Hawkweed – Feed the Bees

Here in Maine the weather has changed and its becoming colder.  The days are getting shorter with everything turning color and starting to go dormant for winter.  This restricts the pollinators to the fall flowers to get the nutrition they need to get them through the winter.

For many pollinators late summer and fall is not that different from spring and they need all the help they can get to find available stores.

By observing my honeybees, I have discovered that they really are getting lots of use out of the hawkweed on my lawn.  At the hive lots of yellow pollen is going in on bees that have faces caked in yellow.  It didn’t take long to figure out that it was the hawkweed the bees were working on.

Honeybee Working on Hawkweed

Hawkweed is a common lawn plant and the bees love it. It is such a great source of fall food for the bees. Let this plant grow and feed the bees.

Hawkweed comes in several species but for us here in Maine it is the yellow blossom that looks a little like a dandelion with a long neck and few leaves.  They come up in abundance on untreated lawns and are frequently mowed prior to the pollinators benefiting.  Just because a flower is in bloom doesn’t mean that it is providing for the bees.  Sometimes it may take a week or more for a flower to develop pollen and nectar, so early cutting will often eliminate the food source for the bees.

The most interesting thing about this time of year is that everything is slowing down including the grasses.  Many folks are mowing by habit or to maintain that horrible golf course look.  By the way, I never see any of my neighbors putting on their “perfect” lawns.  Skipping a week or two of mowing this time of year will allow the hawkweed to grow and be used by multiple pollinators.  The lawn is not going to get away from you and you get a week or two off; Woo Hoo!

Then, children in tow, you could go out on the lawn and see how many pollinators you can spot on the blossoms that you allowed to grow.  You can be proud of your achievement while teaching the children how important it is to respect nature and to work with it instead of against.

One might say that the pollinators can just use something else or that we don’t need that awful weed pollinated anyway.  A much larger point to consider is that the pollinators need this late source of pollen and in order to be around next year for what we want pollinated they have to eat.

We are so very busy that it is easy to forget our connection to the earth.  We have a tendancy to overlook the abundance we enjoy as a direct result of a clean, healthy environment, teaming with all sorts of busy pollinators.  We sometimes feel that there is not much we can do to help but if we mown a lawn nothing could be further from the truth.  Yes, we are the gatekeepers of our lawns; we are in charge.  The true beauty in the lawn comes from the sun, water, and soil; not chemicals and thrashers.

By letting diversity thrive on the lawn you are embracing a connection to the earth.  You are supporting a system that has worked for millions of years.  You are also doing your part to embrace the life beneth the soil and the support system Mother Nature intends right in your yard.  Your lawn and Mother Nature need your help to ensure that the system is healthy and that it works.  There is no time like the present to get started getting in touch with nature.  You can embrace a lawn with hawkweed and all the other plants that live there instead of a lawn with billions of  identical blades of grass filled with chemicals. You can make a difference; and both you and Mother Nature will feel better because of your efforts.

So take a break from mowing, enjoy your yard and all the creatures that live there.  Let the hawkweed grow and you too can feed the bees this fall.

Honeybee Working on Hawkweed

This is such a great plant for the bees in the fall. It is up to all of us to cut the bees some slack and let the hawkweed grow on the lawn as a fall food source.

Check out The Beeline Buzz Hop

Earth, Weeds, and Bees – All gifts to be cherished.

The month of April is a month to reconnect with our precious Earth.  This is the month of Earth Day and Arbor Day; days for true reflection on what we as individuals might do to make a difference.  While many of us are able to move in the right direction and find at least a little something that makes us feel a bit more connected there are some who are lost.  Lost in the waste that is all around us.  Perhaps to some it is too painful to acknowledge what we are all doing to the earth.

Few people give a moment’s thought to the millions of micro organisms that live in every spoonful of soil under our feet.  We just can’t see them in the soil so not the slightest thought of the life in that spoonful of soil.  If you have never really given it much thought then imagine that the life of each individual organism is just as important as each individual human being.  Now, if there are 500,000,000 micro organisms in a spoonful of soil, that is more than the population of the United States.  To destroy a spoonful of soil would then be not unlike destroying an entire country.  Remember for us the spoon is small but to the micro organism it is a whole world.  If you were a micro organism living in that spoonful of soil you would be surrounded with life.  There would be creatures of all sizes and shapes, living together, helping each other out; all working to make that spoonful of soil a better place.

As nature would have it these micro organisms in the soil are doing their part to make all that is above ground fit for life.  We often think of the relationship of the bees and the flowers but we rarely think of the relationship of the bees to the soil.  The connection is so much stronger than we think.  The health of all creatures above the soil depends on the creatures below the soil.  These soil organisms feed the plants that feed the bees and ultimately us.  There is an even stronger relationship between the soil and the plants than between us and the plants, because without these little soil workers we would have nothing to eat.  When the soil is sick so are all that use it.  The bees are sick and they are using the same soil that we are.  We need to stop putting chemicals on the soil period.

Let’s go back to the spoon.  How many of us standing on the lawn with a can of spray have the slightest idea what organisms are under our feet?  How many folks at the chemical company know what organisms are under our feet.  How many people have any idea what the overall lasting effect a blast of spray on your spoonful of soil will have?  That is why it is so important to let the weeds grow.  The weeds may feed the creatures in the spoon; we are connected to the earth and the weeds have their place with us here as well.  There are three weeds that we habitually spray on our lawns that deserve to be there; they are dandelions, clover, and plantains.  It is so easy to just let them go to seed then mow them with the grass.  It is beneficial to our pollinators in terms of nectar and pollen that we leave the weeds and not put any chemicals on the lawn.  What goes on the lawn goes in the soil, then into the plants, then into the bees.  And yes the chemicals that weaken the bees to disease are in our home products too.  If we aren’t 100 percent sure what we are killing we shouldn’t be spraying.  I’m 100 percent sure I won’t spray anything because I have no idea what any of those chemicals kill beyond the target and nontarget species listed so proudly on the can.

Blindfolds are for piñatas and pin the tail on the donkey, not spraying in the yard.  Feed the bees… give the soil life… let the weeds grow!

Free Mason Bees – Quick and Easy

Get set up for mason bees or other solitary bees now.

This is the season to get all straightened out for the spring season.  If you have to pull tubes or straws now is a good time to do it.  If you need to order reeds or starter kits there is no time to waste as the season will be here before you know it.  This is also a great time to replace the tubes in your nest blocks.

If this is your first season then you should read this section to get ready.  We have a complete line of books available on the solitary bees and other native pollinators.

If you have ever considered hosting Mason Bees, Hornfaced Bees, Alfalfa Leafcutter Bees, or any other Solitary Bees then check out our page on mason bees.

We always use this time in mid winter to swap out the tubes full of cocoons with fresh parchment paper and store the bees in a box that will be used in the spring as a release box.  View care instructions here.  Lots of folks like to open the tubes, then inspect, and clean the cocoons.  I do not do that; I like to leave them undisturbed in the parchment paper tubes until they emerge.  If you are inspecting and cleaning then that should be done in late summer or early fall.

We have really enjoyed keeping the mason bees; they are so easy.  I can’t think of a better project to do with your children (or children with your parents) than raising solitary bees.  One becomes so much more connected with the earth when one follows the actions of the bee.  You quickly learn to recognize the bees out and about.  You can watch what direction they go.  You can see the pollen under their belly.  And unlike honeybees you can observe the mating.  You get to watch predatory wasps agitating your bees or in time you will be able to differentiate between the mason and the cuckoo bee that is trying to lay eggs in the mason bee nest.  I can’t imagine that when the fascination of what they are doing sets in, that one would not develop a better understanding of the beauty of nature.

As always, I’m here to help you all I can; so contact me if you have any questions and thank you for supporting Daves’ Bees.