Posts Tagged 'honey bees'

For the Pollinators

I recently attended a pollinator working group meeting here in Brooklyn sponsored by the City Parks Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation.* I’d like to share some of the things I came away with.

Honeybees are ever in the news, but there are over two hundred other species of bees found in New York City. There are many more species found across North America. And these are just the bees. Butterflies and moths, as well as some wasps, ants, flies, and beetles also do the work of pollination. As do birds and bats. In general, though, most people would probably point to bees, and maybe butterflies, as the preeminent pollinators around here.

And all insect populations are falling. So what can we do? Education, education, education, for one. But also work towards making more habitat for plants and the animals that pollinate them.

Rather like us, these animals need food, water, and shelter. More flowering trees and plants, please. Even some wasps, who feed other insects to their young, eat nectar themselves. And make these plants regionally-native species, since that’s what these animals have spent millions of years evolving alongside with. (Some non-native species provide plenty of nectar, but this is less rich in lipids than that of native species, so it tastes great, but is less filling.)

Shelter. Have you heard about “bee condos”? Here are plans for a simple one. Here are some even better looking ones.

Excellent! But guess what? Most local bees (indeed, most of the world’s bees) are ground-nesters. So let’s not forget about them. Patches of different kinds of soils, free of mulch, with minimal plant cover, are a good place to start. Ah, but yellow jacket wasps also live underground, meaning it’s a good idea to be able to make a distinction between bees and wasps; the quickest is that bees are hairy and wasps are not. And once you know that, be cool: let the wasps live. You leave them alone, they leave you alone. Frankly, as hard as it is for some people to imagine, insects don’t seem to care much about us at all.

Aesthetics: the average garden is orderly, pretty, and rather sterile from the perspective of planet Earth. Indeed, “garden” has long been the antithesis of “nature.” This aesthetic/philosophical perspective is not an easy one to transform. Yet the planet is in crisis, largely of our doing, so habitat really needs to come before our egocentric concerns about pretty flowers and charming borders.

For instance, we need more disorder, more mess, more clutter. Did you know that some bees nest inside stems? Lawn and clean-edge lovers, like the Parks Department and your average gardener, don’t like “dead” stems. But you should, and you should evangelize your love for habitat wherever you can.

Three more strategies:

1. Avoid pesticides.
2. Don’t use pesticides.
3. Stop using pesticides.

Some resources:

Greenbelt Native Planet Center.
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.
Mayor’s Monarch Pledge.
More on how to attract native bee species.

*I have done some elementary and middle school outdoor/indoor presentations for a NWF project in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. An enjoyable time was had by all, and nobody got stung. The fact that (some) bees (rarely) sting is the one thing just about everybody knows about bees. So that’s where I usually start when I talk about bees.

Megachile on Asclepias

Pitza Bee

Last Saturday was ridiculously warm. We spotted a dragonfly flying over the Halloweeened dogs and children of Fort Green, and when we ate outdoors, a honeybee kept visiting. The weather was fine, but there’s damn little nectar and pollen to be had this late in the year.The pickle on Cathy’s plate was also calling to this bee.

N.B.: a “pitza” is made with pita bread.

Pollination Nation


Honey Bee

ApisSpotted my first Honey Bee of the year on the sidewalk by the bus stop, on the sunny side of the street. (Shadow provided by me for better definition in the photo.)

Crocuses are out and willows have cracked open their buds to reveal the fur within. You don’t need a Farmer’s Almanac to tell it’s an early spring.

Some Pollinators

p1p2p3p4It’s National Pollinator Week, but we should be thanking the bees — and other pollinators — every day for the work that they do. And fighting like the dickens the exterminationists of the agribusiness/pesticide complex.

Time bees

hiveIn August of 2010 I found a feral honeybee hive here. In 2011 and 2012, I didn’t notice any activity here at all, although I have to say my checking in was sporadic at best — Green-Wood is a big place and my routes didn’t always go past this tree — but still, I don’t think that original colony made it. But there’s a colony here now.

Central Park Entire

central_park_fold_mapI was given a copy of Ken Chaya and Edward S. Barnard’s Central Park Entire: The Definitive Illustrated Folding May for my birthday, and part of the gift included a card for a tour with Chaya. I finally cashed in this past weekend. But first, the map. Sheer madness! But of a glorious kind. There are 19,933 trees mapped on this sheet, the result of a two-year survey by Chaya. (Superstorm Sandy demands a revision, having blasted hundreds of trees in the park.) The map is available in two versions, check out the link above.chaya1On the tour. Chaya with the only Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra) he is aware of in the park. This had some serious gall action. (It was, indeed, a day for galls of all sorts; spring’s arboreal growth spurt is utilized by the gall-forcing agents with a vengeance.)chaya2A third of the way up a big American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) or Buttonwood (to you capitalists), is some honeycomb. This was made last year when a honeybee swarm tried to colonize this not-deep-enough hole in the tree.chaya3A rare instance of exterior comb; a colony is unlikely to survive a winter like this, and this one did not.chaya4The ruins of a massive Pin Oak in the Loch that was at least 150 years old. A lot of destruction was visible in the North Woods, but that’s nature, allowing saplings to rise up into the voids made in the canopy. Of course, in a heavily used and often abused park, things like fences, paths, and some natural common sense (an unleashed dog was swimming in The Pool was chasing ducks and freaking out a Great Egret) go a long way to helping, too.chaya5This caused some puzzlement. Similar stuff was underneath the bark of a decapitated, dead Tulip Tree in the North Woods. Chaya thought it might be the vascular cambium of the tree, which is the (live) tree’s circulation system (water up, nutrients down).UPDATE: On second thought, after further research, he now thinks this is a fungus.chaya7In the Loch, this maple toppled, but retained enough of a roothold at its base to carry on. And the top, which landed on the ground, rooted there. Branches shoot straight up from the now horizontal bole as if they were separate trees, seeking solar power. Takes a lot to kill a tree….

Chaya’s tours don’t seem to be noted on his website. They cost $10 and are well-worth it. Email him at


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