You Should BEE Dancing, Yeah!

Hello Bee Friends,

Did you ever wonder how bees tell other bees where flowers are? I bet you know that they fly back to their hives and tell the other bees, and you are absolutely right. But how do they communicate this?

Bees dance!!  And they don’t just dance willy-nilly, they dance like a Wu Li Master by incorporating UV light from the sun, gravity, vector calculus (!!) and the sun’s movement in the sky. Pretty wild?

Check this out: 🙂

Okay, if you want something more scientific, here is an excellent video from Georgia Tech College of Computing called: The Waggle Dance of the Honeybee:

Next time your teenage humans roll their eyes at geography or physics, and whine about why they need to learn it – you can calmly point out that Bees are smart enough to know about these topics 😀

Your task this week: Pretend you are a bee, pick an object and then tell someone else through ‘bee dance’ where the object is.

and…as always… Bee nice to Bees! 😀

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Neonicotinoids and Other Hard to Pronounce BUZZ Words

Hello Bee Friends,

Yesterday when I was cleaning up the leaves from a small section of my yard (yes, I wasn’t following my own rules for waiting a few more weeks!) I noticed a leaf that seemed like it was moving. When the sun came out from behind a cloud it opened up to this:

Angelwing Butterfly looks so beautiful with wings open

Angelwing Butterfly looks like a leaf with its wings closed

On to less beautiful, but more important things…

So much has been in the news about neonicotinoids, it’s hard to keep up, but … what are they really? And how do I know if I’m contributing to the problem or helping the bees?

What are Neonicotinoids?

Neonicotinoids are agricultural pesticides that are sprayed on fields to rid harmful insects that destroy food crops.  They are also sprayed on seeds. These products are water-based and are absorbed into the system of the plant including the leaves, stems, flowers, nectar and pollen. They act on insects which eat or suck the juices of the plant by affecting the insect’s central nervous system. Neonicotinoids are related to nicotine. After ingesting any part of the plant, Neonicotinoids slowly kill the insect over hours or days. These chemicals were thought to be safer than previous pesticides, but increasingly, studies are showing that even low doses can be detrimental to bee’s foraging behaviors. Some studies like this one have shown that within 20 minutes of exposure, a bee will ‘forget’ where the flowers are, and other bees will have trouble ‘learning’ from other bees where to find the food.

Why are they so horrible?

A few weeks ago, I asked you what plants you were planning to buy to help the bees. Many plants tested at garden shops including Rona, Home Depot, Lowes, and Canadian Tire have been tested and found to contain traces of neonicotinoids in the flowers and pollen of plants. The Council of Canadians reported here and quoted below:

“…when researchers purchased 71 bee-friendly plants (including daisies, lavender, marigolds, asters and primrose) at 18 big box outlets across the United States and Canada,  “more than half of the plants, the researchers measured neonicotinoid residues in the flowers at levels between 2 and 748 parts per billion. A dose of 192 parts per billion is enough to kill a honeybee, she says, and dozens of studies have found impairments in bee navigation, memory and foraging ability at between 4 and 30 parts per billion.

“In Canada, the CBC reported that a study found neonics in the flowers and pollen of plants tested from Rona, Canadian Tire and Home Depot in garden centres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.”

Home Depot  in both US and Canada requires its suppliers (in Canada as of Dec 2014) to label plants exposed to neonicotinoids. Lowes will phase out these by “the spring of 2019”.

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Bee on Marigold – last year’s photo. I never checked with the Garden Shop if it contained any neonicotinoids. I will this year though.

How to help the Bees (and other beneficial insects like butterflies):

Many garden products may have neonicotinoids in them, and it’s often hard to know.  Here is a list of products that contain neonics, and here is another list.

Some of the key ingredients to look for on labels of garden products – and avoid – are these:

  • Imidacloprid, 
  • Clothianidin, 
  • Acetamiprid, 
  • Thiacloprid, 
  • Thiamethoxam

But this doesn’t help when seeds or young nursery plants are exposed to these chemicals.  Home Depot should now have these plants labelled, but not all garden shops have implemented this important change. If you have time, this an informative article that explains what effect these chemicals have on bees and other wildlife.

So, my lovely Bee Friends, this week you can do this to help the bees:

When you buy your spring plants this year, check if there is a label on the plant. If there isn’t, ask the garden shop what they are doing to help the bees by keeping the plants neonicotinoid free.

Bee nice to Bees!! 😀

Exciting Bee News!

Hello Bee Friends,

I’m very excited today! I think I saw a BEE flying around my crab apple tree.  Well… it could have been a wasp, or … maybe a fly, I couldn’t really see what it was … BUT it was a flying creature!! 🙂  Spring still seems like a tease because there are no flowers yet, but so far this week I’ve seen one other creature – a tiny Jumping Spider.

The other really super exciting news lately is that Portland, Oregon has banned the use of neonicotinoids!

According to many news sources – this quote below from (which you can read in full here from Reuters):

“Despite protests from farmers who argued the insecticide was crucial for crop production, the Portland City Commission voted unanimously to immediately suspend use of products that contain neonicotinoids.”

Unanimous!!  That’s so good to hear.  Yay for the Bees!!! 😀

Bee on Marigold – photo taken last year in the summer.

There are now eight cities in United States that ban these insecticides.

  1. Eugene, Oregon
  2. Spokane, Washington
  3. Seattle, Washington
  4. Shorewood, Minnesota
  5. Skagway, Alaska

Does anyone know the other three?

There is one municipality that bans them in Canada, so far:

  1. Prince Edward county, Ontario

Hamilton, Ontario is thinking about it. Is your city working on banning these insecticides?

Neonicotinoids disrupt the central nervous system of bees (and potentially many other organisms including birds, bats, dogs and humans) and in bees have caused toxicity including tremors, disruption in hive activity, contaminated pollen in hives, susceptibility to viruses, and death.

Your task this week: Find out what your own city is doing to ban neonicotinoids.

and… Bee Nice to Bees! 😀

It’s Spring!!! Where are the Bees?

Hello Bee Friends,

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Frosty Robin

How was your winter? Are you ready for Spring? I know I am. And I think… it might actually be here!  I saw a Robin yesterday, sitting in a frosty tree fluffing up its feathers to keep warm.

Yesterday was frosty, but today is going to be wonderfully warm. The bugs are just starting to stir, but no flowers are blooming … yet. This is the time of year when birds are at risk of having very little food. And not just birds, but beneficial bugs too. In winter, Ladybugs gather together and crawl under mulch to hibernate. If woken too soon, they will have no food to eat and might die (or eat each other). So I am always hesitant about cleaning up my yard too soon and disturbing the Ladybugs.

Here are some things we can do to prepare our yards, whether big or small or even just a balcony, for the Bees this year:

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Crocus

1. Bee very gentle when cleaning up your yard. If there are flowers blooming in your area such as daffodils, crocuses, cherry trees, and other spring flowers, then it’s time to clean up. Many municipalities have a Spring Clean Up period where they will pick up, or you can drop off, your yard waste. If there are no flowers yet, or not many, then just sit back and enjoy the weather and leave the mulch and fallen leaves for a few more weeks.

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Grape Hyacinth

2. Look for Bee’s nests. When cleaning up your yard, consider a compost bin. Check for ladybugs under any mulch. Some bees also overwinter in underground nests. A fun activity for your kids (or you) is to try to find these nests. These are small piles of dirt with a hole in the middle. Here is a good article that describes these Bees. If you find these nests, mark the area with a stick in your yard so you don’t disturb them when digging or planting.

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Bee on a Sedum (Stonecrop) flower

3. Find flowers and plants that are good for Bees. Check with your local garden shop on what types of flowers are good for attracting Bees, Butterflies, and Birds. Bees need both nectar and pollen producing flowers. Here is a good article that lists five plants to consider. Of these, I have planted Rockcress, Lavender, and Grape Hyacinth in my yard. It is best to buy native plants or heirloom varieties, as some hybrids are sterile. Local flowers are the best food for local bees.

4. Consider growing wild flowers. Clover is an excellent alternative to your plain boring grass. 🙂 Not only does it provide a soft ground cover, but Bees love clover flowers! Dandelions are also good for providing early food for Bees. Once the flowers are spent on them, pick off the heads so you don’t spread seeds to your neighbours yard – or better yet, try to convince your neighbours that Dandelions are essential flowers. Bee sneaky – 🙂 create a space in your yard and transplant dandelions there, so they are bright and showy. Other wild flowers that grow in my area are Goldenrod, Phlox, Vetch, and Asters. For wildflowers, you can also check around for any new housing developments or other construction in your area that are just beginning as there may be wildflowers you can transplant to your yard or into a pot or planter (ask permission of the landowner first).

5. Plan your garden. This is a great time to grab your colourful garden books, go to the Library, go to a good site such as this one, and go to your local Garden shop. Make a list of five plants you can place in your own yard or balcony for the Bees.  What five plants will you choose?

Happy planting! and Bee Nice to Bees! 😀