Pollinators Are So Much More Than just Honeybees!

1 Comment

I have making an attempt to do some self talk and improve my numerous past resolutions to more regularly immerse my self in blogging, whether it be for the Backyard Farm one here or my “Bishop’s Beer Blog”… https://bishopsbeerblog. I actually love the catharsis that envelopes me when I put thoughts about my favorite things onto “paper” ….. I guess you can call words spread across this page as “onto paper”…. I need to thank Jennifer Moore, https://wayward-bee.com/2022/01/13/how-to-grow-bees/ for her article that gave me a push I needed to write this one……It has been in the planning stages for nearly 3 years or more. Problem with my mental filing system is that it has aged and probably not very well …… LOL. Now, be kind if you visit her site…..She is a Brit and my Australian and Canadian buddies have labeled me an “Anglophile” and it is not as a compliment. When I was being an active follower of her site I learned an awful lot of useful stuff and have a brilliant poster she put together on my dining room wall, Sustainable Beekeeping; https://wayward-bee.com/sustainable-beekeeping-poster/ Please give her a look…..Another big plus for Jennifer is that she is a lover of sourdough bread, as am I. Poke around on my previous blog posts here and you may run across a recipe for using spent grains from my brewing to make bread……most of the grains now go to feed the chickens at one of my nearby apiaries ……and yes I have digressed…..so where was I?

A few years back during the fall Goldenrod flow I grabbed my camera and macro lens to visit the bees foraging on the blossoms. Here in my area of east Texas the Goldenrod is a major component of what bees can put away for the winter…..the weather here is rather mild here but that can create problems for the bees too. Gives them false hope and they can start to brood up and then a freeze hits and they go through their stores rather quickly. This was probably Fall of 2019 or 18 when I first took a look and I was surprised at the variety of winged critters swarm on the Goldenrod! Something else that I will add about Goldenrod…..the heads of the stalks are, yes, brightly golden, but on closer examination the blossom heads are a collection of incredible dainty and small individual flowers. The photos below will include honeybees and you can use them as a reference against the blossom size. I was amazed once I got down onto my belly and closely examined and photographed the drooping blossoms. With that perspective I saw winged critters almost too small to see as they flitted around….

Next group will include the teeny and tiniest that I was able to observe. All of the photos in this blog were shot in October of 2021 with a Sigma 90mm Macro lens……and yes I am still practicing. Before I will go on with some more photos I will reference Jennifer again. Her “how to grow bees” post really addresses what we need to create a winged critter friendly environment. When I have discussions with folks about my beekeeping I get lots of comments about protecting honeybees. This allows my to bring the discussion around to the myriad of pollinators that very few people even realize exist. I have a little shelter in my backyard that houses Mason Bees through out the year……unknown to many is that they may actually be a better pollinator than honeybees – they are also known as Orchard bees. You will notice wasps and hornets on blossoms….their larvae need protein to develop of which pollen is the key ingredient. And others that I have zero knowledge of what they need and how they utilize it. 2023 I may make a concerted effort to polish my macro lens skills and attempt to catalog the many winged critters on the Goldenrod.

Hope this gives you a better understanding and knowledge about pollinators and not just honeybees.



Bees and my Strawberries


It really started with my broccoli plants that took off and went to blossom. Theyhave beautiful yellow blossoms that are attracting honeybees and a small variety of bumblebee. I found this a real positive change from previous springs. In fact, the number of honeybees spotted in my garden area has been dismal and seemed to be getting worse. I actually employed some Mason Bees the past two years. There seems to be a steady crew working from mid-morning until late afternoon. My guess is that these are a wild variety that hang out in the woods nearby.

I put my macro lens of my Nikon D-200 and attempted to capture the guys at work. The yellow broccoli blossoms must be a bee magnet. I will try to remember that fact next year to draw bees in. I seem to be getting a little better handling this lens.

Bee and broccoli blossom

Bee and broccoli blossom

Carrying quite a load while working this blossom

Carrying quite a load while working this blossom

Off to another one. Trying to improve my moving critter skills. My goal is get a crisp shot of the bee flying!

Off to another one. Trying to improve my moving critter skills. My goal is get a crisp shot of the bee flying!

Strawberries grown outside seem to pollinate themselves pretty well but the fruit size may improve with help from the bees. If you are anal enough, you can take on the task yourself armed with a magnifying glass and an artist’s brush. I have used an electric toothbrush with my tomatoes with outstanding results. If I get frisky enough to crawl around the berry patch soon I will let you know!

Although small, strawberry blossoms have a delicate beauty about them. I caught some of the broccoli work crew sliding on over to the strawberry bed and working their magic. I may hire on tomorrow with my magnifying glass and brush….Love those strawberries! I will make jam in a couple of days and will hopefully put up a couple of dozen jars!

Do your magic little guy!

Do your magic little guy!


Very nice strawberry  blossom

Very nice strawberry blossom

Now for the payoff –

Just starting to show!

Just starting to show!

Yes - developing nicely

Yes – developing nicely

The final payoff

The final payoff







Mason Bees – An Update to My March 2011 Post


The pictures above are from my original post in 2011. Click on picture for a larger image.

I went out to visit he Mason Bee house in my garden yesterday and I have to report that there is an absence of activity, Looks like I will need to buy some more cocoons to replenish the population. Last season I watched as they went about their business and at one time there were 16 tubes filled and packed with developing Mason Bees. Over time they all hatched out and zoomed off to wherever they go. My dilemma now is how to increase the pollinating activities in my yard. On the positive side I have seen a few honey bees in the yard….so I know that they are around and hopefully healthy.

I may look into ordering some more bees this week…. Here is the a listing for the small company that I used last year;


The process was real simple and the instructions were pretty darned good. The challenge is to make sure you keep the female cocoons separate from the males and then load them into the tubes properly…..I guess they don’t deliver breach very well! Most of what I grow tends to do pretty well as the plants mostly self pollinate but they do benefit from mother nature stepping in and having her little helpers buzz around.

Mason Bees are helping many commercial growers contend with the problem of  honey bees disappearing all across North America. The biologists call it “colony collapse disorder” and they don’t understand why! Lots of theories but no definitive answers yet. There is some evidence that bee colonies used in organic farming sites do not seem to be as hard hit by the colony collapse disorder. I hope they are on to something…so much of the commercial growing is dependent on honey  bees for pollination.

As I was writing this blog I was doing a little research and I may not have to be too concerned about my Mason Bees. One of the tubes in my “bee house” had a plugged end and now I notice that it is missing. So, that may mean I have some mason bees already working for me. I don’t pay real well but I try to set a nice and chemical free table for them. There is also a good chance that I will attract some that are native in the area to my” house”. Fingers are crossed and I will be looking at everything in blossom now for evidence.

The new experiment is underway. I have built two circular wire cages for my spud growing. Many years ago I had seen an article about growing potatoes in wire cages and in barrels. Last summer I tossed some sprouted and soft potatoes into my compost bin and they found it to their liking. This year I am “intentionally” growing them above ground. Once they emerge I will begin posting some pictures. Anyone that is interested can find lots of great information with a search on the web. I chose wire cages because I was concerned that the barrels may hold too much heat from the Houston summer temperatures. I harvested a handful of “new” potatoes from the compost bin last year and hope to significantly increase my harvest this year.



Leave a comment

I think my wife really does love me. I was out of town on a job in the Midland and Lubbock areas of West Texas and unable to tend to my gardening chores. I flew home early last Saturday morning and she surprised me with a big basket of my home grown strawberries. Wow, what a gal!!!! I finished filling one of the 1 gallon freezer bags already partially filled in the freezer and started a new bag. I need to make another batch of jam this week and may fill the next bag by the end of the week….. I will be swimming in my heavenly strawberry jam – Yum!!!!

Today was a partial day in the garden and I only sweated through one T-shirt. I weeded, watered and finished pulling up the last of my Detroit Red beets. I still have a very beautifully leafed beet variety that I forgot the name of yet to harvest. Very nice looking tops and we will see about the beet taste soon. I made a pickled beet recipe today to eat like a cold salad – it is pretty tasty.

 I used about 3 + cups of skinned and sliced up roasted beets. FYI – drop the hot roasted beets in ice water and the skins nearly remove themselves. I boiled ¾ cup of cider vinegar and ¾ cup of beet juice….. I poured almost a cup of hot water over the beets in a bowl to make the beet juice. Once that mixture was boiling I added 2 tbs. sugar, 2 whole cloves, 3 whole black peppercorns, a bay leaf, about ¾ tsp. of sea salt and about a cup of chopped red onion. Brought it back to a boil and poured over the beets. Refrigerated for a couple of hours and man, they are pretty darned good! Recipe is almost exactly like one I found in allrecipes.com. Great recipe resource!


The Mason Bees. They are rapidly depositing eggs and filling the tubes. I have about 11 of the tubes filled and sealed. Should have quite a few more next season.

The worms. I checked on the poor guys Saturday when I returned and they were trying to escape. I had neglected both the food they need and the bedding necessary for their comfort. I was able to feed them a big a big batch of strawberry parts and tops – see the comments about my lovely wife above, some old bread, beet cuttings and other veggie scraps….. They seem to be back to work and not complaining now.

My Green Beans. The Kentucky Pole beans are leaping and now blossoming. The bush beans look to be on the same time table.

Asparagus. Slowing down and will let them fern out. I put some Martha Washington in a few weeks ago and they are sprouting.

Tomatoes. Slow but setting fruit….except my Brandywine – I do have a few blossoms on one but I have my fingers crossed. The Juliet tomatoes and Creole tomatoes are doing well.

Cucumbers. I put up twine to let them climb this morning….part of the sweaty shirt stuff. My cucumbers in my friends backyard ( I put a 4×4 patch in his yard) are blossoming and way ahead of mine! Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Enough for now, hopefully blackberry news soon!


Where HAve All the Bees Gone????


The honeybees are taking a break. I was down at my local nursery a few weeks ago and was asking about flowers that I could plant to attract honey bees for pollinating my blackberries. I picked up some great advice from the folks working at Kingwood Nursery. Rather than count on the honey bees, as they are having problems, they recommended ordering some Mason bees. It jogged my memory and reminded me of an article I read a few years back recommending the use of Mason bees.

I bought a bee house and was sent 6 males and 4 females from http://www.masonbeesforsale.com/

A week after I installed the bee house I see that the females are gathering pollen and laying their eggs. My early blackberries are being serviced and pollinated. I have blossoms on my Meyer lemon, tons of strawberries, tomatoes and other ornamentals to keep the bees busy. I think my tomatoes and strawberries are self-pollinated but I think the help won’t hurt. A little Google search confirms that strawberries are primarily self-pollinated but respond to help from the bees. Oh, by the way, I have a few blueberry blossoms but I am a year or two away from having enough to pick.

The female Mason bees are fun to watch as they lay eggs and move forward in the tubes before they seal them off. I am amazed at how quickly they do their work! I spent a few minutes observing this evening and saw probably 3 of the  females working three different tubes. Four tubes are plugged at the end already. They lay the female eggs at the rear and the males near the front opening. I wonder how they know the difference? The males exit first and eat their way out thus preserving the females. The bad news, from a guy’s perspective, is that the males emerge first, mate and then die!!!! I was hoping they would get to fool around for a season but it just doesn’t work out for the guys!

The bees aren’t cheap but it appears that they are preparing to multiply in a big way so it is an investment with multiple returns.



%d bloggers like this: