Category Archives: Pollination

Silent Spring

For many years I have wanted to read Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” but have not got round to it mainly because I thought it would be a bit too full on. Well it is and it is not! First impressions are that considering it was published in 1962 it feels like it was written yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What has changed in 58 years? Everything and nothing. We are now more deeply committed to high input agrochemical farming and even more reliant on pesticides and other chemicals that have invaded every part of our daily lives.

I was asked recently what is the best thing we can do to increase biodiversity in gardens. My answer is simple, stop using insecticides. There is no excuse for blasting everything with a spray just so it looks nice and kills all those supposedly nasty insects and then wonder why there are so few birds around.

This year Spring in our garden was better, the number of birds seemed to have increased and the dawn chorus returned. Then lock down ended and the birds stopped singing and spring became silent again.

I am left with the feeling that the only thing we have done since 1962 is to speed up trashing everything we depend on. It feels like we are on an increasingly steep downward spiral that will lead to the total destruction of the planet that gives us all we need unless we do something.

So, what can we do?  We can find the courage to be different and not be part of consumerist society where status is determined by ownership of the latest toys. We can find an alternative to factory farmed food soaked in chemicals and wrapped in plastic. That might mean spending a bit more on what we eat and less on holidays, mobile phones, or other non-essential goodies we are coerced into accepting as the norm. Or we do nothing and take it on the chin and leave the next generation with little but a dying planet.

The choice to downsize, consume less and eat organic food is no where near the hair shirt mentality touted by those who want to retain the status quo. It can be liberating, joyful even, like a release from always having to follow the crowd, to keep up, to gain status by being seen to buy the right stuff.

It took a brush with death for me to make new choices 30 years ago and yes, I did see my whole life flash in front of me like a failed B movie. You don’t need to go through that to realise there are better alternatives. Learn from others who have done it be proud to be different. Relax and enjoy what we have right in front of us. Now is the time to change and live differently, seize the moment.

New French study finds 32 toxic pesticides in the air

The fact that there are airborne residues from farmland spraying is not new. What is concerning is that this study measured the concentrations and type of chemical and found banned products.

The article says there is no evidence of airborne pesticides being a health hazard. That sounds like PR from agrochemical companies trying to avoid litigation. There is a long history of  people living close to farm land  complaining of symptoms when fields are sprayed.

What is really scary about the research is that they found traces of chemicals such as lindane which was banned in the EU in 2008.

It makes sense to ask if there are residues in soil dust. We know that a lot of spray ends up in soil and that some are very persistent so they could linger in soil for many years.

It really is time we stopped drenching food in chemicals however ‘safe’ the manufacturers claim it to be. It is an old fashioned and outdated way of farming that does huge damage to the environment. There are better ways to produce food.

Read the full article here

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 Shrubs, bush fruits and trees useful to all species of bees

Download the PDF file HERE

 Key to list:

** tender. * not reliably hardy. Spp = species. (N) = nectar produced when weather good enough. N = nectar collected. P = pollen collected.

**Abutilon vitifolium May–Jul NP  Soft grey/green vine shaped downy leaves, large saucer-shaped flowers, various colours.
Berberis spp Apr–Jul NP Wide range of species, all attractive to bees.
Buddleia alternifolia Long lilac spikes. Jun NP B. globosa Globular orange flowers. May NP B. x weyeriana Orange panicles. Jun–Oct NP
*Ceanothus spp NP Wide range of species, all attractive to bees. Range from spring to late summer flowering.
Chaenomeles spp Ornamental quinces. Feb–Apr NP
Cistus spp Rock roses. May–Jul NP Evergreen. Range of colours.
*Choisya ternata ‘Mexican Orange Blossom’ Apr–Jun P Evergreen.
Clematis spp Climbers. Most large flowered hybrids only produce pollen. C. armandii Evergreen, strongly scented. Apr–May (N)P C. cirrhosa Evergreen, small bell-like flowers. Dec–Feb (N)P C. montana Apr–May NP C. vitalba Traveller’s Joy, wild clematis. Jun–Jul NP
Clethra alnifolia Acid soils. Aug–Oct P
Cotoneaster spp Jun NP Wide range of good garden plants.
Cytisus spp Brooms. NP Wide range of species & hybrids, mostly early flowering.
Deutzia spp Summer P
*Escallonia spp & hybrids NP Wide range of good garden plants. Evergreen.
Eschscholtzia spp Late summer–autumn N Unusual lovely shrubs, mint-scented leaves, flowers various colours. Good nectar producer.
*Fuchsia magellanica Late summer N Naturalised in S & W. Free-flowering.
Genista spp Gorses. Early NP Wide range of garden varieties.
*Hebe spp NP Wide range of sizes from dwarf to large, evergreen, flowering periods vary from early summer to late. Some very tender species.
Helianthemum spp & hybrids Sun roses. P Evergreen dwarf shrubs, many colours.
Hydrangea Only those varieties with fertile florets are used by bees, not the showy sterile ones (Hortensia). H. petiolaris Climber. Jun NP H. paniculata and H. villosa Late summer NP
Hedera helix Ivy. NP Climber, evergreen. Good source of late nectar.
Kalmia spp Calico Bush Jun NP Evergreen, acid soils. K. angustifolia, K. latifolia
Kolkwitzia amabilis May–Jun NP Uncommon shrub, easy to grow, beautiful drooping bell-shaped flowers.
Lonicera spp Honeysuckles. NP Shrubby honeysuckles have smaller more open flowers, with more available nectar than the climbing varieties. Some flower late winter. L. angustifolia, L. standishii, L. purpusii
Mahonia spp Winter/spring P Evergreen shrubs with yellow flowers. Valuable pollen source early in the year. M. aquifolium, M. bealei, M. japonica, *M. lomariifolia
*Myrtus communis Late summer (N)P Evergreen, fragrant flowers.
Olearia spp Daisy bushes. O. haastii White flowers. Jul–Aug NP O. macrodonta Jun NP
Parthenocissus quinquefolia Virginia creeper. Aug NP
Perovskia atriplicifolia Aug–Sep NP Aromatic grey foliage & purple/blue flowers. Excellent bee plant.
Philadelphus spp Mock Orange. Jun–Jul NP Large number of species and varieties, most strongly scented.
Potentilla fruticosa NP Many varieties & hybrids. Small shrubs, white or yellow flowers. Long flowering period.
Prunus laurocerasus Cherry laurel. Apr NP Evergreen. Also has extrafloral nectaries, very attractive to bees in summer.
Prunus lusitanica Portugal laurel. Jun NP Evergreen.
Pyracantha Firethorn. May–Jun NP P. angustifolia, P coccinea
Rhododendron spp NP Small varieties of rhododendron & azaleas can be worked by honey bees. R. ponticum can produce poisonous honey occasionally.
Ribes spp R. sanguineum Flowering Currant. Apr NP Pink, red or white flowers. R. odoratum Buffalo Currant, yellow flowers. Apr NP R. speciosum Red flowers. Apr–May NP
Rosa spp N? P Only single flowered types. Wild roses & R. rugosa.
Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary. Apr–May NP Evergreen, aromatic.
Salix spp Willows. Early spring NP Numerous small shrubby willows. Good species include: S. apoda, S. boydii, S. hastata, S. lanata,S. melanostachys, S. uva-ursi
Symphoricarpos spp Snowberries. Jun–Aug NP Most produce copious amounts of nectar. S. alba, S. occidentalis, S. orbiculatus, S. rivularis
Syringa spp & hybrids Lilacs. Spring NP Wide range of medium & large shrubs, mostly spring flowering, all strongly scented.
Tamarix spp May–late summer NP Feathery foliage, profuse masses of tiny, pink flowers. Varying flowering times from May to late summer.
Ulex europaeus, U. minor Gorse. N? P Long flowering periods.
Viburnum spp Wide range of evergreen & deciduous shrubs. Good species include: V. bodnatense, fragrans Winter NP Deciduous, winter flowering, scented. V. burkwoodii Evergreen, scented. AprNP V. carlesii Scented. Apr NP V. juddii Scented. Apr–May NP V. opulus Guelder rose. Jun–Jul NP V. tinus, V. laurustinus Evergreen. Oct–Mar P
Weigela florida & hybrids May–Jun N P? Pink, red or white flowers.
Wisteria spp Climbers. W. floribunda & W. sinensis Apr–May (N)P

Bush fruits
Most bush fruits are valuable bee plants, some producing copious nectar (marked §). Flowering time varies with the variety.

Bilberry Whortle berry Black, red & white currants
Blackberries Wild & cultivated
Blueberries
Gooseberries
Hybrid berries: Boysenberry, Worcester berry, Jostaberry
Raspberry & Loganberry

Trees
**Acacia Beautiful, tender, winter flowering trees. Winter (N)P Masses of yellow, scented flowers. A. dealbata, A. longifolia
Alder Good very early source of pollen. Jan–Mar P Alnus glutinosa
Blackthorn Common wild hedge plant. Mar–May (N)P Masses of white flowers. Valuable source of early pollen. Prunus spinosa
Cherries Huge group, mainly decorative trees. Avoid double flowered varieties. Prunus avium Gean, wild cherry Apr NP P. cerasus Sour cherry, small shrubby tree. May NP Profuse flowers. P. cerasifera Myrobalm, Cherry plum. Mar–Apr (N)P Wide range of cultivars, some with purple foliage. padus Bird cherry. Long racemes of May NP white flowers. P. subhirtella autumnalis Attractive small tree. Winter P P. x yeodoensis Joshino cherry. Small, beautiful. Mar–Apr NP
Chestnuts, Horse chestnuts Large, attractive trees. NP Aesculus hippocastanum White flowers. Apr–May A. carnea Red flowers, slightly later. Mayindica Indian horse chestnut. Pink flowers. May–Jun A. californica Buckeye. White/pink flowers. Jul–Aug
Chestnut, Sweet or Spanish Castanea sativa Jul (N)P
Crab Apples Beautiful medium sized trees. Spring NP Malus spp & hybrids. Many named varieties: John Downie, Profusion, Golden Hornet.
Eucalyptus spp. Evergreen, aromatic foliage. Some hardy in the UK. Late summer (N) E. gunnii, E. niphophila, E. parviflora.
False Acacia Robinia pseudoacacia Fragrant white flowers. Jun NP R. viscosa Clammy locust. Late Jun NP R. hispida Rose acacia. May-Jun NP
Hawthorns Common, wild, small, shrubby trees May NP Erratic, but can be profuse producers of nectar. Crataegus oxycantha, C. monogyna C. prunifolia, C. crus-galli, and many other species.
Hazels Early catkins a valuable source of pollen. Mar–Apr P Corylus avellana, C. maxima
Hollies Evergreen, tiny flowers, attractive to bees. May-Jun NP Ilex aquifolium, I. opaca and spp.
Honey Locust Long branched spines on trunk, scented flowers. (N) Gleditsia tricanthos
Indian Bean Tree Magnificent, spreading trees with panicles of scented, foxglove-like, speckled flowers. Jul–Aug NP Catalpa bignonioides, C. fargesii, C. ovata
Judas Tree Pretty small tree, purple pea-flowers on bare stems. Apr–May NP Cercis siliquastrum
June Berry, Snowy mespilus. Beautiful tree, masses of white flowers in spring, edible fruits in June. Spring (N)P Amelanchier lamarckii
Lime Can supply large quantities of nectar when conditions are right but can be erratic. Aphids on some species produce honey-dew. (N) Tilia cordata Small leaved lime. Late Jul §T. x euclora Crimea lime. No honeydew. Jul–Aug T. x europaea Common lime. Jun–Jul T. maximowicziana Japanese lime. Jun §T. x orbicularis Hybrid lime. Jul–Aug T. petiolaris Weeping silver lime. Jul–Aug T. platyphyllos Broad leaved lime. Jun–Jul tomentosa Silver lime. Jul § Nectar in these species can stupefy bees.
Maples The decorative Japanese maples rarely flower in the UK, but the larger species are all excellent bee plants. Spring (N)P Acer campestris Field maple, native tree. A. macrophyllum Oregon maple. A. negundo Box elder. A. opalus Italian maple. A. platanoides Norway maple.
Mountain Ash Sorbus aucuparia Spring NP Many other cultivated species.
Sweet Gum Liquidambar styraciflua and hybrids. Spring (N)
Sycamore Valuable nectar source. May NP Acer pseudoplatanus
Tree of Heaven Large town tree. Jul–Aug N Ailanthus altissima
Tulip Tree Large tulip-like flowers. Jun–Jul (N) Liriodendron tulipifera
Whitebeam Sorbus aria Common whitebeam. May–Jun NP S. intermedia Swedish whitebeam. Jun NP