Growing Home Ep. 14 - "Bee" A Pollinator
No matter how technologically advanced we get, Mother Nature still does some things better. One of these things is pollination. Join Terry and Len for tricky flowers, busy bees, and a honey tasting.
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National Pollinator Week:
National Pollinator Week is June 17 to June 23. It was created as an act of the US Senate.
Len recommends celebrating with Mead, which is a liquor made with honey.
To create seeds and fruits, plants need to be able to transfer pollen from male to female.
In species that use sexual reproduction, genes need to be sufficiently changed between generations or else the species as a whole can be vulnerable, therefore not being able to compete in nature.
Some plants feature male and female parts in the same flower, or male and female flowers on the same plant. Len says that Easter Lilies are a good example of this.
Other plants, like squash, have their male and female flowers growing at different times. (Len says the male squash flowers are tasty if you fry them with cheese).
Many plants rely on pollinators to carry pollen to other plants, but other plants can use the wind to pollinate.
Pollinators include animals like bees, beetles, butterflies, hummingbirds and bats.
Artificial methods of pollination, including spraying the plants with pollen, are not as efficient as bee pollination.
Attracting Bees and Other Pollinators:
Flower color is a way to attract bees. Bees see colors that aren’t visible to humans. Using those colors, the flower looks like a target, signaling the bees.
Nectar is used as a fuel source for bees and larvae. The Bees process the nectar into honey. As honey is heavily concentrated nectar, bees need to visit many plants for a sufficient amount of honey.
Pollen is also a food source for the bees. Pollination occurs when the bee accidently drops pollen while trying to collect more and as a result, fertilization occurs.
Tropical orchids have structures inside the flower that trick bees into trying to mate with it.
Some plants attract pollinators by providing a protective habitat. For example, skunk cabbage, makes a smelly chemical that also provides warmth for bugs. As a result flies might be attracted to the cabbage.
Species that prey on pollinators, like spiders and wasps, also like to hang out on plant.
Honeybees will go after different kinds of plants, depending on what’s in season. This results in different honeys with different colors and flavors.
Spring Honey has a lighter color, and has a faint honey flavor. Len says it tastes more like agave nectar
Mid-Season Honey has a cider-like, light brown color. The honey has aromatic qualities, and Len says it would taste good on an English Muffin.
Fall Honey has a molasses like look, and has a full-bodied, citrusy taste.
Some Bees will only visit certain plants, like the squash bee only goes to squashes.
Other bees, like bumblebees and honeybees, will visit any flower that has pollen and nectar.
Honeybees tend to pollinate major food crops, like almonds, apples and squashes.
Honeybees are good about returning to their hive, and as a result, can be easily transported between farms to fertilize the flowers.
Squash bees like to have nests in the ground. Their nests might get torn up when readying the ground for the season.
Honeybees only come out when the weather is warm enough, and may not come out in inclement weather. Native bees will be visiting flowers sun up to sun down, and will go out in bad weather.
Mason bees can visit 20,000-100,000 flowers a day, where honeybees can visit 50-1,000 flowers a day.
Native bees can be given houses, but they might not always be interested.
Using Plants for Healing:
Native bees are known to visit white turtleheads when they need to get rid of parasites. The actual compound that helps the bees is currently unknown.
In a given season, Monarch Butterflies will go through four generations.
Swamp Milkweeds are a non-invasive plant that attracts butterflies. The caterpillar will feed on the leaf, and the butterfly will feed on the nectar.
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Safely Using Insecticide.
Bt is a natural insecticide that won’t harm bees. However, it does control many other insects, like caterpillars.
Don’t apply an insecticide while the plant is flowering, so you don’t risk harming pollinators.