Bees As Pollinators
may not like them flying around your head but did you realize
that bees are vital to the health of your garden. Honey
bees (Apis mellifera) are the primary pollinators of many
flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. They are not native
to the US. They were actually brought here from Europe brought
over here to pollinate apple trees in the 1600's. Bumble
bees, a much larger relative of honey bees, are natives
and if you have a have a vegetable garden, they are the
primary pollinators of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
It's interesting to note that these critical pollinators
really don't care if they are pollinating plants or not.
Their only goal is to get nectar from the flowers they visit.
But flowers have gotten pretty smart over the past several
million years and they play games with their pollinators.
Snapdragons are a good example of flowers that's a virtual
jungle gyms for bees. It forces the bee to push and rub
against the pollen bearing parts as it chases the elusive
nectar. Nectar is almost always produced at the base of
the flower and the flower parts that hold the sticky pollen
is almost always positioned as an obstacle or hurdle to
get around, and to make sure the bee rubs against it.
Did you know that flowers often have nectar guides, little
stripes or directors to aim and direct the bee to the nectar
source? The flower's goal is to make it challenging but
not impossible or the bee to reach the sweet sugary nectar.
In fact honey is just flower nectar that has been sipped
by the bee. The bee then removes most of the water and then
burped back into the honeycomb inside the hive to feed young
and provide fool during winter for the colony.
Flowers figured out a long time ago that pollinators are
critical for their longevity. In fact a flower uses bright
colors and fragrances to entice these pollinators not make
gardeners happy. In fact, one of the reasons that some flowers
are white is because they are pollinated by night flying
moths and insects and white glows like a lamp in the dark.
Unfortunately, gardeners are facing a severe shortage of
bee pollinators in many parts of the country. Loss of habitat,
a little insect known as a bee mite and pesticide usage
all adds up to a scarcity of bees. So what is a serious
bee seeking gardener to do?
To encourage bees to frequent your garden, plant nectar
producing flowers such as abelia, hollies, butterfly bush,
most fruit trees, Joe pye weed, sourwood. Most plants with
a small, sweet smelling flower are bee favorites. Also,
provide a shallow water source. Especially with the drought
going on in so many areas of the South, bees are having
a tough time finding a drink of water. Be very careful how
you use pesticides. Bees may be killed if the flowers they
feed on have been sprayed with pesticides esp. carbaryl
(Sevin). If you have to use a pesticide use those that degrade
quickly, such as a pyrethrin or rotenone. Both of those
degrade quickly and are less of a hazard especially if you
produce it late in the day or early evening when bees are
back at the hive.
Bees are important pollinators in nature and in our gardens.
Encourage them with a little nectar and water and watch
your use of pesticides and our bee population's will.
Mexican Sunflower - Tithonia Rotundifolia
If you are tired of small, diminutive annuals
that get beat up by the end of the summer, I want to to
try something a little different. Tithonia rotundifolia
or Mexican Sunflower is a superb alternative to our bread
and butter flowers like marigold and begonia.
It's a husky, a little gaudy, rather coarse plant with spectacular
flowers. Add to that velvety green leaves and the fact that
this plant gets 6 feet tall. It is a heat lover and blooms
from early summer to fall. Look at these 3-4" flowers with
orange-scarlet rays and tufted yellow centers. I like to
use it in the back of the border or as a temporary summer
screen. It is a good cut flower except the stems are hollow.
So, be careful when you cut it to avoid bending the stalks.
You can purchase plants in the spring or sow seeds if you
don't mind them taking a while to get started. It even self-sows,
so put it somewhere, you want it to comeback. It's extremely
tolerant of drought, humidity, intense heat. It attracts
butterflies, hummingbirds and gardeners.
How do we deal with a slope? Water rushes down the slope
with it, leaving only clay. Not a healthy situation. There
approaches. Try planting Ivy or using a mulch. If these
won't work you
may have to consider terracing. You can use railroad ties
or a series of
steps to direct the water flow. If these won't work it may
to control the flow of water with different drainage techniques.
trench or underground drainage tubes will work.
Many of us have thought Bamboo attractive and effective
at creating a
barrier. Only after time do we realize the Bamboo just keeps
How do you stop it? It is difficult. Bamboo spreads by its
sprouts popping up along the way. One method is to spray
with Round-Up or Brush Be Gone. You can try to cut the roots
reach out but often they're as hard as steel. The best way
to deal with
Bamboo is to address the problem when planting. Dig a trench
around the Bamboo about 24 inches deep and put Aluminum
flashing in the trench.
When Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) made its American debut as
an ornamental plant at the 1876 U.S. Centennial in Philadelphia,
little did the organizers and visitors suspect that this
harmless looking plant would later become "The Vine That
Ate the South". Many people believe that kudzu to be the
world's fastest-growing plant. It's reputed t grow up to
a foot in a single day and more that 100 feet in a single
season. One of the reasons that it does so well, is that
the vine itself grows from an enormous tuber that buries
itself up to 6 feet into the ground.
One of the reasons Kudzu has spread through our the south
is because back in the early 1900's it was planted as a
forage crop for cattle as a cover crop to add nitrogen to
the soil, and as a groundcover to stop erosion by highway
Kudzu is not parasitic. In other words, it doesn't attach
itself to another plant and remove nutrients or water. It's
a hitchhiker. It uses another plant or tree, or abandoned
house for support. It can grow so fast because it's a mooch,
and doesn't have to develop a woody trunk to grow high into
the sky and then blocks out the light to whatever it is
growing on and eventually kills it.
If you're not sure if a plant is kudzu or not, look for
3 leaflets and in the summer to fall a reddish purple flower
that smells like grape kool-aid. And it produces a pod of
seeds that germinate the following spring as well as spreads
by stems that grow along the ground and root at each leaf
How can you get rid of it? Well, it is not easy. First,
try to keep it from getting started in the woods or nearby
properties. . Second, spray the foliage with the chemical
glyphosate (Round-up) but you'll need to apply it several
The most effective but most time consuming strategy is to
cut the stem near the ground and paint the stem with a chemical
called triclopyr (Brush-B-Gon or Brush Killer)
Just remember, persistence is the key to getting rid of
this nuisance. One other approach. If you live in the country,
get some goats or cows. They love the stuff.
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