Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Population Crisis of Honey Bees, Monarchs: Whose next?

(pic from : https://ferrebeekeeper.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/colony-collapse-disorder-114439-530-353.jpg)

An excellent article from the NY Times,"Our Bees, Ourselves", explains succinctly the Honeybee crisis and also what this means possibly for the human race. As the author, Mark Wilson, states, honey bees are a resilient species having survived for over 40 million years and what is effecting them most definitely will impact us.

There are over 120 residues from different pesticides found in honey bee hives which reduce the effectiveness of the bee's immune system and make them more susceptible to disease. Certainly humans are exposed to these residues too and what impact is that having on us?

An the end of the article, he offers a positive note and solution.  He sites a recent study which shows that if sizable acreages of cropland are left unspoiled or uncultivated to support wild pollinators, there are higher crop yields and then in turn, higher profits. This concept also overlaps with what we are seeing with the Monarch population crisis and how it is critical to provide wild habitat and protection of milkweed.

Here is the link to the article:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Unexpected Common Milkweed Expansion

(Picture from Washington Post)

Monarch butterfly populations have been in steady decline since 2003 caused in part by loss of habitat. The director of the organization, Monarch Watch, created a recovery plan which includes the planting nationwide of thousands of milkweed, the primary host of monarchs. The organization has shipped over 30,000 milkweed plants, see blog article: http://monarchwatch.org/blog/)
Although, this is a very important issue to me, I never made the time over the winter to order milkweed to increase the numbers we already have.

This spring, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the mowing of our upper meadow after 3 years stimulated the small patch of Common Milkweed, that had already been growing in our meadow. Common Milkweed is the most prolific of the 12 native milkweeds in PA and is also know as Asclepias syriaca.

Our Milkweed have expanded to several patches and now includes roughly 1000 healthy individual plants.

Here is a simple map showing the location and expansion of the Milkweed in the upper meadow, which covers about 2 acres. The lower meadow is largely wetlands and has very little Milkweed.

Milkweed spread via seeds carried by the wind, birds or animals or by rhizomes underground. The mowing probably exposed fertile ground for the seeds and stimulated the rhizomes.

Milkweeds' milky sap contain poisonous glycosides, which the monarchs feed upon and can tolerate and in turn gives it the protection it needs from predators. Milkweeds' nectar and pollen are free of these poisons and provide food for numerous bees, butterflies and other insects.

It's well after May, and I have not spotted any monarchs coming through still. 

Here is a map of the first adult sightings for North America through June 20th:

The milkweed are blooming, mature and ready. Hopefully, the monarchs will show up soon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rebirth of a Vegetable Garden with Cedar Raised Beds

During this year's early February snow and ice storm, we lost an old Cherry tree, that completely smashed and destroyed our vegetable garden.

For the past couple of months, after replacing the fence, we have been slowly rebuilding and replacing the old pine raised beds, that had also succumbed to rot and bugs, with beautiful new 2" x 10" cedar planks, 8' by 4'.

The untreated pine planks lasted surprisingly for 5 years, but hopefully the new cedar planks will last double or triple that long.

The raised bed was assembled outside the fence and then placed directly over the old bed.

  and then adjustments were made for a good fit.

In the last couple of weeks, parsley, eggplant, zucchini, squash, peppers, and tomatoes have been planted and are growing hardily.