I accepted early in the process of conceptualizing this blog that it was necessary to add posts on a weekly basis to address timely issues of concern or interest. It is certainly true that there is year to year variability and hence the need to discuss occasional issues and provide a timely research-based response to them. Frankly, this is what the Extension service does best because we are a network of faculty and specialists with a combined expertise in a broad range of agriculture and horticulture fields. We are also an avenue for the public to get non-biased answers to gardening inquiries. So as this goes, we start getting multiple calls from the public on a topic of concern, and I reach out to the expert in the field for a research-based response.
Q: The question of the week has been “why haven’t I seen bees on my pussy willow (Salix caprea) trees this year? “Usually they are loaded with them – is something wrong with the bees? Is the unseasonably warm weather having an impact on them?”
Expert: Dr. James Cane – Research Entomologist at the USDA ARS Bee Lab in Logan Utah and author of USU Extension fact sheet ‘Gardening for Native Bees in Utah and Beyond’.
A: (Quote of Dr. Cane’s response) – “By bees, I’m guessing you mean honeybees rather than the other thousand species here in Utah? I’ve tracked the emergence of one of the early ground nesting bees for the last 13 years and they were up two weeks early and they are nesting now. Bumblebees I’ve not seen as many queens as I normally see in my yard but I’m told they are abundant in other settings.
Our pussy willow plant had honey as well as native bee species in it, so if it is honeybees, it really depends on what your neighbors have in terms of live colonies at the end of the winter because we don’t have much if any in the way of feral colonies here.
In general, and this is part of what we are studying, bees tend to emerge earlier in warmer years because they are tracking degree days, both chill hours and later warming periods, apparently just like plants do, like if you think of your tree fruits. But undoubtedly, in some years, there will be a mismatch in blooms and bees especially when soil temperatures and air temperatures are mismatched from a plant’s point of view.
That’s where it stands, so far I do not see any disasters looming but that may vary around the State too so as people continue to see that it would be nice to know.”
Thanks Jim – what a relief! So there you have an answer from an expert, rest assured and make sure to take some time to enjoy watching the bees buzz around your garden!