The Difference Between Bees, Wasps and Hornets

What’s the difference between bees, wasps and hornets? You may be surprised to learn that some are masquerading as imposters. Take yellow jackets for instance, whose yellow and black stripes speak bee when in fact they are wasps. In the natural world, though, all three serve a purpose. So before you reach for the chemical spray, please see below. Continue reading

USPS Puts Its Stamp On America’s Most Beautiful Blooms

Floral stamp from the USPS Pollinator stamp series

You may think that gardens and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) have little in common, but The National Postal Museum, located in Washington, DC, is currently challenging that point of view. It recently opened an exhibition featuring the botanical art behind 50 years worth of floral stamps. And it’s delivered the goods just in time for the spring season. Continue reading

Now There’s Proof: Bumblebees Make Bigger Plants

Bumblebee pollinating mustard plant/ Photo: University of Zurich (UZH)

In recent years, there’s been a lot of buzz about pollinators, especially the fuzzy yellow and black kind. Now comes news that bumblebees not only help plants propagate, but they also have a positive effect on their size, fragrance and color. It’s all part of an experiment by researchers at the University of Zurich that proves bees do it bigger and better. Continue reading

Bee ID: How To Make Sense Of The Buzz In Your Garden

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Aren’t they cute?

One of the many things I love about gardening is working alongside my many fuzzy, buzzing friends. Dutifully arriving on the job each morning, the bees hover beside me, yielding as one mass each time I shift position in the garden. Sometimes, I’ve been brave (or stupid) enough to touch one of the downy creatures, and they’ve allowed me to stroke them. Feeling the tiny vibrations of all that industriousness never ceases to amaze me. Continue reading

Understanding Biopesticides And How To Use Them Safely

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Japanese beetle

The word biopesticide can provoke strong reactions these days, immediately conjuring up images of people spraying toxic chemicals that are hazardous to human health. Complicating matters is the fact that just because a pesticide says it’s organic doesn’t mean it isn’t toxic. Still, sometimes a gardener has no choice but to reach for a biopesticide or other, more conventional product, to save plants from immediate destruction. That’s why the best approach is always to understand your pesticide before you spray. Continue reading

Art Is What These Bees Make Of It

Beeswax vase by artist Tomás Libertíny

Bees are in the news a lot these days amidst fears of their disappearing. And there is cause for concern: dwindling populations could have a dire effect on our agriculture, which depends on bees to pollinate about 80 percent of our flowering crops. Now artists are joining the effort to raise awareness about the this pressing issue. They’re using bees to create sculptures, employing the industrious insects to transform their honeycombs into art.

Bees naturally build honeycomb in their nests to contain their larvae and to store their reserves of honey and pollen. They do this by chewing wax they have stored in their stomachs (from honey) and regurgitating it onto the cells of the honeycomb. Once hardened, the wax creates a compact structure. It’s hard work: a single bee must consume about eight ounces of honey in order to produce a single ounce of wax. Continue reading