Garden Sex

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more man.”

~ Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee (often misattributed to Albert Einstein)

Did you know that bees pollinate over one-third of the food crops we eat?

ripening blueberries

Almonds, blueberries, apples, cherries, cranberries, melon, sunflowers, alfalfa, broccoli, cucumbers, onions, oranges, avocados, pumpkins

~ and many more flowering food crops ~

are pollinated by bees.

This all black bee was dive-bombed by other, pale headed, black bees buzzing around the lavenders. He was bigger and clumsier, didn’t fly as smoothly as the others. They left him alone, though, once his rump was covered by English lavender’s pollen.

Almonds are 100% dependent on bees, blueberries, cherries and apples, 90% dependent on bees.

a growing almond — what we eat is the seed in the center, past this velvet covering and an inner hull

For most crops, yields would be severely reduced without bees.

It takes around 30,000 bees to pollinate an acre of fruit trees. Pollination success is increased if there are more present at peak flowering time.

Almonds trees flower in very early spring, when many bees are sluggish from the cold, making the trees’ 100% dependency on bees even more precarious when there are weather extremes.

These honeybees go mad for zucchini blossoms. This is a female blossom, the male blossoms having only the one straight stamen. The bees tend to stop by the male blossoms for just a minute, but then they really wallow around for awhile in the female blossom. I’ve seen bees waiting at the flower’s edge for their turn in there. The small, striped beetle-type bug at bottom looks like he is waiting for a turn, as well.
About one second after this shot, the bee dove right in, with only its back end visible. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Winnie the Pooh, diving in the honey pot. Ahem.
Overhead shot of artichoke blossom and bee frenzy.
Another day, another Armenian cucumber flower, another honeybee.
These black bees come out in full force when the English lavenders begin to bloom. This was one of the aggressors to the all-black bee at photo above. These bees are fast — and aggressive, compared to the honeybees.
A male pumpkin blossom with bee and beetle getting their pollen on.
A successfully pollinated pumpkin, day two

Since 2006, there have been massive die-offs of bee colonies, all across the U.S. and Europe.

Globally, pollinators are declining in abundance and diversity, as we grow more and more food on less and less land to meet the world population’s food demands.

The causes of the mysterious condition plaguing honeybees, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, are suspected to include:

mites and parasites,

weakened immune systems,

lack of plant diversity causing bee malnutrition,

effects of long-distance transport on colonies,

and pervasive pesticide use.

Syngenta says it is only pesticide misuse that causes problems, while an Environmental Microbiology article on the National Institutes of Health website discusses extensively the pesticide/parasite interactions that significantly weaken honeybees.

An artichoke bloom. Crazy looking, isn’t it? — the bees love artichoke and other thistle family blossoms.
Sunflowers attract bees, as well — the sunflower seeds grow right in the middle — you can see the black shells in this photo, about midway to ready to harvest, here.

Bees fly the equivalent of more than twice around the world to gather a pound of honey.

One worker bee gathers in her entire, six week life, about one-tenth of a teaspoon of honey.

It takes around 10,000 bees to gather that one pound.

The honeybees seem to prefer the rich purple Spanish lavender to the more pale English blooms, in my garden, at least.
Fat bee squeezing into an opening California poppy flower — this shot is the only one I used the ‘zoom’ on my point and shoot camera to capture. These poppies are native to this area and they popped up as weeds in my garden.

Some things to consider this Earth Day — and going forward:

You can help the bees. and the human race.

Encourage garden sex.

Plant natural pollinators: native plants for your area. These plants are naturally more robust and they provide the best source of pollen for bees and other insect pollinators.

Grow your own garden — the benefits are boundless for you and the bees.

Buy local food and honey when possible.

Reduce or eliminate pesticide use.

Use natural fertilizers rather than chemically-based ones.

Avoid GMO seeds. The jury is either out or paid by the chemical companies who sell them — there is no clear answer on whether GMO seeds are safe. It is clear the companies that sell GMO seed do not have small farmer-friendly policies. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is clear that GMO foods are highly dependent on pesticides, killer of bees. Pesticides like Roundup are known to be toxic.

Consider an organic yard/garden.

Consider an organic diet. At least, try some organic tomatoes in season — their taste is outrageously better than non-organic. You might be tempted to try other organic foods, then.

Better taste, better nutrition, better for the planet.

With the loss of bees is the loss of our food supply, loss of diversity in plants, loss of human life.

What better way to acknowledge Earth Day than to save the bees?

~ all photos taken in my front yard garden ~

Other sources:

York County Beekeepers Association

American Beekeeping Federation

Mother Jones