Where have all the bees gone ?

Discussion in 'Fruit & Vegetable Growing' started by Raymondo, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. Raymondo

    Raymondo Active Member Premium Member GOLD

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2019
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    21
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    I have been struggling with a lack of bees on a constant basis here in SE Queensland , recently I had to change my attitude towards flowers , previous thoughts pretty yes sometimes edible yes some medicinal ok definitely yes , but they don't really put bulk on the table . I have previously grown zucchinis very successfully on our former herb farm but here they struggle , plants are great , look healthy flower well but the fruit doesn't develope , it seems pollination probably the problem . We are surrounded by masses of paperbarks which flower 4 times a year but in between we have a lack of bees , some honey some native but not many . So now to my attitude change , I recently took a walk to see if I could find any bees , and guess where they were , on my favourite weed that I love to pull out Ageratum the purple top ," garden escapee " I believe came from Scotland and was a cute little border plant with compact flower heads , so what does it do when it comes to Austalia , like some of the early convict settlers , it escapes and goes wild and it seems nothing eats it ,a ah utopia for ever, nothing to control it , except us . I now have to accept that even though really a weed it does have at least one use and for me that's good enough for the time being. I am also growing Calendula because of its long growing season ( it's also a good hair rinse for blondes) and it puts a smile on my face . So here is the question does anyone have a good seasonal list of flowering plants , perennials get 2 ticks from me , which are particularly good for bees and preferably have other uses as a sideline . For this I ( and the bees ) will be eternally grateful, happy gardening cheers Raymondo
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    1,479
    Likes Received:
    677
    Location:
    Pomona, Qld
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    Ray, I'm in SEQld, about 30ks south of Gympie right near the highway.
    I'm in a rain shadow and a dry hilly zone so I understand your need for bees.
    However from 2010-2013 we had 3 yrs of never ending wet season.
    The bees disappeared. Then we went straight into drought for another 3 yrs.
    So no bees all that time.
    In the late spring of 2016 a few bees arrived on a weed vine growing at the front of my house called Antignum which has clusters of bobbing pale pink flowers and heart shaped mid green crinkled leaves. It easily make 1000s of brown papery seeds all of which strike and develop huge ryzomes underground which is why is a weed.
    But it's the biggest bee attractor in my whole garden. I suspect the pale pink also has an ultraviolet component that the bees see from miles away.

    At the end of the big wet I found many wild hives on the ground that had become saturated and fallen from under the big gum tree branches where they had been built.
    It took until late last year for the bee numbers to get back to 'normal'. I guess it took them that long to build new hives under new branches. Its almost impossible to see the long triangular shaped hives up under the branches as they have exactly the same pink grey colouration as the bark.
    The spotted gums that grow here are huge with long horizontal 'widow maker' branches that the bees like to use. This just shows that in nature bees like the 'top bar' style for their hives.

    My main weed in the horse paddocks is the same weed you are wanting to grow, ageratum (blue top). It loves compressed slightly acidic soil with little competition from grass. Horses like to make lawns in their paddocks because they love sweet grass and lawns are made of highly stressed grass which makes a lot of sugars in its leaves and stems. Because horses flog certain areas where the lawns grow, the soil becomes highly compressed. But the one thing I have not seen are bees harvesting from it!
    Now I'm not trying to give you a lecture about horse keeping, but I'm giving you a picture of what ageratum prefers and how to get it into your garden. What you'll notice is the conditions it likes are not conducive to good gardening. Actually I would like to disuade you from growing it! I think the bees are harvesting from it because there is nothing better for them. Whereas at my place its a smorgasbord of unsprayed year round flowers.

    Re bee food:- in general I grow many different flowers with flowering seasons that overlap well to keep the bees coming.

    But some that permaculturists grow are:-
    Queen Anne's Lace which is an open, white flowered, 2m high shrub that flowers most of the year. Its also a beneficial insect attractor and the native bees love its tiny flowers too.

    Dandelion which you can also use the leaves for cooked greens or salads, the root to make coffee.

    Wild marigold which is a single bright orange flowered, open bush to 80cm max, which makes 1000s of seeds all of which will germinate. But the young plants are great in a new compost. They also act as a groundcover until you are ready to replant that area. You let the carpet of plants get about 30cm high, pull out most of them easily by the handful and throw in the compost, leaving just a few to grow on to flower.
    However they become fairly untidy once they get into full flowering as the dead flowers aren't attractive and the branches get brown and spindly. But the bees love them.

    Various woody basils like Thai which form small open shrubs to 1.5m and once mature, flower for many months. Then like to be pruned hard, fertilized and allowed to regrow strongly with more thick flowering that the bees love. Most basils have tiny white flowers in various configurations.

    Brassicas such as purple mustard greens, rocket, broccoli, canola(rapeseed), all produce tall yellow flowering heads that the bees love and heaps of seeds which can be used for many edibles as well as the leaves. Rocket produces an edible creamy white flower.

    Alyssum is a low growing ground cover with tiny white flowers that the native bees love. It likes a cool moist but really well drained root run even though the books tell you it like dry to drought... not true! It hates having its flowers watered. They disappear overnight and it takes many days to come back into flowering after just one overhead watering. So be warned with that one!

    Nastursiums which the bees love and as you should already know, all parts are edible.

    Male pawpaw trees attract 1000s of bees to their pendulous flower spikes and live to a good age. Just set the seeds from a good bought pawpaw and you will find most will be males. The plants need to be about 3mths old before you can tell for sure which is male by the way the leaves come off the trunk. Also the strongest and first to germinate will generally be males. Many permaculturists will use male pawpaw as a wind break and bee attractor around their gardens and through their food forests. Being a tall tree, they also provide high dappled shade and you can put shallow rooted greens etc right up under them around their roots if you don't dig too much. People just dump a bucket of compost at the base of the tree, sprinkle greens seeds and water in and stand back!

    Well there's a few to get you started. All of these will co-habit happily as they are all different heights and densities and flower at different times of the year. All are available as seeds online or personal shopping from Green Harvest at Maleny and many as seedlings or struck cuttings from the Blue House at Yandina on a Saturday morning. Without knowing your exact location that's the best i can offer right now.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Tony Baker

    Tony Baker Active Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2018
    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    16
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    In my area (Lockyer valley) the bee's LOVE my rosemary and emu bush that I have. They love the emu bush so much I'm spreading the plants in every bit of spare space as I can. Both my native bee's (I have a native hive) and honey bee's love the emu bush, I also get a lot of blue banded bee's on the rosemary.
     
  4. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    1,479
    Likes Received:
    677
    Location:
    Pomona, Qld
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    Thanks for letting us know about the emu bush Tony.
    Is it possible for you to give us a photo please or a link to google or similar so we can identify the particular plant?
    So many plants called emu bush both native and garden species!

    Yes I have the blue bandeds as well. They are a great bee but a real PIA because they build their wax nest in the key holes of my old furniture!! :rolleyes:
    I guess its just the right size hole. I did try to give them alternatives but no, its the key holes or nothing!:nearlygotme:
     
    • Funny Funny x 1
  5. Raymondo

    Raymondo Active Member Premium Member GOLD

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2019
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    21
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    Thanks Clissat , I could have put money on the fact that you would reply , and in such detail thank you . My Ageratum grows profusely by itself , no encouragement needed , I actually live not far from you , near Cooroibah , Alyssum and Queen Anne's lace I have been thinking of , my pawpaw are mainly bisexual , but now you mention it I remember having males before and yes they do attract plenty of bees , it's good of you to remind me of these things , I'll keep an eye on Tony's post about the emu bush , thanks for your input Tony , for now I'll make my list , happy gardening guys and gals cheers Raymondo
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Tony Baker

    Tony Baker Active Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2018
    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    16
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
  7. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    1,479
    Likes Received:
    677
    Location:
    Pomona, Qld
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    I'll have to check out a native nursery to see if they have any of these emu bushes.
    Reading about the mallee ringnecks and destroying the flowers on the plant made me realise the same thing would happen here with the kings and lorikeets.
    They don't leave a single flower on anything they love to consume.
    They eat the buds before the flowers open!
     
  8. Raymondo

    Raymondo Active Member Premium Member GOLD

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2019
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    21
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    Well the bees are back in abundance , I have been away sailing in the Keppels for about a month , and on return found quite a few of my leafy greens had gone to flower , the best one seems to be what I call wasabi parsley, it tastes like wasabi gives you that instant hit of heat then almost immediately backs off , it's a great addition to salads,I also have Tatsoi flowering and my self seeded cos lettuce . Now between them all the bees both native and honey bees are having a veritable ball , we also have clover both red and white .
    Now my next question /interest is how to attract/start a native bee hive , I would like to have one near the garden so that hopefully I don't get that bee shortage , my style of gardening has changed somewhat this year, not so organised but more random, letting plants go to seed makes it look more like a food forest but still seems to work.
     
  9. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Messages:
    1,479
    Likes Received:
    677
    Location:
    Pomona, Qld
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    Ray, I let pretty much everything go to seed because I seed save but also the flowers are the right size for both honey and native bees.

    I'll bet the bees are back in your garden due to the flowers.
    In anycase, it's great that you are giving them something to eat too.
    Just keep setting more greens of all types and you will always have bees.

    As for the native bees, best to join the nearest native bee group because these little critters need special care.
    The group will either have split hives for sale or plans for you to build your own then buy a nucleus from a member.
    Try your nearest permaculture group for native bee enthusiasts if you can't find a dedicated group.
     
  10. Mataeka

    Mataeka Well-Known Member Premium Member GOLD

    Joined:
    May 24, 2017
    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Brisbane, QLD
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    Great that the bees are back. I've been keeping. List of plants I've seen that the bees seem to love. From trees to vines and small plants too.

    Billy bonkers grevillia, calliandra and golden penda which I think from memory all flower around December (although the golden penda flowered mid year in Brisbane this year too)

    Star jasmine as a vine. Mock orange (can be invasive though and considered a weed)

    Marigold, calendula, cosmos, lavender, tea trees.
     
  11. DTK

    DTK Active Member Premium Member GOLD

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2019
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Brisbane (SW suburbs)
    Climate:
    Sub-Tropical
    If my memory serves me right, Mark has a video that mentioned his dad has native bees and I am fairly certain he also sells them.
     
Loading...

Share This Page