Friday Free For All: Where Are All of the Bees?

Today’s topic is one that has me concerned…where are all of the bees? Seriously, I haven’t seen nearly the volume that I normally would for this time of year. In early spring, I noticed the honeybees devouring a corkscrew willow at a customer’s home. I didn’t know that honeybees were so attracted to willow blooms. The blooms are very unimpressive…here’s a picture:

where are all of the bees

 

I know of a gentleman who had a swarm try to take up residency in a nearby crape myrtle. But that’s it. The Salvia ‘May Night’ are in full bloom and have been so for several weeks. Salvia is one of those plants that usually trembles from all of the bees feasting on them. This spring? Nothing. The clover is in full bloom now and I’ve noticed a couple of honeybees but it’s only been a couple.

I’ve asked other horticulturists and people who observe the outside world around them and they haven’t seen the bees either. Is something going on that I’m not aware of? I am hopeful that there is a beekeeper in the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community that can shed some light on the missing bees. I plan on calling my local Extension agent tomorrow to see if he’s been hearing the same story from other gardeners.

Please chime in by leaving me a comment as to whether you have seen the bees this spring…it would be helpful if you give your geographic location so that we can see if it’s just a local phenomenom. Perhaps the bees are just hiding from me! If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!

Plant Profile: Salvia ‘May Night’

Today’s Plant Profile is about one of my favorite perennials: Salvia ‘May Night’. Officially, the Latin name is Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ but it usually goes by Salvia ‘May Night’, May Night Sage or just May Night. It is one of those plants that belong in every garden, unless you have a shady garden like me. Salvia ‘May Night’ prefers full sun but it can survive in some dappled shade. It can survive the hottest of hot areas and actually prefers the heat. It is very drought tolerant once established and it’s only requirement regarding moisture is that you not give it too much. It will reach 18″-24″ tall by 24″ wide over time so it makes a perfect plant for the front of the border.

Salvia ‘May Night’ begins blooming in April and the blooms just keep on coming until frost. This picture was taken just about a week ago.

salvia may night

As with most long blooming perennials, it will provide the best show if it is kept deadheaded but you don’t have to fret about this. If you are a lazy gardener like me, just wait until most of the blooms are spent and then cut all of the bloom stalks off. Simple enough.

When and if you deadhead your Salvia ‘May Night’, you may have to shoo away the bumble bees and honey bees. They absolutely love it. Your plants will be covered with bees and some butterflies too. If you want to attract beneficials to your garden, Salvia ‘May Night’ is an excellent choice.

The only drawback to May Night, if you can call it one, is that the foliage smells…well…urineferous. That’s a word that I learned from Dr. Niemeira at Virginia Tech; he used it to describe the blooms of boxwood. Yep, the foliage smells like pee. There’s really no other way to put it. But unless you make a habit of rubbing the foliage, you won’t even notice it. There is one creature with a better nose than us that will notice the smell though: deer. Deer generally steer clear of plants with smelly foliage like herbs and in this case, Salvia ‘May Night’.

The foliage is semi-evergreen in Virginia. It’s there for most of the winter but eventually it starts to look pretty crispy as the winter wears on. I wouldn’t grow Salvia ‘May Night’ for its winter foliage but I would grow it for the other 9 months of the year when it shines in the garden. It’s hardy to Zone 5 so it should be a long lived, reliable perennial in the Mid-Atlantic gardening region. Let me know if you have experience with Salvia ‘May Night’ by leaving me a comment below or e-mailing me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. Happy gardening!

April 11, 2012Permalink 4 Comments

Pests and Diseases: Carpenter Bees

In today’s post, I thought we would look at carpenter bees. While they resemble bumble bees, they are definitely different. If you’re into getting up close and personal, you’ll notice that the abdomen of carpenter bees is black and shiny whereas the abdomen of bumble bees is hairy and has yellow stripes. If you don’t want to get too close, just notice their habits. Carpenter bees are most often spotted hanging around eaves and other wooden surfaces in the spring or early summer. This year, the carpenter bees have been quite active already.

This time of year is when you will see the bees flying in great numbers and hovering around wooden structures…what you are witnessing is actually the courting ritual. The males are trying to impress the females, and while the males will often hover at the tip of your nose, there’s no reason to be frightened; the males don’t even have a stinger.

carpenter bees

Photo courtesy of www.carpenterbees.net

The female will excavate holes that are about the diameter of your finger into the wood so that she can lay her eggs. Her eggs will develop in the nesting holes and will emerge in late summer as adults. When it’s time for winter to roll around, the adults will go back to the nesting holes to overwinter. The damage that carpenter bees can inflict on a wooden structure can be quite impressive. There are several theories on the best method for controlling them…here are a few:

  1. Paint or stain the wood. Carpenter bees prefer wood that is untreated for their nesting holes. It is generally believed that painted wood seems to deter them more than staining does.
  2. Fill the holes. To me, this is like playing the whack-a-mole game at Chuck E. Cheese. You fill in one hole so the bee just moves over a bit and lays more eggs in a different location.
  3. Use insecticide. I am totally against this. Period.
  4. Alternative nesting areas. If carpenter bees are particularly worrisome around your home, consider providing wood that they can use as nesting areas. Sure, you can’t put up a vacancy sign at the desired location but you can provide them shelter. After all, they pollinate fruits and veggies too, ya know.

 

I should also note that while carpenter bees lay their eggs in wood, bumble bees form nests in the ground. That should help you ID them better as well. If you have experience with carpenter bees and would like to recommend any other treatments, please leave a comment below or e-mail me. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!