Sunday, February 04, 2018

Blueberry Blooms...But No Bees

My blueberry bushes have started to bloom and I am anxiously watching to see if any southeastern blueberry bees show up to pollinate them.

I literally sat about 10 feet away from the bushes yesterday, from 11:40 a.m. to noon and watched.  It was 55 degrees F. outside and sunny.  There were no bees visiting the flowers.

Today I went out at about 3:25 p.m. and watched again for 10 minutes.  Again, it was sunny.  The temperature was 72 degrees F.  Again, I saw no bees.

Why am I so concerned?  I had bees (and blueberries) last year.

Well, last spring I shared with you my excitement over finding a small cluster of southeastern blueberry bee nests in what I thought was a public area down the street from us.  Across the road from this little cluster of nests was a 15 year old hedge of blueberry bushes in the backyard of another neighbor.  Such unassuming little creatures, such delicious fruits, and it was so much fun to connect the two.

Several months after my enthusiastic post, though, the neighbor whose yard abutted that "small public area" where I found those blueberry bee nests chose to rototill up this small triangular area and cover it with sod, effectively annexing it to his yard.  It all looks very "upscale" now, so nobody else seems to be upset, but I doubt any of the bees were able to survive the dual assault - and, like most solitary bees, southeastern blueberry bees only have one generation per year.  Effectively that little population of southeastern blueberry bees has been destroyed.

Even if a few of the bees managed to survive the rototilling and heavy sod overlayment, the sod carpet was almost assuredly grown with neonicotinoid insecticides.  Given the immaculate and well groomed appearance of the property overall, I'm guessing that neonics have been and will continue to be used to maintain the lawn's manicured appearance.

Neonicotinoids affect bees.  They are insect-icides, and very potent ones at that, even at small concentrations.

Sadly, the destruction wasn't done yet.  The house across the street, the one with the blueberry hedge, had sold the previous fall.  Last summer, the new owners yanked out all the blueberry bushes, presumably because they interfered with their unobstructed view of our little lake.

I'm trusting that there are other southeastern blueberry bee nests around that haven't been destroyed and that the little bees will find my blooms before too long.  It IS early in the season, after all.  Meanwhile, when I can, I'm going to keep going out and keeping watch over my blossoms, hoping to see the little "mini-bumble bees" busily poking their way up into the blooms.

There has been a lot of habitat destruction around our neighborhood in the last 12 months or so, all in the name of "sprucing up".  It's been disheartening to watch, since one of the big factors that attracted us to this area was the mature landscaping.  In fact, I'm planning to do an entire post on the topic, so for now I'll stop here.

Please join me in hoping that there are other pockets of southeastern blueberry bees around, ready to find our blooms, producing delicious berries and food for next year's bees in the process.


Corner Gardener Sue said...

My heart goes out to you, Cynthia, and the poor bees! You really need to get a pollinator habitat sign up.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Unfortunately, Sue, the cluster of southeastern blueberry bee nests that I discovered wasn't on my property. I wonder, though, if I ought to get a portable sign that I could put up when I see nests like that on public property in the neighborhood.....

I AM thinking of getting one of the Xerces Society pollinator habitat signs and putting it up this summer.

Anonymous said...

What an assault on your little bees. I think you're right that they've been wiped out, but hopefully your blueberry bushes came at just the right time. What kind of person rips out blueberries!?

Gaia Gardener: said...

Frank, I've wondered that myself.....

Gaia Gardener: said...

About 10 days after I first started watching the blueberry blooms, I finally saw a couple blueberry bees. Here is a link to the post (and photos) that I put up: