Pollinator Workshop

Friday. Today I attended a workshop held at the CT Agricultural Experiment Station, called, "Successfully Establishing Plants for Pollinators". It wasn't necessarily for beekeepers, but also for anyone interested or concerned with the way our landscape is becoming less and less suitable for pollinators (of which honeybees are only a subset). "We are bringing the leading experts from across the Northeast, with hands-on experience establishing pollinator plantings at many different scales- from a small planting on an organic farm to many acres of wildflower meadow in field margins and rights-of-way. We will also have experts from the Natural Resources Conservation Services who can discuss funding for pollinator habitat."

It was great! The speakers were all very interesting, and I started getting excited about the possibility of getting help to get our 8 acres into wildflower meadows. In fact, they are already wildflower meadows (see photo below). But I would like to find out if I can improve on it.

June 2013. The twins, making their way across one of our wildflower meadows.

June 2013. The twins, making their way across one of our wildflower meadows.

One speaker talked about all the different kinds of bees that exist in the Northeast. I used to think there was only one kind of bee - the honeybees I see during the summer, and bumblebees were another. Then last summer, I noticed the bees I bought for my hives were a different looking bee from the local ones. Plus, I noticed some smaller bees that like to land on your hot, sweaty skin (sweat bees?) and bite you. That makes four (I do not include yellow jackets as they are wasps). But apparently I was way off. Did you know there are more than 350 species of bee in CT? The wildlife biologist (Gary Casabona) explaining this to us described and showed pictures of a huge variety of solitary bees that all live in the ground. Apparently, only honeybees are fussy about when they come out - they don't like the cold, they don't like wind, they don't like cloudy days, they don't like the heat... but they do forage among a wide variety of plants. Apparently solitary bees are often very specific to one type of plant. This is a problem since we humans tend to wipe out ecosystems in one fell swoop when we want to do things like, build a building or parking lot.

I had a great time chatting with all the other attendees, sharing our experiences and knowledge. The chap sitting to my left had had bee hives for 5 years, so he had more experience than I have. He was able to answer a lot of my questions, such as, why I found the bees lying at the bottom of snow tunnels (see bee mystery below), and clinging to the dead grass outside their hive (see bee mystery below). He said my guess was right - they can't resist coming out of the hive if it seems warm and sunny, especially if they have been stuck inside for days or weeks, and sometimes they don't realize how cold it really is and succumb.

He also told me that he had had two hives once that had actually been blown over by strong winds! So I guess I was right to worry two nights back! He said they were a soggy mess when he found them. I think he was able to salvage some of it.