These Winter Blooming Plants Give Bees a Boost

The Orgonian   By Kim Pokorny    January 15, 2017

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Bees and other pollinators out and about during the dark days of winter look to gardeners for the nourishment that keeps them going until the more abundant seasons of the year arrive.

"Black-tailed bumblebees are out as early as January," said Andony Melathopoulos, a bee specialist with Oregon State University Extension Service. "Native bees are just starting and will be seen more often later in February when the wild willow starts blooming."

Though there are winter-flowering plants growing in the wild, many pollinators don't live anywhere near them. That makes using cultivated winter bloomers an important consideration when planning a garden.

"Even a small amount of habitat will sustain bees, even rare species," Melanthopoulos said. "These are tiny creatures. Well-thought-out landscapes can provide all the food they need in winter. Gardeners can really help with that."

Granted, there aren't that many plants that flower in winter, but what's out there adds much-needed brightness to the garden and sustenance for pollinators. Melathopoulos suggested the following winter-blooming plants.

Brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard): If left to bloom into winter (which they will), your brassica crops will attract a bevy of bees.

Hazelnut (Corylus): Members of the Corylus genus - including the popular contorted and weeping hazelnuts - are one of earliest sources of pollen for bees.

Oregon grape (Mahonia): No garden - or bee - should be without one of these evergreen shrubs, especially since it's designated Oregon's state flower. But an even better reason are the insanely yellow flowers that last for weeks.

Heath and heather (Erica and Calluna): Bees zoom in to heaths and heathers like they're approaching a runway. In shades from purple to copper to gold, these low-growing plants make a mat of color throughout the year, including winter.

Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflora): Though it doesn't have the fragrance of other jasmines, this vining shrub has bright yellow flowers that are a welcome sight in winter.

Burkwood viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii): The burke Viburnum is best known for the clusters of fragrant white blooms that bees find irresistible.

Sweet box (Sarcococcus confusa): It's not the inconspicuous wispy white flowers that draw attention in deepest winter, it's the waft of fragrance that attracts both people and bees.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis): Bees get fired up over witch hazel with its crepe-paperlike flowers in colors of orange, red and, most famously, yellow.

http://www.oregonlive.com/hg/index.ssf/2017/01/8_winter-blooming_plants_to_gi.html

OSU Updates Resources for Protecting Bees from Pesticides

The following is brought to us by the American Bee Journal.  10/15/13

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As the worldwide population of honey bees continues to decline, the Oregon State University Extension Service and partners have updated a tool for Pacific Northwest growers and beekeepers to reduce the impacts of pesticides on bees. 

The revision of OSU Extension's publication appears after an estimated 50,000 bumble bees died in a Wilsonville parking lot in June. The Oregon Department of Agriculture confirmed in a June 21 statement that the bee deaths were directly related to a pesticide application on linden trees conducted to control aphids. The episode prompted the ODA to issue a six-month restriction on 18 insecticides containing the active ingredient dinotefuran.

OSU researchers are investigating the effects of broad-spectrum neonicotinoids, such as dinotefuran, on native bees. The work is in progress, according to Ramesh Sagili, an OSU honeybee specialist.

The newly revised publication "How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides" includes the latest research and regulations. Lead authors include Sagili and OSU toxicologist Louisa Hooven. Download the updated version for free online at http://bit.ly/OSU_ReduceBeePoisoning.

"More than 60,000 honey bee colonies pollinate about 50 different crops in Oregon, including blueberries, cherries, pear, apple, clover, meadowfoam and carrot seed," Sagili said. "Without honey bees, you lose an industry worth nearly $500 million from sales of the crops they commercially pollinate."

Nationally, honey bees pollinated about $11.68 billion worth of crops in 2009, according to a 2010 study on the economic value of insect pollinators by Cornell University.

Growers, commercial beekeepers and pesticide applicators in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California will find the publication useful, Sagili said. An expanded color-coded chart details active ingredients and trade names of more than 100 conventional and organic pesticides, including toxicity levels to bees and precautions for use.

The publication also describes residual toxicity periods for several pesticides that remain effective for extended periods after they are applied. Additionally, the guide explains how to investigate and report suspected bee poisonings.

Nationwide, honey bee colonies have been declining in recent years due to several factors, including mites, viruses transmitted by mites, malnutrition and improper use of pesticides, Sagili said. In Oregon, about 22 percent of commercial honey bee colonies were lost during the winter of 2012-13, Sagili said. There has been a gradual, sustained decline of managed honey bees since the peak of 5.9 million colonies in 1947, according to the Cornell study. The number of managed colonies reached a low of 2.3 million in 2008, although there were increases in 2009 and 2010, the study said.  

"Growers and beekeepers can work together with this practical document in hand," Sagili said of OSU Extension's publication. "It gives them informative choices."

For example, when commercial beekeeper Harry Vanderpool needed to advise a pear grower on whether an insecticide was acceptable to use around bees, he turned to OSU Extension's publication.  

"That manual has been a blessing," said Vanderpool, who keeps 400 hives in South Salem to pollinate dozens of crops for growers from California to central Oregon. "It's a tool that helps beekeepers and farmers work together in the right way with the right chemical rather than us telling farmers how to farm or farmers telling beekeepers how to keep bees."

You can also find OSU's publication by searching for PNW 591-E in OSU Extension's catalog athttp://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog. The publication was produced in cooperation with OSU, Washington State University and the University of Idaho.

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