Thursday, August 28, 2008


This is not the best of pictures but it has been raining all day so a better is not possible at the moment. You can see some of why I so like this native north american shrub. Bees love the constant, months long supply of nectar and it produces a late season berry that is winter fodder for some animals.

What you can not tell from the picture is that this shrubby plant does very well in the dry shady conditions under the maple trees, is not picky about soil, and survives the heavy salt spray used to keep the adjoining alley clear each winter.

I like the tiny pink flowers,small round leaves and woodsey look to the habit of snowberry. It never gets taller than the four foot fence and does not need pruning. It may, after a few years, spread rather wide if the soil is kept too moist but is easily shovel pruned. Ours is bordered on one side by an alley and on the other by a mown space so it can only spread sideways. Other shrubs keep it in check easily.

Distribution map at...

Good pictures of all seasons at... hort.uconn

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Summer of Bumble Bees

I had planned to spend the summer stalking bumble bees all over Illinois to take pictures and record on Beespotter at UIUC . That didn't happen. But, our wildlife habitat gardening practices at home are paying off with a bonanza of bees this year,especially bumble bees.

Most of the bumbles look like Bombus fervidus the Golden northern bumble bee
and Bombus impatiens .

Although sitting on a coneflower this bee looks as though it may have been in the Rose of Sharon blooms. Every morning several kinds of bees head for the days newly opening Rose of Sharon blooms then come out looking like they are having trouble flying with all that weight. Some bees land on firm coneflowers or heleopsis and groom themselves before continuing flight.

Click on the pictures to enlarge for a good look at the bees covered in gold flecks. In sunlight the pollen shines like glitter.

A bombus impatiens samples the liatris. We have been seeing these bumbles since very early spring. Cold mornings and easy rain do little to discourage the gathering of pollen and nectar by this bee. It is a favorite of those seeking to find a reliable pollinator.

Bumble bees do well in gardens with a bit of wild space for nests and a garden with many different kinds of flowers spreading blooms over a long season.

I was surprised to see so many bumbles bees with similar markings vary greatly in size. It seems that first born bumble bees fed only by the queen are smaller than later larvae fed by ever increasing numbers of worker bees. More food , bigger bees until maximum size for that bee is reached.

Bombus fervidus is a quick moving bee able to make many landings on many flowers in a short time. It is not picky, landing on many non native as well as native flowers. Its main goal being to collect as much nectar as possible. Late summers warm afternoon sunlight brings out this golden bumble bee.
Susan Harris at Garden Rant and Sustainable Gardening led us to an article in a

Washington Post Newsletter concerning the low numbers of some bumble bees in many areas.
This comes as no surprise. Pesticide use , lack of habitat ,and the spreading of disease when bees are shipped around to aid agricultural pollination, must take a toll. But gardeners can make a difference through their support of public land use policies and garden practices regarding wildlife.