Bugging Out

I’ve been inspired lately to attract “beneficial bugs” to my yard. Part of the attraction has been aesthetic (bug houses just look cool), part has been my desire to reuse every little thing that I (or someone else) would normally throw away, and part has been environmentally driven.

Aesthetics

Last weekend while wandering around the local garden center, an intensely satisfying habit of mine, I found some interesting bug homes.  Since I’m planting espalier pear trees in my front yard I thought putting up some Orchard Mason Bee homes would be a good start.

Bee House

Resuse

Using the leftover bamboo  (See Thinking About Planting Bamboo? Think Again….post from last fall) and a scrap heater vent part I picked up at the Rebuilding Center last year, I set about to build my own Mason Bee home.  Some tips, try to pick bamboo with a wide hole in the middle and relatively thinner walls.  Also, avoid the section of the bamboo known as the “sheath scar“.  I found that the little bamboo tubes will not fit together snuggly if sheath scars are on the resulting bits of tube.

Bee House Contruction

And I built a more general bug house from other HVAC parts, again inspired by some pre-built products I ran across during my wandering.

Bug Houses

Environmental

If you are like me you have been sucked into an amazingly successful marking campaign for Cuties, an engineered mandarin orange. What is not to love? As sweet as a fruit can get without actually adding sugar, easy to peel, and no messy seeds! BUT (and isn’t there always a BUT?) These little modern miracles are not without their issues…as noted below via Smithsonian Magazine:

The mandarin’s perfection, however, dispenses with a relationship that’s as old as flowering plants. Like all citrus, Cuties produce seeds when they’re pollinated. To produce a dependable snack, Cutie growers must protect their orchards from bees and other pollinators via nets, physical isolation, or other means. Effectively fencing out bees from huge sources of nectar, this widespread farming practice may be a contributing factor to hive collapse. Developers of the Tango, another mandarin variety, have bypassed this issue by producing a completely sterile fruit.”

Fencing off bees?  I don’t know about you, but that can’t be a good thing.  And this little snack is selling like gangbusters…which means farmers are pulling out other less profitable crops and planting these….which further reduces the habitat of our friend the pollinating bee.  Damn It!!!  I just can’t support that practice…which is why these tasty little snacks are now off my shopping list….and on my list is putting up a few more bee homes in my own yard.

cutie-orange

5 thoughts on “Bugging Out

  1. I agree “bug houses just look cool” and yours turned out looking totally amazing! If I was was bee I’d want to live there! I wish you the best of luck in drawing bees to your garden!

    1. Thanks Jewels – I hope the local bees feel the same way! I might head down the garden center and buy a few tubes with larva already inside just to get things going…should have thought of that before I hung them!

  2. I did not know that about Cuties! I bought them once and never again. My kid can whip through 3 or 4 of them as a snack, when she’ll eat just one regular orange and feel satisfied. So, for me, they are a waste. Not, I have an even better reason to leave them in the store.
    I had a bit of a pollination issue last season…don’t know why as I don’t use any chemicals in my garden, so, this year, in an attempt to draw more bees and pollinators to my veggie plants I’m interspersing everything with wildflowers and marigolds. The marigolds keep the “bad” bugs away and attract bees and butterflies. Plus, it will just make things prettier! 😀

    1. Thanks for the comment Jenn! I was bummed to hear about Cuties…Good idea re: pollination! I’m going to also do some companion planting this year. Marigolds with my tomatoes have been a tried and true…have you tried Borage? This is a CRAZY bee attractor! I planted too many last year with my strawberrys and they took over. Just need a few and they start very easily from seed. Good luck!

      1. I’m always up for trying more plants in my gardens…I’ll give borage a shot, I’ve seen it, but never thought to grow it, and if it attracts the bees, all the better. I have a couple of butterfly bushes around the yard, and during full bloom those things are COVERED in butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

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