Monday, July 13, 2015


Queen Anne's lace
Midsummer is especially lush on Roundtop this year, due the near unending rain.  This past weekend was the first in a month where it didn’t rain and that respite, while it will be short-lived, was much appreciated.  The clear weather allowed me to get some outside work done, but I’m afraid I will never catch up at this rate.

Wildflowers are certainly enjoying the wet summer. They are profuse nearly everywhere I look. I hope the local bees are populous enough to properly pollinate them. I do see some bees, if not nearly the numbers I should be seeing.  Colony collapse disorder apparently took an especially harsh toll last winter and this spring, with losses running about 42% of all colonies.  This comes after a year or so when the losses didn’t appear to be getting any worse, and beekeepers were very cautiously optimistic they could learn to deal with it. So much for that hope, I’m afraid.  This year I can probably count the number of bees I’ve seen on two hands.  That’s more than a little scary.

Butterflies, which also perform pollination duties, seem to be around in normal numbers, so that might help.  Butterflies are far less efficient than bees at pollinating, but at least it’s something. The difference is that butterflies have longer legs than bees, which holds them away from pollen. Bees are built for pollinating and can capture pollen pretty much with their entire bodies.  And of course, bees are busy little things, while butterflies flit prettily and slowly from flower to flower.  One thing butterflies can do that bees can’t is see the color red, so they are very effective pollinators of red flowers.  Butterflies prefer larger flowers with flat or broad surfaces so they can more easily land. A few moths, such as the hummingbird moth, also pollinate but how many of those do you see around?

I’ve been talking about wildflowers and how they are affected by a lack of bees, but that’s really only a side issue.  More than 80 different farm crops in the U.S. depend on pollination.  This covers all of the berry crops as well as apples, cherries, plums, avocados and all the almonds.  The list goes on to cover dozens of food crops. I look for bees every day when I’m out in the woods, but so far there’s little joy in reporting the number that I see.

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