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Posts tagged: Bees

Pests and Their Natural Enemies: Learn to Protect Your Garden!

Written by Kayla Harless, People’s Garden Intern

The People’s Garden workshops have yet to be anything less than an informative and fun time! Today, Don Weber, a research entomologist with USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, taught us about pests and their natural enemies.

Our instructor pointed out that most bugs are not harmful. In fact, even some viruses and fungi can be beneficial. Whether or not something is a pest is simply a matter of whether you want that item where it is.

Gardens in urban environments are subject to a lot of chance pest problems. A random outbreak or colonization of a pest can happen, and sometimes, because it happened in an urban location, there are no resources there to have this pest’s natural enemy. However, spotting these problems early on can significantly help. Build a healthy garden environment, by having flowering plants around your vegetables, rotate your crops, and use cover crops. It also was recommended to keep a close observation of your garden. You can even go out at night with a red light to observe bugs at work, the red light is out of a bug’s vision range and you will see lots of surprising action! This allows you to get to know bug life cycles, and spot early on any unwanted bugs. Hand picking out the first ones to arrive will discourage others from coming to your garden.

The instructor brought several examples of natural enemies that eat aphids, Colorado potato beetles, and other pesky garden annoyances. The common pink lady beetle eats many aphids, and spined soldier bugs are general predators as well. Stinkbugs are also good predators.

Most everyone has heard of Chia pets, but not all of us know that Chia is actually a great cover crop and attracts many pollinators. It makes a great weed suppressant, and is even high in omega-3 fatty acids. Don Weber, our instructor, is doing research on Chia, how it grows, and what it does. If you are interested in learning about or participating in growing your own Chia, follow this link.

Be sure to come out next week and join us for “Why Not Keep Honeybees?” taught by Dr. Jeff Pettis, right here in the People’s Garden!

Don Weber passed around some common pink lady beetles, while explaining to us their role in eating pesky aphids
Don Weber passed around some common pink lady beetles
while explaining to us their role in eating pesky aphids.

What Kind of Bee Is That?

Written collaboratively by: The People’s Garden Team

Today, Sam Droege with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) led a workshop on The Native Bees in Your Garden at The People’s Garden at USDA Headquarters. Did you know there are about 4,000 species of bees in North America and that one eighth of them have not even been named yet?

Despite their importance, there has been little research on native bees. Much of what we know comes from before the 1930’s when collecting and studying insects was popular. Since there has been little research, we do not know if there have been wide spread declines in native bees like there have been with the non-native honeybees. Sam and other scientists and taxonomists are working together to create online identification guides for the bees of North America. You can find out more about this collaborative project at National Biological Information Infrastructure.

Did you know that most of the native bees do not sting?  Only the few “colonial” bees (bees that form colonies) will sting and only if trapped or if their hive is attacked.  Most “bee” stings are in fact from wasps, like yellow jackets, not bees.  Sam noted that in general bees are vegetarians while wasps are meat eaters.  While bees are attracted to and pollinate flowers, wasps generally do not. Honeybees are important for agriculture since native bees are frequently not available around industrial farms.  The reason is that industrial farmland is devoid of the natural habitat native bees need.  Instead, beekeepers bring in beehives to provide pollination services. Another problem is that the pesticides used to eliminate insect pests in agricultural land also kill bees and other beneficial insects.  Because of the lack of research, we do not know the impact of pesticides on native bees or the honeybees. The presentation ended with a tour of the garden and Sam showing the attendees all the many bees peacefully pollinating the garden.

Throughout the month of June, The People’s Garden is celebrating pollinators in honor of National Pollinator Week, June 21-27 with workshops and exhibits. Come join us next Friday (June 11) from 12 noon to 1 p.m. for the workshop Pests and Their Natural Enemies.

Sam showing different species of bees.

Sam showing different species of bees.

USDA filmmaker David Black describes Afghanistan experiences

USDA filmmaker David Black traveled this spring to Afghanistan, where he produced a 17-minute film on the efforts of USDA agriculture advisors working in Afghanistan as part of intergovernmental Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

While he was away, he kept a personal journal about his experiences on the ground in Afghanistan. This excerpt is from April 28, 2009: Read more »