What’s the Buzz? | SierraSun.com

What’s the Buzz?

Helen Davis
Special to the Sun

The honey bee is making a come-back from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD); however, overall losses remain unsustainable. Our honey bee pollinators are in dire straights.

The 3rd annual National Pollinator Week is schedule for the week of June 22 to 28 in a quest to foster awareness of pollinators, their struggle to survive and the importance they play in the production of more than a third of our food sources including fruits, vegetables, nuts, alfalfa and other animal feed products.

When we observed the first National Pollinator week in June of 2007, managed honey bee colonies had suffered a devastating blow from Colony Collapse Disorder, as well as from mites and fungus, with losses of 31.8 percent in 2006/2007. Apiary Inspectors of America and USDA-ARS Beltsville Honey Bee Lab report losses increased in 2007/2008, but decreased the winter of 2008/2009.

The loss directly from CCD has made a marked improvement, however the report also states the total average hive losses of more than 34 percent remain unsustainable; the bees are still in trouble and therefore, so are we. This is serious and imminent danger.

Where the effects of global warming, oh, I mean climate change, won’t be seen for decades, the negative consequences of ignoring the pollinator’s peril may be realized in less than 10 years. Increased funding must be channeled for research regarding the decline of pollinators. Like canaries in the coal mine, our pollinators are displaying the danger; we must take action.

As I sit writing this article watching the pouring rain I wonder what effect the rain has on our pollinators. I have found (after a little, I mean a lot,of Internet research) although rain can be a good thing for plant production and nectar resources, prolonged or heavy rain is not a friend to our butterflies or bees. Butterflies seek shelter during rain and after a time, if they are unable to venture out for food, they will die You have probably witnessed a butterfly seemingly exercising its wings as it basks in the sun. Well, butterflies actually need the sun’s rays to buff up. I feel that way myself sometimes.

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Bees can fly in light rain but prolonged, sometimes heavy rain is not a good thing for them either. They seek shelter under foliage and hide out in their bee homes where they hang around, bored, eating their stored food supply. Sound familiar? This can be especially dangerous if they deplete the extra food sources for the upcoming winter. Starvation is one of the top five listed reasons for hive losses. Alas, our poor pollinators. If it’s not one thing it another!

What is the bees’ food source? Honey, of course. They flirt from flower to flower filling their pouches with nectar and at the same time do a great job of pollinating. Bees don’t actually create honey. They are simply improving on the content and consistency of the nectar they collect. You may be as surprised as I to find delicious, sweet, succulent honey is just regurgitated and dehydrated nectar. Yes, regurgitated repeatedly! The bees are saving us all a lot of chewing and spitting time. Just don’t think about it while enjoying that peanut butter and honey sandwich. After all that regurgitating, the worker bees fan the honey by beating their wings to cause evaporation of the water content, condensing the sugars, and thereby making the thick, high-energy food source we call honey.

I truly enjoy watching bees collect the priceless nectar; especially bumble bees. They almost seem drunk with the prize as their pouch-filled, pollen specked bodies lumber off a flower petal to gorge on another and another before heading home with their bounty. Last week I noticed a giant bumble bee creep up under our siding; I swear it was almost as big as a golf ball. I read they like to nest in fiberglass insulation and the giant bee must have been a queen. That’s it; I am determined to make a bumble bee box for next spring to help the pollinators. Check online to find instructions for your bumble bee shelter.

Another way to aid pollinators is to create habitat and food sources by naturalizing our gardens. A gardening must is to lay off all pesticides and other garden poisons. I have sworn off all the above and am embracing the dandelions and clover infesting my lawn. The bees and butterflies love them and my husband loves I asked him not to mow the lawn as often so the weed flowers can flourish.

I am currently trying to educate myself on natural grasses in order to provide for pollinators and conserve water. With the new water rates coming soon I am going to contact the conservation department at the PUD for assistance.

Of particular interest is Prosser Reservoir, where the meadows are chock full of purple seas of Camas flowers, white Ball-headed gilia and yellow Buttercups; that has to make our pollinators happy! The reservoir was filled to the brim, full of baby geese and ducklings. Another welcome sight was to find the giant white pelicans have returned after a three-year hiatus, during which time the spring water level was extremely low.

I called the Federal Water Master’s office in Reno to see if the new Truckee River Operating Agreement, aka TROA, had anything to do with the abundant water level. My contact assured me it did not as TROA has years of litigation still ahead of it; more on that next year.

The representative explained this year we have perfect spring conditions for filled reservoirs with the ample rains experienced in November, March and early May which saturated the ground. This enabled the snow melt experienced during the May warm spell to rush over the ground without being sucked up before reaching the lakes and reservoirs. The recent rainfall has met all the flow minimums which has kept the flow master from releasing too much from Prosser. I was informed however, that as soon as the natural flows stop, Prosser will again be first of the three reservoirs for release as it has least priority for storage due to old agreements and Prossers’ actual purpose of flood control.

Enjoy it while you can, always being conscientious of the meadow, the flora and especially our pollinators!

1. Educate yourself about pollinators at Web sites such as http://www.pollinator.org

2. Write congressional leaders about your support of funding for pollinator research

3. Naturalize your garden and ask local nurseries about native pollinator attractive plants

4. Discontinue use of all toxic pesticides and poisons. Local nurseries can help with alternatives

5. Create habitat and shelter for pollinators

6. Support organic food producers and stay away from genetically modified foods

7. Support organizations that support pollinators like Haagen-Dazs and Burt’s Bees

8. Be kind to our pollinators and teach children the same