Duchess of Dirt discovers Russian honey bee in her garden

A few people have told me they have not seen many honey bees this year. We did not see many either … early on ... Thankfully, the honey bees did show up in the garden eventually, on the heels of a few warmer days. With an addition … a species I had never seen before. A Russian honey bee.

Summertime. Such a great time in the garden. Even this year… the year of no summer, some are saying.

The plants have never looked so good this far into summer. Granted, our six-foot tall clump of Campanula lactiflora ‘Loddon Anna’ is laying over somewhat from the torrential rain we had but it is simply covered in flowers. The scent fills the garden around it and it is alive with bees vying for the nectar it provides.

A few people have told me they have not seen many honey bees this year. We did not see many either…early on. But we did have lots of bumblebees and quite an assortment of different species…many that I have never seen before in our garden. But they were all busy pollinating…filling in for the absent honey bees.

Thankfully, the honey bees did show up in the garden eventually, on the heels of a few warmer days. With an addition…a species I had never seen before. A Russian honey bee.

Doing a little research I have discovered that this subspecies of Apis mellifera (honey bee) from the Primorsky Krai region of Russia exhibits good resistance to the scourge of all beekeepers – the Varroa destructor mite. It seems this bee species is a meticulous groomer which has lead scientists to believe this is a large part of the reason for the lack of mite infestation in its hives. Such encouraging news!

A study conducted in Baton Rouge, La., on imported Russian honey bees that began in 1997 showed excellent results. Studies on its viability in Canada began in 2000 at the University of Guelph with equally promising results. Now there appears to be a few beekeepers across the country who are utilizing these Russian honey bees.

But I wonder who has them here in our area? Has to be within a two mile radius of our garden.

Will have to investigate further as I am very interested to know how these bees are doing. Any answer to the eradication of having to medicate or fumigate our pollinators against pests and diseases is good news in my book.

Speaking of eradication…I finally nagged John into dealing with the hornets’ nests around the greenhouse. One nest I could live with. Half a dozen were not only five too many but also they were all too low for my liking. Especially since the grandkids are often here and we have quite a number of visitors to our garden.

But it was a tough call. Wasps are actually very beneficial in a garden. Many of us disparage of their tenacity for our ripening fruit and utter aggressiveness in defending their nest. Truth be known, they are excellent hunters of harmful bugs. Well…they also go after a few good bugs too. C’est la vie.

It is great seeing the grandkids get so much enjoyment out of the garden. This year we decided to treat them to separate “vacation with Grandma and Grandpa” stints. Separately we were able to revel in their individual personalities and share in their garden adventures.

Always mindful there are chores that must be done in the garden on a regular basis, Dylan and Shelby have become very good helpers. But their enthusiasm for exploration also draws us in. So much to see…so much to share. And often something we would have overlooked ourselves but for them.

We have been kept busy identifying the different birds and insects. In fact, Dylan and I found what definitely looks to be a ladybug larva but it is black and white instead of the usual black with orange markings. Still have not managed to identify it yet.

And as I write this, Shelby has come in to wash her hands. Apparently, she rubbed a poisonous plant. While brugmansias have beautifully scented flowers, she now knows that she should never touch one and then put her fingers to her lips.

And knowing her, she’ll remember and tell everyone. Passing the education on.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her column appears every second Friday.

 

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