Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Master Gardeners and Honey Bees

The Arkansas Master Gardeners held their annual convention in West Memphis. About 500 Master Gardeners from across the state gathered in this Delta city located on the Mississippi River levee. I was honored to be asked to speak at the convention. My presentation involved bees and the environment, a topic that I feel greatly affects us all. The more we get to understand the relationship between the pollinators and humans, the better we can protect these important creatures. I explained the role of honey bees and the native pollinators in producing one third of our diet by pollinating our crops. I also mentioned that there is a decline in the numbers of all of the pollinators, bees, other insects, birds, and bats. I encouraged the Master Gardeners to continue to act as advocates for the prudent use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. I encouraged them to continue using integrated pest management techniques in the garden and to avoid broad-spectrum insecticides. I especially cautioned these masters to prevent the formation of environmental niches which will be filled by pests. We see these niches being formed when beneficial insects are killed off, often by indiscriminate spraying of pesticides. This well-informed audience of Master Gardeners asked about the effects of the systemic insecticides on the bees. I explained that these new nerve toxins are still suspect as contributing to the decline in honey bees around the world. I encouraged all to contribute to the solution to the loss of pollinators be creating their own pollinator garden. These are simple plots of ground planted without the use of chemicals that injure or kill the important insects. They may be back-yard vegetable gardens, herb gardens, flower gardens, window boxes, or merely landscape plantings.

In today’s photo, I am placing a swarm of honey bees on a stand in the bee yard. These are the same bees that were shown swarming in yesterday’s posting. The bees cover the sides of the hive body. Following the pheromones of their queen, the bees soon migrated into the box and down the frames. Within minutes, the colony was established in its new hive.

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