Bee “Arrival Sequence”

“Arrival Sequence” is an expression used by some designers (not me I’m afraid, I’m far to common for that) to refer to the approach to your house–how you get there, what you see as you’re getting there, and what you see and experience once you’re there.

That’s my artsy way of introducing this bee.

This is one giant bee!

Bumble bee.

Bumble bee approaching.

 

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Bumble bee landing.

 

I love watching all kinds of wildlife in my garden, whether from indoors on cold or miserable days, or outdoors on warm unexpectedly sunny days in February. So when this bee that looked almost the size of a hummingbird flew by, I went outside to follow her (her?).

It doesn’t take much to attract wildlife to your garden, but unless you’re looking for it/them, you’ll miss tons of beauty and enjoyment. So as I mentioned in a previous post, get out that camera or phone, and stand in some likely spot, and just wait. You’ll be rewarded in no time with something like this:

Love that melodious background music!

I’ve been searching google to try to identify what kind of bee this is, unsuccessfully. If any of you can help me out, I’d appreciate it.

 

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Is This YOUR Time to Plant a Tree?

Is it time to plant a tree?

Treekeepers is a program established recently (2013) to encourage Vancouverites and locals to plant trees. And their strategy is to almost give them away ($10 each!). Go to the website for details.

According to  Steve Whysall in his column (Mar 24, 2014), the city of Vancouver planted 10,000 trees (just in Vancouver) in 2013, and the goal is 150,000 by 2020. That’s a lot of trees!

So I did my part (even tho’ I live in Burnaby) and ordered three of Treekeepers’ discounted trees.

Acer circinatum–Vine Maple. It’s a native tree, which is good for my wildlife garden, with a nice small multi-stemmed growth habit.

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Bee on Vine Maple

Next up is Oxydendron arboreum, commonly called Sourwood. Also suitable for smaller city yards, this one max’s out at about 20-25′, and half as wide. Fragrant summer flowers, amazing fall colour, and berries that hang on into winter–what more can you ask for?

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Fall colour Photo Credit

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Summer fragrant flowers Photo Credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, I’m going to try a Ficus carica (fig) again. This will be my third try. First was in a container on my townhouse roof. It never did well, and I never knew why. It was a ‘Brown Turkey’, and my Persian friend complimented the flavour of the one fig I harvested! Next try was a rooted cutting I got at Garden Club–which apparently wasn’t actually rooted, just a stick.

This time it’s ‘Desert King’ (I could have hoped for ‘Dessert King’…), possibly the best variety for our region. Looking at the UBC garden forum, it’s definitely popular and dependable here.

Desert King fig tree. Photo Credit

Desert King fig tree. Photo Credit

Somehow I just can't imagine getting this many figs.

Somehow I just can’t imagine getting this many figs. But I’m very keen to try Fig and Ginger Jam!

So is it your turn to plant a tree? To give you shade, maybe fruit, wildlife habitat, air purification, never mind beauty!

Leave me comments with your thoughts, and definitely follow the Treekeepers link if you live in Metro Vancouver. I’ll post a up-date when I receive my trees (April 12).

 

Planning Your Wildlife Garden (cont’d.)

Last month I covered the basics of planning your wildlife garden: Water. Food. Shelter. Don’t use pesticides. Do plant some natives (NatureScapeBC.ca is a great resource)–here’s a short list of natives for various garden sites. Include a wide variety of plants–flowers, deciduous and evergreen shrubs, ornamental grasses, but enough of all to actually make a statement. After all, this is about DESIGN. And not too many highly hybridized cultivars which will have very little pollen.

Bees, Butterflies, Beneficials

I’ve lumped these together because they’ll require similar conditions.

Food throughout the year

Bees and beneficial insects have an affinity for small flowered, fragrant blossoms (not exclusively) which individually don’t have much pollen, but because they are usually grouped together, constitute a treasure trove. Think of alyssum, heather, california lilac, asters (each aster “flower” is in fact many flowers squashed together). I have an abundance of alyssum, having allowed it to go to seed one year and now it returns every year. Since I mulched all my beds last fall (one of the functions of mulch is to prevent weed seeds from gaining access to the soil where they’ll germinate) I wonder if I’ll get any alyssum this year.

Most of our bees will be inactive through the late fall-to-mid-winter time, but having plants that flower in late winter will serve the many species that get an early start in the year. Skimmia, Sarcococca (sweet box), and Hamemelis (Witch Hazel), and Hellebore (Christmas or Lenten Rose) are all winter bloomers that will serve those early bees a tasty breakfast of pollen and nectar.

What about bee stings?

According to Feed The Bees (please follow the link–a local partnership between Earthwise and Delta Chamber of Commerce), the vast majority of our native bees are solitary, non-social bees, having no hives and therefore nothing to aggressively protect. They’re unlikely to sting unless grabbed or stepped upon.

If you want butterflies you’ll have to welcome the caterpillars and their voracious appetites. Butterflies are happy to drink the nectar from the same flowers as the bees, but they will want “host plants” to lay their eggs, and without egg-laying, butterflies won’t linger. The host plants are all dependent on which butterfly species, but the bottom line is that they are the sacrifice plant for the butterfly–the eggs turn into larvae, which you may remember is the caterpillar–aka hungry–stage of the butterfly.  No problem, locate them in an area where the eaten leaves won’t show up too much. And make sure if you’re growing food crops (in this case all the brassicas–cabbage, broccoli, brussels etc.) you cover them with row covers through the larvae weeks of May to July or even later. Incidentally, if you’re inviting birds into your haven, they’ll often help you keep the caterpillar population down to a manageable number.

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Who-knows-what-species enjoying my candytuft (Iberis umbellata). Of which I have an abundance!

Soil and Mud

As you know, I’m a mulch-addict. I love how it protects the soil, adds diversity to the soil organisms, and minimizes weeds. But many of our BBB’s want some open exposed soil for nesting. Most of our bees are little tunnel diggers and need to be able to see a dry-ish patch of soil in order to make their nests there. Beneficials also need someplace to nest, and that’s often in leaf litter or a bit of dried grass left in the garden. So find a little patch in the sun and leave it a bit more “au naturel”.

Those that aren’t tunnel builders like hollow stems or tubes–in many cases man-made are perfectly acceptable–or holes in dead branches or stumps. So again, completely cleaning up your property isn’t necessarily as hospitable as cleaning up your house. These bees and insects will welcome a muddy patch– the edge of a pond or the overflow from a rain barrel will do the trick–using the mud for their nests. I have a garbage can lid carefully positioned so it catches some roof run-off; a nice shallow bird bath that stays a little muddy around it.

So there you go: food, shelter, water. Just what your BBB’s are asking for. And you’re started on your wildlife garden.

Stay tuned for more, when I’ll cover small ponds.

As always, I welcome comments, questions, more wisdom than I have…