are good homes for bees?
 
steve bossie
Posts: 321
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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I've read that honeybees can travel up to 5 miles from a hive for pollen. masons reproduce in holes in trees then die shortly after. i put out blocks with holes in them to encourage them to stay near my plants. bumbles live in holes in the ground and under brush piles. i have plenty of places for them here also.the metallic colored ones are a type of mason bee but there are like 130 types of them in n. america alone. there are also many types of leaf cutter and sweat bees that pollinate also. honeybees only do a small amount of pollination compared to the native bees.
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
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Whatever it was that cause the damage to the firewheel flowers may have caused  chlorosis.  Every day the firewheel plants get paler and paler.  I assumed it was that insect that I thought was a "spider looking bee".  There is no damage to the other flowers that are planted among the firewheels.  I have been cutting the firewheels back so the verbena and marigolds can get more light.  I am leaving the firewheels as long as they are flowering.  This was there best year which makes having them sick so sad.

I have been wondering if the disease on the firewheels will hurt the pollinators? If so I will cut them down.
 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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won't hurt the bees but they may spread the disease to other plants .
 
Deb Stephens
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Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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I just came across this thread after walking through my garden shaking my head in extreme consternation. Despite having had a very mild winter and more than enough rain in spring and early summer our gardens are also not producing well. I take photos of the garden periodically throughout the year to keep as visual references for how well everything is doing (or not) and to keep track of when I can expect blooms, fruits, etc. The differences are startling!

This year plants that are normally lush and producing like crazy are less than half the usual size and can barely manage to stay alive, much less produce anything. The Malabar spinach which invariably pops up on its own and nearly takes over the garden by July every year, has barely made it to the top of its first trellis now, in August, and all the leaves it has managed are speckled and mottled with thousands of micro-sized white dots. It has never had pest problems of any kind in the past and always produces succulent deep green leaves when everything else is wilted from heat or going to seed, so that is distinctly unusual! My tomatoes and peppers didn't even start setting fruits until late June -- despite putting them out two months earlier. Now they each have a few fruits, but they are tending toward being undersized and the plants themselves look lanky and starved. (We grow organic and have NEVER used insecticides, herbicides or even chemical fertilizer on anything in 25 years, AND our plants are lavishly treated to all the good compost and well-seasoned manure they could ever want, so they shouldn't be lacking anything.) I just can't figure it out! Even the native trees -- persimmons, hickories and oaks, walnuts, plums, elderberries, etc. have zero fruits on them. I hate to even think what a cold winter will do to the wildlife here with no mast or forest fruits to eat this year.

I was saying to my husband yesterday, that I thought the problem might be lack of pollinators because other than a few bees and a couple of butterflies, I hadn't see anything for days. Normally we have a lot of carpenter bees, mason bees and wild honey bees (we live next door to thousands of acres of national forest and have found swarms on a couple of occasions, so we're pretty sure they aren't from commercial or backyard hives). He said he hadn't seen a single hummingbird this year (I saw one a couple of weeks ago on my red salvia). However, there is the problem with even our foliage plants like the Malabar (forget lettuces, kale, collards, etc. even arugula won't grow this year and it usually self-seeds and goes everywhere) that can't be explained by lack of pollinators.

Looking at the Malabar spinach, I thought how much it looked like seedling plants that have been grown inside then taken out and exposed to too much sun all at once. You know how they get the big white blotches on the leaves from having their cells basically exploded by too much sunlight? It looks a bit like that, which got me to wondering ... could part of the problem be irradiation? I'm not talking about ordinary hot weather -- even though we are nearly always in the 90s in summer here (and even into the 100s periodically). What I mean is that the sun seems brighter than it used to be. We can't even go out into the garden between noon and around 3pm without practically having heat stroke! (And we aren't "sissies" dependent upon air conditioning either -- I haven't lived in a place with air conditioning for well over 40 years, so I know how to be as comfortable in heat as possible.) No, this seems more like being under a direct flame. If you step into the shade, you're instantly comfortable again, despite the heat. Does that make sense?  I'm wondering if the ozone layer has gotten a lot worse than even science claims. Are they afraid to tell us?

Anyway, just my 2 cents. Anyone else in Missouri or the Ozarks having similar problems?

 
Stacy Witscher
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Location: SF Bay Area
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I'm having pollinator problems right now as well. The neighbors have a paper wasp nest, so I have a lot of these, but not many honey or carpenter bees this year in the back yard. I have lots of flies, different kinds, and butterflies, dragonflies. I was thinking about transplanting some borage into the back, it tends to draw more bees. Pollination has been bad primarily on tomatoes and squash.
 
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