The latest buzz on bees

And some interesting info. on adding colour to the garden for heading into fall

If you have a mason bee house you will notice the bees are active although the weather is chilly and wet. This is the reason we encourage this species because the flowers of the fruit trees are open and ready to be pollinated. Mason bees, also called “Blue Orchard”, are gentle souls that only sting if forced into a closed situation like under clothing. They are not honey producers, they merely collect pollen for nourishment to procreate the species. As soon as the bees emerge and mate, the females start laying eggs. To provide food for the larva next spring she has lined the bed with a mixture of pollen and nectar and closes the “door” with a similar mixture. Hence, the name mason bee. Clever, eh? All sounds perfect except for the predators. In our experience we have had a couple of attack situations. One, a mouse/vole got in the bee house, pushed the tubes out and ate some of the larva. To solve this problem, we put half inch wire mesh over the opening. The second problem occurred last year when we noticed the closures to the tubes had been opened in the fall. Upon examining the paper tubes we saw minute holes all along the tubes and discovered tiny white larva eating the brown larva of the bees. In searching for an answer on the internet, I found the culprit was a ‘parasitic wasp’ who had laid her eggs—sounds evil, doesn’t it?  This year we plan to attach a fine screen mesh over the entrance of our houses when activity has stopped, around July/August. Much more information can be obtained on the care of mason bees on the internet.

Questions and Answers

After the rhodos and azaleas are finished my garden lacks colour. What can I plant for color that continues into fall?

The following shrubs bloom from July to October and can be found in compact form: Abelia, pink flowers that last until frost; butterfly bush, fragrant and attracts bees and butterflies; Henry’s St. John’s Wort, has yellow flowers and evergreen in our climate; hydrangreas, many colors and great for shady spots; sweetspire, slightly perfumed white flower spikes, foliage turns red-purple in fall. Roses are always dependable for color until frost. Many shrubs can be used just for leaf color alone, such as winterberry that has a variation of green/gold or green/white leaves.  Japanese dogwoods can be added to the list of colorful plants. I’m just naming a few selections. I suggest going to the local greenhouses now for advice and purchasing rather than waiting until July/August when it is usually too hot and dry to plant shrubs. Remember to check the sun exposure of the planting site before purchasing.

Need a space-saver vegetable for your deck and are you into novelty plants? Now you can pick your tomato “sauce” above to put on your “fries” below! The plant is call “Ketchup and Fries”, developed in England and now available in Canada. It is the product of two different nightshade plants, a cherry tomato grafted onto a white potato. Many have been sold in England, we’ll wait for Canadian results!

Keep sending questions to news@ahobserver.com.