Tag Archives: bees

Support National Pollinator Week: Plant Trees for Pollinators

sweet bay magnolia blooms in summer

It is amazing that something as small as a bee is vitally important to our food supply. As pollinators, bees transfer pollen thus ensuring that plants and crops develop fruit and seeds for us to consume. But bees are not the only keystone species that we depend on, we also need other pollinators such as butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, and birds, including hummingbirds. About 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators (the others are wind pollinated). According to Cornell University, pollinators are responsible for every third bite of food we eat.

Unfortunately, pollinator populations have declined due to pesticides, habitat loss, and disease. Gardeners who are aware of this problem have deliberately planted flowering perennials and annuals to provide pollen (protein) and nectar (carbs). Because of their dramatic 90 percent decline in population over the past 20 years, monarch butterflies have received quite a lot of support. Many gardeners are planting milkweed – the one and only plant for monarchs — or trying to produce more butterflies with home kits. Bees too have received national attention. Nurseries promote bee friendly flowers and gardeners have planted bee magnets such as Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium), goldenrod (Solidago), and gayfeather (Liatris).

persimmon fruit, thanks to pollinators

Plant Trees to Support Pollinators

These efforts have helped the pollinators and certainly gardeners have come to appreciate the importance of pollinators. However, an overlooked source of food and protection for pollinators are trees. Trees provide more flowers, plenty of foliage for larva (caterpillars), and a large infrastructure to hold hives and nests. Because of the number of flowers a canopy provides, trees can provide more pollen and nectar compared to annuals and perennials. Plus, as homeowners move from house to house, the herbaceous landscape may change but usually the trees and all of their tiny inhabitants remain.

Plant Small Native Trees for Homes

“Trees are a permanent fixture,” said Steve Nagy, an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Board-Certified Master Arborist and Assistant District Manager of The Care of Trees. The Care of Trees is a division of the Davey Tree Expert Company, founded in 1880. Based in Ohio, the Davey Tree Expert Company has offices across North America–Steve is based in a northern Virginia office.

For attracting pollinators in the Washington DC metro area, Steve recommends native trees that thrive in our particular climate (cold winters and hot, humid summers). “We recommend native trees because the chances of them growing well is higher that non-natives,” he explained. For typical suburban lots where space is a premium, Steve recommends swamp white oak (Quercis bicolor), willow oak (Quercis phellos), post oak (Quercis stellata), cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata), sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), little leaf linden (Tilia cordata), persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), and serviceberry (Amelanchier).

“Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) is a great tree, too,” said Steve, “It is a typically overlooked native with good fall color.”

Plant Trees that Flower at Various Times

heavy with summer-blooming flowers, the crape myrtle branches bend down

While a tree can provide many flowers, usually it only flowers for a few weeks. Because different pollinators are active at various times of the year, Steve recommends planting trees with various bloom times. Instead of planting the well-known spring bloomers such as flowering cherry trees, flowering plums, star magnolias, saucer magnolias, and redbuds, homeowners can plant summer blooming trees such as little leaf linden (see video below for bees pollinating a linden tree), persimmon, cucumber magnolia, southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), and crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia).

Plant Trees that Support Specific Pollinators

Another reason to plant trees is that certain pollinators require specific tree species or genera. Similar to the monarch butterfly’s relationship with milkweed, the spicebush swallowtail caterpillar only feeds on spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and sassafras (Sassafras albidum). The zebra swallowtail caterpillar only feeds on young paw paw leaves (Asimina spp.) and the pink-striped oak worm moth gets its name from its preference for oaks (Quercus spp.).

paw paw trees are vital to the zebra swallowtail

Plant Trees in the Fall

This week is National Pollinator Week. Now is the best time to learn more about pollinators and to identify new trees to plant to support them. However, summer is not the best time to actually plant trees. Because trees take longer to become established than perennials and annuals (larger plant hence more root structure and more foliage), Steve said the best time to plant trees is in the fall. “If you can get planting done by Mother’s Day,” said Steve, “the tree has a chance to make it through the hot summer but fall is the best time.” Steve also recommends to plant smaller rather than bigger but one can plant bigger plants in the fall. Fall, as opposed to spring or summer, offers warm soil but cooler temperatures, thus the amount of transpiration or water loss is less. The tree can devote energy into root establishment, not making up for water loss due to heat.

For information on how to plant a tree correctly, the Davey website has an extensive collection of articles and videos on tree planting and maintenance. If you need more personalized assistance, Steve mentioned that homeowners can request a free consultation by calling or completing a form on the website. A certified arborist can come to one’s home to evaluate the trees and landscape and devise a strategy to meet the goals for that specific property.

This week, celebrate National Pollinator Week by learning more about pollinators, identifying the best plants and trees for pollinators in your area, and incorporating best practices to protect, harbor, and feed pollinators.

 

Day Seven of National Pollinator Week: Grow Marjoram to Attract Pollinators

marjoramToday is Sunday June 26, the last day of National Pollinator Week.  To increase awareness of how herbs can be great for pollinators, I have posted short articles daily about culinary herbs in my Virginia garden whose flowers are known to attract pollinators. Today’s last herb is marjoram. To learn more about pollinators, check out the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge,  Pollinator Partnership, Xerces Society, National Wildlife FederationU.S. Forest Service, and the Horticulture Research Institute’s”growwise.org” page. To learn more about herbs, visit the Herb Society of America.

Monday June 20, Cilantro

Tuesday June 21, Dill

Wednesday June 22, Sage

Thursday June 23, Chives

Friday June 24, Basil

Saturday June 25, Thyme

Sunday June 26, Marjoram

My marjoram is like an old friend, it has been in my garden for a long time, very reliable. I have read that it is hardy to Zone 8, but I have had no problems with it in my Zone 7, Virginia garden. The plant sits in a well-drained, full sun area, next to the driveway so between the warmth of the sun and the warmth of the car, it probably thinks it’s living in the Carolinas.

I trim it back in the spring or fall, depending on how scraggly it gets, and dry the leaves for cooking. It becomes bushy in the summer in a messy way. Although I could call it a landscape edible, really it is a wildflower – a wild looking plant that flowers. In the summer the green stems produce small knots at the ends that open to reveal white flowers. The flowers are insignificant to me but the bees and other pollinators love them.

Marjoram has history, mythology and folklore; it has been used for 3,000 years for culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, and aromatherapy but in my family, we only use the herb in the kitchen. The leaves add a sweet pungent flavor to tomato-based dishes and soups, flat breads and focaccia, cheese dishes, bean stew, beans, potatoes, corn, and corn muffins.  It can be a substitute for oregano, which I also grow very close to the marjoram. The marjoram has a sweeter flavor that does well with baking, while the oregano is spicy, with a zing.

Day Six of National Pollinator Week: Using Thyme to Attract Pollinators

thymeThis week is National Pollinator Week.  To increase awareness of how herbs can be great for pollinators, each day of the week I will post a short article about a culinary herb in my Virginia garden whose flowers are known to attract pollinators.  Pollination is a vital stage in the life cycle of flowering plants.  It is especially vital for gardeners who are growing fruit and vegetables.  There are many plants that attract pollinators but it is also important to reduce or eliminate pesticides, provide continuous blooms throughout the growing season, create large pollinator targets of native or non-invasive plants, and situate the plants in sunny areas with wind breaks.  Culinary herbs are often harvested for the foliage but if left to flower they can attract beneficial insects and pollinators.  Plant several of one type of herb so you can harvest some to use in the kitchen while letting a few flower.  Or, plant perennial or shrub herbs in your landscape to add flowers to your garden.

To learn more about pollinators, check out the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge,  Pollinator Partnership, Xerces Society, National Wildlife FederationU.S. Forest Service, and the Horticulture Research Institute’s”growwise.org” page. To learn more about herbs, visit the Herb Society of America.

Monday June 20, Cilantro

Tuesday June 21, Dill

Wednesday June 22, Sage

Thursday June 23, Chives

Friday June 24, Basil

Saturday June 25, Thyme

A landscape edible, thyme is actually quite versatile in the garden. Thyme can be grown as a groundcover, small shrub, edging, or topiary or used in a rock garden or in a variety of containers such as hypertufa and hanging baskets. Thyme is a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance, full sun, woody shrub that prefers well-drained, slightly alkaline soil.

I have three types in my garden. The English thyme serves as a groundcover to prevent erosion on a slop and it has spread to cover the soil, thus preventing any weeds. I use the leaves in tomato-based meals, such as pasta and lasagna, and beef, chicken, potato, and bean dishes. I have a lemon thyme shrub that looks like a round, mound about 8 inches tall. It adds a lemon scent/flavor to baked goods such as pound cake and quick breads. My silver thyme is my most recent addition; its white/silver variegated leaves contrast nicely with my dark sedums.

Thyme leaves dry very well and dried leaves have a more concentrated scent or flavor so I tend to use dried thyme but fresh leaves can be used as well. I harvest and dry leaves in the spring and then let the shrubs flower in the summer to attract bees and other pollinators. Bees love thyme, apparently they make a very tasty honey.

There are many different types of thyme: different scents and different shapes. DeBaggio’s Herb Farm and Nursery in Chantilly, VA, sells over a dozen varieties including golden lemon, green lemon, orange balsam, caraway, coconut, spicy orange, woolly, and silver thyme. Add thyme to your garden for your kitchen and to attract pollinators.

Pollinator Week, June 16-22

A few days ago I was weeding in the hydrangea patch when I noticed so many bees speeding around the oak leaf hydrangeas that I deliberately steered clear of my bushes. In all my years of gardening, I have not been stung but I have never seen so many bees so busy before! I thought it prudent to avoid them but secretly I was celebrating the fact that I had so many pollinators in my garden, so necessary for my vegetable and berry plants to bear fruit.

oak leaf hydrangea  (bee in middle)

oak leaf hydrangea
(bee in middle)

Next week is Pollinator Week, initiated and managed by the Pollinator Partnership. Pollinator Week, June 16-22, 2014, has become an international awareness campaign to educate people about the importance of pollinators such as bees, birds, butterflies, bats, and beetles. The Pollinator Partnership web site has a wealth of information, including a database of activities for next week by state and country. I looked at our Washington, DC, metropolitan area and as of Wednesday, June 11, below is what was on the web site. I am sure more could be added in the future, check the web site next week and always confirm dates/times/events with these organizations.I also downloaded an “ecoregional” guide for selecting plants for pollinators based on my Northern Virginia zip code. Apparently, I live in the Southeastern Mixed Forest Province and according to this 24-page, colored guide, pollinators in my area are bees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, beetles (known to pollinate magnolias, sweetshrub, and paw paws!), and flies (goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace!). This was news to me; I have always had plenty of butterflies, bees, and birds in my garden but never thought of the others as that important. The guide also describes what I can do to attract these pollinators and the type of plants they prefer. What is on the list? Oak leaf hydrangea!Pollinator events in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area from the Pollinator.org web site (copied and pasted) as of Wednesday June 11, 2014.

Virginia

Pollinator Garden Visit, 9:30-11:30 June 21, 1803 Anderson Road, Falls Church 22043. Come to an event celebrating National Pollinator Week (June 16-22). Visit a new Pollinator Garden in Pimmit Hills, at 1803 Anderson Road (see link below). Your host Clement Kent, author of “How to Make a Pollinator Garden”, will show you how make a garden which is beautiful and friendly to pollinators such as butterflies, birds, and bees. And, Cindy Wackerbarth of the Monarch Teacher Network will tell you about how teachers and students are helping monarch butterflies survive. Find out what YOU can do to help! This is a free, low-key event – drop in for a few minutes or a long chat.
https://www.google.com/maps/place/1803+Anderson+Rd/@38.9077706,-77.1991321,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x89b64acc689b7159:0x8292da8d4910faac

Flights of Fancy: Art Inspired by the Bee and Butterfly Garden
Reception & Program Date: June 18, 2014 from 6.30 pm to 9 pm, 5722 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22207. The exhibit runs from June 3 through July 5. The Lee Arts Center presents, Flights of Fancy: Art Inspired by the Bee and Butterfly Garden. This exhibit will present works that were inspired either by texture, color, and/or literal impressions from the Lee Center’s Butterfly Garden. Thanks to the generosity of a neighbor and friend to the Lee Center, there will be an award presented to the artist who creates the most inspiring butterfly/bee garden work. The award will be selected by a panel of impartial judges. The Flights of Fancy reception on June 18th will feature the butterfly garden and a presentation on pollinators. The exhibit coincides with National Pollinator Week which runs from June 16 through the 22nd. Native pollinators play an essential role in plant reproduction and food production, in our gardens, on our farms and in wild settings. We hope you can join us on June 18th to learn more about our local pollinators.

Maryland
Pollinator Party at the Silver Spring Farmer’s Market, June 21, 9am -1pm, Ellsworth Dr. between Fenton St. and Georgia Ave. MD 20910. Meet the Pollinators of Silver Spring, Maryland at the Silver Spring Farmers Market. Join Silver Spring Green, Brookside Nature Center, and local author Alison Gillespie to celebrate, honor and learn about our local bees. Come to our booth at the Farmers Market and learn about how these incredible insects provide us with one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat. Find out how to help and protect them. We’ll have displays and crafts about honey bees and native bees for the whole family to enjoy. Alison Gillespie will also have copies of her new book, Hives in the City: Keeping Honey Bees Alive in an Urban World.

Washington, DC
Pollinator Week at the National Museum of Natural History, 1000 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20004, June 16 – June 20

Monday, June 16, 2-3pm, Q?rius Theater, National Museum of Natural History, Lecture: “Not only for the Birds and the Bees: Beetles and their role in Pollination”, Presenter: Jonathan Mawdsley, Smithsonian Entomologist

Tuesday, June 17, 10am-1pm, Outdoor Butterfly Garden, National Museum of Natural History
Pollination Party at Smithsonian Gardens, Presenter: Smithsonian Gardens staff and the University of Maryland PollinaTerps

Wednesday, June 18, 2-3pm, Q?rius Theater, National Museum of Natural History, Lecture: “Mysteries of Orchid Pollination: Alternative Lifestyles in the Orchid Family”, Presenter: Tom Mirenda, Smithsonian Orchid Specialist

Thursday, June 19, 2-3 pm, Q?rius Theater, National Museum of Natural History, Lecture: “Backyard orchids: Native Orchids and their pollinators”, Presenter: Dennis Whigham, Smithsonian Ecologist

Friday, June 20, 2–3pm, Live Butterfly Pavilion, National Museum of Natural History, Scientist is In: Plant Conservation, Presenter: Gary Krupnick, Smithsonian Botanist

Art of Pollination

Artists from around the world are invited to submit art relating to our pollinators for possible inclusion in a beautiful book of art. For the 2nd year, professional artists and school children have come together to foster awareness of pollinators through creative expression. Books are available on line through our website and published by MagCloud and WagnerDesign. http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/555950