Friday, June 22, 2012

I've Been Beesy

After taking an unexpected vacation from posting on this blog (it is hard to justify blogging when the plants are wilting and yet the weeds won't stop growing), I am returning with a bang. Or a buzz.

This week is National Pollinator Week.  Welkinweir has its very own resident pollinators.  They are usually well behaved and live in a Kenyan top-bar hive in the Children's Garden.  There are windows built into the side so curious visitors can take a closer look without disturbing the honeybees.

I said they were usually well behaved.  Occasionally huge swarms of them take flight to a branch in a shrub or tree nearby.  This happens when a queen bee leaves the hive and is followed by a large group of worker bees.  This happened twice last summer.  And, this happened just a few weeks ago.  I spotted the swarm high in a serviceberry. It wasn't long before our beekeeper was out to collect what would become a new hive.  When collecting swarms, if the queen is captured, the rest will follow.

Honeybees are fascinating, and very important insects.  They certainly deserve more than a week of recognition.  I should briefly clarify that honeybees are not the only pollinators. This post could easily be about bats, beetles, ants, birds, flies, moths, or butterflies.  Nearly one third of the food we eat is the direct result of pollination by insects.  However, honeybees alone pollinate more than 100 agricultural crops in the United States.  Without them, we would not have many of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy.  While other types of bees are important pollinators, honeybees are by far the easiest to manage. 

 I found a list of these crops in a publication by the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Science. Here are a few important, and quite delicious, food crops that must be pollinated by bees (though not solely honeybees) to produce fruit or seed:

Almonds (100% pollinated by bees)
Apple (90% pollinated by bees)
Blueberry (90% pollinated by bees)
Cherry  Cranberry

And let's not forget that honey wouldn't exist without bees.  That is the substance that makes honeybees my favorite pollinator of all.  So, bees deserve a whole blog post devoted to them. 

To see our bees, come visit our Children's Garden at Welkinweir.  This garden starts to put on its best show in the heat of summer.  I will be sure to share it on this blog over the next few sweltering months.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pennsylvania's State Flower

Kalmia latifolia, mountain laurel

'Yankee Doodle'