Last Thursday I spent the day photographing gardens around the north shore and couldn’t resist stopping at Long Hill and Sedgwick Garden in Beverly to pick a bouquet.
Europe took a significant step as a majority of EU member states voted for a partial ban of three bee-killer pesticides. This, despite fierce behind-the-scenes lobbying from insecticide firms Syngenta and Bayer. “A series of high-profile scientific studies has linked neonicotinoids to huge losses in the number of queens produced and big increases in “disappeared” bees – those that fail to return from foraging trips. Pesticide manufacturers and UK ministers have argued that the science is inconclusive and that a ban would harm food production, but conservationists say harm stemming from dying pollinators is even greater.” (The Guardian, UK).
It is a landmark vote and was supported by petitions signed by millions of people. Although it is only a two year ban, the hope is the ban will give the beleaguered bee a break, and allow time for reexamination of data. Under the EU measures, restricions on the following apply: for treating seeds, soil and leaves on flowering crops attractive to bees such as corn, sunflowers and rapeseed (the source of canola oil). The products may still be used on crops like winter wheat for which the danger to bees is deemed to be small. Use by home gardeners will be prohibited.
The three banned insecticides are imidacloprid, thiametoxam, and clothianidin. The neonicotinoid I see commonly listed on pesticides that are readily available to the home gardener is imidacloprid. I urge every home gardener not to use pesticides. I don’t use them, ever, in my own garden, and never in both the private and public gardens that I design and maintain. Several years ago, I reported that Alain Baraton, the head gardener at the Palace of Versailles stopped using pesticides at the palace gardens. Within the year, a natural balance began to take hold in the gardens, including the return of songbirds to the gardens which in turn eat the insects. If the no-pesticide policy is successful at Versailles, which receives millions upon millions of annual visitors, a pestide ban can certainly be implemented for our private homes and public spaces.
A dear friend of mine, Heidi Kost-Gross, is Vice Chair of the Natural Resources Commission for the Town of Wellesley (garden club readers–she is also President of the Federated Garden Club of Massachusetts). Heidi has been instrumental in pesticide reduction throughout Massachusetts. The Wellesley Natural Resources Commission has created an outstanding Pesticide Reduction Resource Guide for Citizens and Municipalities of Massachusetts, which is available for free to distribute anything found in the guide.
Magnolia viginiana and Eastern Carpenter Bee
3 minute video featuring the Eastern Carpenter Bee. The music is the opening movement of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica) is an important pollinator for many open-faced spring flowers including the blossoms of fruiting trees—crabapple, apple, pear, peach, plum, and wild cherry—as well as holly and brambles. X. virginica has an especially bad reputation with blueberry growers because they have strong mouthparts (capable of boring into wood), which will easily tear flowers with a deep corolla—blueberries and azaleas, for example. In the video you can see the bee probing into the sides of, and in some instances tearing, the petals to gather nectar from the blossoming Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica). The damage done to wood is usually minimal and cosmetic.
Carpenter Bees are regularly mistaken for bumblebees. Their shiny black abdomen most easily distinguishes them. Male and female carpenter bees can easily be differentiated at a glance. The male has a patch of yellowish-white cuticle at the top its head; the females face is entirely black.
Male Eastern Carpenter Bees are aggressively territorial. They will fly at you noisily and vigorously when in their territory, but it is all just show—they are incapable of stinging!