Pollinators are the subject of this passionate conversation with Master Gardener Volunteer and podcast co-founder, Tim Kennelty. Learn about their role in the ecosystem and some of his favorite bees, butterflies and moths. Then join Teresa Golden in a segment about how to start seeds at home for your Veggie Patch. This is followed by another fascinating description of the role of field bees with Linda Aydlett (Hum of the Hive). Lots of great content in this episode!
Hosts: Tim Kennelty and Jean Thomas
Guest: Tim Kennelty
Production Support: Linda Aydlett, Teresa Golden, Tim Kennelty, Jean Thomas
Photo by Tim Kennelty
Seed Starting (The Veggie Patch with Teresa Golden): Cornell Cooperative Extension | Food Gardening (ccecolumbiagreene.org) ; Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Vegetable Growing Guides ;
Field Bees (Hum of the Hive with Linda Aydlett):
According to Jürgen Tautz in The Buzz about Bees, 100 grams of wax requires 125,000 wax scales, and can be used to build 8000 cells of comb.
According to the ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, bees must eat 7 or 8 pounds of honey to produce one pound of beeswax.
|Brood cells must be cleaned before the next use. Cells will be inspected by the queen and if unsatisfactory they will not be used. Worker bees in the cleaning phase will perform this cleaning. If the cells are not clean, the worker bee must do it again and again.
|Nurse bees feed the worker larvae worker jelly which is secreted from glands that produce royal jelly. They will also go into the special cells to create a semi-royal jelly that is similar to the royal but it tastes more like honey.
|Advanced Nurse Bees
|Nurse Bees will then feed royal jelly to the queen larva and drones receive worker jelly for 1 to 3 days at which time they are started on a diet of honey.
|Queen attendants take care of the queen by feeding and grooming her. Yet, even more important is their incidental role in spreading queen mandibular pheromone (QMP) throughout the hive. This is a pheromone given off by the queen. After coming into contact with the queen, the attendants spread QMP throughout the hive, which is a signal to the rest of the bees that the hive still has a viable queen.
|Wax bees build cells from wax, repair old cells, and store nectar and pollen brought in by other workers. Early in the worker's career she will exude wax from the space between several of her abdominal segments. Four sets of wax glands, situated inside the last four ventral segments of the abdomen, produce wax for comb construction.
|Workers will take wax from wax producing workers and build the comb with it.
|Pollen brought into the hive for feeding the brood is also stored. It must be packed firmly into comb cells and mixed with a small amount of honey so that it will not spoil. Unlike honey, which does not support bacterial life, stored pollen will become rancid without proper care. It has to be kept in honey cells.
|The walls of the hive are covered with a thin coating of propolis, a resinous substance obtained from plants. When workers add enzymes to the propolis, the combination has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Propolis is placed at the entrance of hives to aid in ventilation.
|Mature honey, sufficiently dried, is sealed tightly with wax by workers deputized to do this. Sealing prevents absorption of moisture from the air.
|Drones do not feed themselves when they are young; they are fed by workers and then when the drone bees get older they feed themselves from the honey supply.
|Dead bees and failed larvae must be removed from the hive to prevent disease and allow cells to be reused. They will be carried some distance from the hive by mortuary bees.
|Worker bees fan the hive, cooling it with evaporated water. They direct airflow into the hive or out of the hive depending on need.
|When the hive is in danger of overheating, these bees will obtain water, usually from within a short distance from the hive and bring it back to spread on the backs of fanning bees.
|Guard bees will stand at the front of the hive entrance, defending it from any invaders such as wasps. The number of guards varies from season to season and from species to species. Entrance size and daily traffic also play an integral role in the number of guard bees present.
|The forager and scout bees travel miles to a nectar source, pollen source or to collect propolis.
Welcome to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Our team's goal is to present science based information about gardening and all things nature in New York's Hudson Valley. Hosts Jean and Tim, along with team members, Teresa and Linda, are Master Gardener Volunteers for New York's Columbia and Greene counties. So if you're interested in gardening or nature or nuggets of information about what's happening outside your door, settle in, enjoy the conversation. Whatever the season, we have something to say.
Tim: Hi, I'm Tim Kennelty.
Tim: And I'm Jean Thomas
Tim: And welcome to another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. Who is our guest today, Jean?
Jean: Today our guest is Tim.
Jean: Ah, me! I'm the guest. Okay, great. What am I talking about?
Jean: We're talking to Tim about pollinators.
Tim: What else are you going to cover to, Tim?
Tim: Yeah, pollinators. This is one of my favorite topics because there's so much you can do to support pollinators. And when we say pollinators, we're generally talking about bees and wasps and butterflies and moths. Pollinators are incredibly important to our ecosystems, but also important to our food supply. I mean, it's so it's not just about looking at the pretty butterflies out there. It's really talking about supporting our food supply as well.
Tim: Well, I'm going to talk about the difference between bees and wasps. And I'm going to talk about all the different plants. In fact, you need to plant two different types of plants to support butterflies and moths.
Tim: So you're going to talk about pretty stuff too?
Tim: Pretty stuff. Exactly. I hope that you're going to be listening to that one Jean.
Jean: I'll try.
Jean: I'm gonna listen to Teresa.
Tim: Of course you're gonna listen to Teresa, Teresa is great, right? And what is she talking about today on the Veggie Patch?
Jean: She's back in the veggie patch and she's starting veggies from seed.
Tim: You know, this, this is gonna be a good one because I have never been able to do this. I think it's really challenging to start them from seed. She's going to talk about all the preparation that you need to do and different types of veggies you can grow directly in your garden from seed and those that you have to start ahead of time
Jean: And the reasons that it's worth doing the different work.
Tim: Yes, absolutely. And Linda is going to be back with Hum of the Hive right?
Jean: That always makes me smile.
Tim: It makes me smile. It makes me smile a lot and she's talking about field bees.
Jean: And who knew, field bees are the pinnacle of achievement for a bee.
Tim: Yeah, the most mature bees go out in the field and they collect water and pollen and resin and nectar. They're really important.
Jean: And I have to ask Linda one day -- they're like tiny little pilots aren't they? You think they get their wings with little ceremonies?
Tim: Well, not only area pilots but they're also dancers, according to Linda. When they find really good pollen and nectar, they come back and do a waggle dance. She's gonna talk all about that. I can't wait it's the best. It's really really a cool episode.
Jean: And we should go sit down somewhere and listen.
Jean: Or waggle!
Jean: We'll go waggle somewhere.
Jean: Hello, everyone, today's conversation from the Hudson Valley is with Tim Kennelty. Tim is usually my co host, but I refuse to let him talk to himself on the air. So it's just the two of us. And Theresa may be popping in a question or two. I'm asking the questions, he's providing the answers. The topic is pollinators. Tim, why don't you tell us how you got interested in pollinators?
Tim: Well, first Jean, thanks for keeping me company. I really appreciate it. I don't like talking to myself. I really appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself today. I am a gardener for 30 years in the Hudson Valley, in the town of Taconic. I garden on about 13 acres with about about an acre of plants and I come from a family of gardeners, my parents were gardeners my grandfather had a big vegetable garden. So it's really probably like a lot of our listeners, in the blood. And I was also one of these kids who ran around chasing butterflies and catching frogs and things like that And about 10 years ago in my garden, and after I had taken a course on native plants, that kind of hit me that the plants really have a huge effect on really supporting the insects and the birds out there and I took more and more courses and you'll probably find in future podcasts, I'm really passionate about native plants and pollinators.
Jean: Okay, so where should we start? How about a definition of a pollinator?
Tim: Pollination is a really important part of sexual reproduction in plants. The pollinators are animals that are essentially taking the pollen grain, which is the male sex cell from one flower to another. And when that happens, there's fertilization and the outcome are seeds and fruit. And pollination, I think a lot of people think of pollinator says, you know, these cute little bees in their garden. But pollination is incredibly important. The Xerces Society, which is a group that supports pollinators, has come out with some data and the base basically say that one in three bites of food or drink are the result of pollination and 75% of plants on Earth need animals to pollinate them. So it's really key to our survival. It's a really, really important thing.
Teresa: So you mentioned bees, but aren't there other different types of pollinators as well?
Tim: There are. Bats and birds are thought of as pollinators, but really the pollinators when we're talking about pollinators, we're talking about insects. And we're talking about four main groups of insects. We're talking about bees and wasps, butterflies and moths, beetles, and flies. And when we're really talking about pollinator gardens, we're really talking about bees and wasps and butterflies and moths and how we support them.
Jean: Okay, so we've got flowers, and we've got insects and a nice little cooperation going on between them. What do we do about climate change and how the threat of habitat loss kicks in?
Tim: Yeah, habitat loss and degradation and habitat fragmentation are really detrimental to our pollinators. In fact, studies showed that 40% of our insects are on the decline and climate change is really disrupting plant communities and causing geographic shifts that pollinators really, when they sync up with those plants, those flowering plants and that fruit, those they're really that's the syncing is not working anymore. So it's really serious stuff. And a lot of times you know, when you start reading about these things, climate change, and habitat loss, it can be really overwhelming. What I like to tell gardeners is and gardeners of course, the coolest people on Earth, right, but I like to tell gardeners is they really can make a difference in how you think about your property, how you think about what you're planting, and what you're not planting. They in the world especially cumulatively can make a difference and how many times can we say that about about things that you do in your world?
Jean: Okay, we've reviewed some of the big picture issues. Now let's start with some particular pollinators. Let's start with bees. I know my gardens happy when it's humming. Is it mostly honeybees we should be encouraging? I hear a lot about how much commercial agriculture depends on them. Is it the same with nature preserves? And how about our home gardens?
Tim: Yeah, honeybees are incredibly important pollinators. You probably know that they were imported from Europe. And they're incredibly efficient because they are social. So they have hives, and there's many, many bees involved to go out and pollinate and they're also portable. So a farmer can take a hive from one, say, orchard to another. So they're incredibly important in pollination, but there are native bees, too. We have a lot of native bees out there too, that are great pollinators.
Jean: So if the honeybees all went away with the other bees step up, or fly up?
Tim: Yeah, I mean, that's a great question. We really are losing honey bees out there in large numbers. And the as I said, the native bees are important pollinators. But we really don't want to lose either of them. They're as I said, pollination is an incredibly important part of you know, our agriculture. So all of them are important and in what we do in our garden really is advantageous to both of them.
Jean: So how many different species of native bees are there?
Tim: It's pretty mind blowing. In North America, there's 4000 species of native bees in our area, there's probably three or 400, something like that.
Jean: So now at one time, you mentioned the Farmscape Ecology. What's that about? Yeah,
Tim: Yeah, Farmscape Ecology is this wonderful organization in Columbia County that does a lot of work in studying bees and butterflies and other kinds of animals as well on their websites really terrific.
Jean: When you're talking about bees, do they all live together in hives?
Jean: Yeah, that's kind of a common misconception. When people think of bees they usually think of honey bees that are social. But our native bees, actually about 90% of them, are solitary, which means there's a single male and a single female they go off and mate and then the female usually the male dies then and the female lays eggs and the cycle begins again. So not not many of them are social. Bumblebees, which are native bees are social but the rest of them pretty much aren't. And a lot of people think of the you know that they have the all the bees are social and they have a hive and that you see it up there in the tree, but generally about 70% of native bees nest in the ground. And most of the rest of them are nesting and kind of plant stems and things like that. So really not what most people think about native bees.
Jean: Are all these native bees pollinators?
Tim: Yes, any bee that's out there is consuming pollen and consuming nectar they're out there doing that. And when they do that, um, they're they're kind of physiologically designed to carry that pollen. So they've got these hairy legs and they go from one flower to another, and they inadvertently take pollen from one flower to another. So they're all good pollinators. Yeah.
Teresa: to native bees go after different types of plants than honey bees?
Tim: Yeah, that's a great question, Teresa. Not that Jean hasn't had good questions. But that's a great question because of coevolution. And that's really the kind of important thing here those native bees have co-evolved with different flowers out there. And so their body parts have co-evolved. So there are long term bees and short term bees, and they're going to be they've co-evolved to pollinate particular flowers and eat nectar from particular flowers. It's really kind of fascinating when you start looking into it.
Linda: So Tim, have you ever heard of Buzz pollination?
Tim: I really haven't heard of that. So since you're the bee person, Linda, you should tell us about that. I'm going to turn the tables on you you should tell us about it.
Linda: Well, during buzz pollination, certain bees use muscles in your thorax, that's the middle of the body and that produces vibrations with really high frequencies that shake and dislodge pollen in the air and it creates a really fine cloud which coats the bee's body. Some of the pollen then gets deposited on the next flower the bee visits which results in pollination. Bumblebees are especially known for this type of pollination. So the next time you hear an audible buzzing the blossoms of your tomatoes, green peppers, and blueberries, and I want to take a look. I bet you might just see a bumble bee latched on to a stem just buzzing away in a cloud of pollen dust. It's really quite fascinating to see.
Tim: Bumblebees are just so incredibly cool. They're the first bees to be out there in the spring. And though the last ones. I saw bumblebees in my garden in mid to late November this year. Yeah, and I think there's like 40 species of native bumblebees. It's very cool.
Jean: I love bumble bees. But aren't bees dangerous? They all got stingers, right?
Tim: Yeah, everybody's afraid of being stung by a bee especially non-gardeners. Most bees are not dangerous at all, because most of the native bees, first of all are not going to be coming after you because they're solitary. And they're not protecting a hive. But also most of them, the singers won't even penetrate your skin. And in fact, honey bees are the only bees where the stinger will stick in your, you know, if you get stung in the hand, they're the only ones who would the stinger will stay in your hand. You want to pull that out. Usually you're not going to have much of a reaction. I've been stung and most people probably out there who are gardeners have been stung many times, but it's mostly not going to be a big deal. But if you do if you ever need some people are very allergic to bees. And if you do start seeing bigger swelling or you're nauseous or you're dizzy, you definitely want to seek medical attention.
Jean: So gardeners who know they're allergic have been around with epipen.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Jean: All right. So that's bees. What's the difference between a bee and a wasp or hornet or a yellow jacket?
Tim: Yeah, so they're very closely related bees and wasps. What I always say is bees are kind of the vegetarians between the two species, wasps in their larval state need need, they need protein. So you've probably heard a parasitic wasp, they'll lay their eggs and other insects and then in kind of a horror movie kind of way that larva eats its way out of the insect. And some other wasps will, the mothers will go and get meat from carcasses from different animals, or they may even land on your hot dog and take that piece of meat. And then when they move into the adult phase, they really just need carbohydrates, kind of, you know, sugary substances, I had a plum tree that had lots of plums laying on the ground. And that's where you find the wasp and the sugary substances or in the side of a soda can or something like that. And the other differences, wasps and hornets and paper wasps, they're all pretty distinctive. They're a little bit different in size from bees, and a lot of the hornets will have kind of very distinctive black and white stripes or yellow jackets will have, you know, yellow and black stripes as well. So they're pretty distinctive, you know, when you're trying to differentiate between a bee and a wasp.
Jean: Okay, let's assume that now we know the good guys from the bad guys. Well, more dangerous guys, when we go outside, how can we make the environment more hospitable for them, which plants are best to encourage?
Tim: So really, what you want to do for all pollinators I tell people is you want to have flowers blooming throughout the season, a variety of flowers. And we're talking about in the spring, very early spring, March, April, are generally native trees and shrubs like pussy willows and red maples. Red maples are great nectar flowers and you know, you'll see it's kind of the first plants that are blooming out there. Spicebush, really good nectar plants in the early spring. And then when you get later in the season, you're talking about things like goat's beard and Virginia bluebells and then you get into kind of mid-season things like coneflowers and monarda. And flocks, very good native nectar plants, and then to the end of the season where you're really talking about plants like Goldenrod and iron weed and asters in well into November because there's still bees out there looking for nectar and pollen that late in the season.
Jean: Okay, that sounds great, Tim, if you've got some property or a garden of any size. I'm picturing people sitting at home listening to this who have like, they're rookie gardeners, or they've got a little city courtyard garden. What can they do?
Tim: Yeah, I mean, just like I said, kind of earlier in the segment, you you can make a difference no matter what size of a plot you have. And I always emphasize getting native plants, native plants that are native nursery, specialty nurseries. But really, as there's more interest in this topic, you start seeing them in your local nurseries and even in the big box stores. Sometimes they'll be labeled as native. Sometimes they won't, but it's really easy to determine whether something's a native plant by just doing a quick Google search.
Jean: Okay, and just some of them indicate whether they're good for bees?
Tim: Yeah, yeah. And I mean, it's one of those things too, we're just do a little bit of research online, and it will tell you whether you could very easily determine whether something's a good nectar plant. And, again, I always emphasize natives. A lot of the really strictly ornamental kind of non native plants like peonies and lilacs and roses are not going to be great nectar plants, they're going to be okay. And because of that coevolution and you know, those bees have evolved with those particular flowers. But one of the things you can do if you have kind of a lag and bloom or you don't have a lot blooming around your property is you plant some annuals, things like cosmos and you know, simple marigolds, simple zinnias that aren't double flowered. Those are really great nectar plants to just kind of fill the gaps.
Jean: And those are native somewhere.
Jean: Um, yeah, they are native somewhere. Exactly. It's like it's five o'clock somewhere in the world, right?
Jean: Yeah. Okay, now we know all about bees and wasps. Let's talk about some other insects like moths and butterflies. We see butterflies around flowers all the time. So they must be good pollinators, right?
Tim: While they're pollinators. I don't know if they're good pollinators. They're not as good at pollinators because they are as bees because they don't have the same body parts. They don't have the same kind of hairy legs that bees have they carry the pollen. However, they do go from flower to flower. So they do inadvertently carry that pollen along. So they're pollinators they're just not quite as efficient of pollinators as bees and wasps are.
Jean: Here's the big question that kids always want to know, butterflies and moths. What's the difference?
Tim: Yeah, it's kind of back to biology class, right? It's in some of the things you would be pretty obvious, right? If it's flying around during the day, it's probably a butterfly. There are exceptions, because there are moths that flying today, but it's probably a butterfly. If it's kind of dull color to gray or tan, it's probably a moth, although they're brightly colored moths, too. And there's different physiological differences and things like that. But both of them I mean, they're very, very closely related. They're both from the order Lepidoptera. They both have scaled wings, they both have large eyes. So they're similar. But again, it's kind of time of day. And if you're seeing something that's brightly colored, it's probably a butterfly.
Jean: Okay, I know, from third grade, I kind of remember that butterflies and moths go through a whole bunch of stages of lives and when they're caterpillars or eggs, or they're good for something else for the critters?
Tim: I don't remember anything from third grade. So I give you credit.
Jean: I'll tell you about Mrs. Hamilton later.
Tim: Well, the thing that's important, I think that you're kind of asked me about is there's four stages for butterflies and for moths, the egg, and then that egg hatches into a caterpillar and caterpillars turn into a butterfly or moth. So if you're seeing a caterpillar out there, it's going to turn into one of those. And then that goes the turns it goes into the pupal stage and forms a chrysalis and emerges as a butterfly. And why is that important? It's important because when that that butterfly is in the egg and larval caterpillar stage, it needs different plants than when it's in the adult stage. It needs host plants as a caterpillar, and the butterfly needs nectar plants. And yes, I think the real question you were asking was are caterpillars good for something besides just being kind of pretty and squiggly out there? Birds love caterpillars. It's like a really, really important food for fledging birds. It's the power food. It's like blueberries for us.
Teresa: So here's a weird question. Spongy moth caterpillars seem to be a problem lately that especially with people have a lot of oak trees and they seem to be doing a lot of defoliation. Does that mean that the bird population is gonna go up because there's lots of food out there for birds?
Tim: That's a good question. They do eat spongy moth caterpillars I don't know if there is a tasty to birds as other caterpillars are. But all caterpillars have you know what those birds are looking for which is fat and protein and carotenoids, which make the birds wings you know the colors they are so the bluebirds are that color because of carotenoids. So you still want to deal with those because you're kind of balancing, they're probably doing a lot of damage to your tree. So that's an issue where you may want to try to get rid of those caterpillars. I go out and pull caterpillars off my trees, throw them on the ground, so maybe the birds will find them on the ground.
Jean: You're such a good boy.
Tim: I'm innovative, aren't I?
Jean: You are. I never would have thought of that in my whole life.
Tim: I bet you would. You have a great garden.
Jean: Maybe, maybe. Okay, so now is that the reason that there's like a bajillion of everything that gets created?
Tim: Yeah, that's probably true. I think that's probably true. And of course, you know, what we talked about in the very beginning of this, the fact that insect populations are declining, its really has an effect on everything, because they're really kind of the key component of the food webs. So birds eat insects. And so if we have fewer insects, we're gonna have fewer birds.
Jean: Okay, so we want to encourage these beautiful creatures to succeed. And some are specific about their host plants and others aren't. Bees visit everything, do butterflies and moths, too?
Tim: Well, butterflies and moths need nectar. So they some of them are fairly specific about the flowers that they will land on. But certainly host plants are very specific. And this is kind of the really cool part of nature. Those host plants, because those caterpillars have co-evolved with those plants. In many cases, there's this very specific relationship. So I have a lot of spicebush swallowtails in my yard. And the only reason I have them there, it's because I have the host plant, which is the Spice Bush or the Sassafrass. But they really prefer spice bushes. That's the only plant that that butterfly is going to lay its eggs on the only plant that that caterpillar is going to be able to eat those leaves. And it's all about chemical compounds and co-evolution. And then there you know, there are other butterflies that are a little bit less specific, like you've probably seen a tiger swallowtail and it will lay its eggs on probably eight different hardwood tree species all native because it's colorful, but it's a little bit less picky. And kind of the fascinating thing is the habitat that you find that butterfly in is the habitat of the host plant, not the not the nectar plant because they really need those specific leaves to lay their eggs on.
Jean: Okay, so if you've got a particular favorite butterfly, you could make sure you know what that butterfly requires and that you have some of that growing in or near your house.
Tim: Yeah, it's basically like if you plant that, they will come. I mean, I never had spicebushswallowtails until I planted spice bushes. So yeah, I mean, it's like they're not automatically going to come but you need that host plant if you want that particular butterfly. And you asked me about Farmscape Ecology, if you're in the Hudson Valley, they have an amazing chart on their website that includes all the butterflies that have been cited in that county and the host plants.
Jean: Okay, so the classic example of course, is host plant and butterfly is the monarch and I have friends who to whom a milkweed plant is sacred.
Tim: It is sacred.
Jean: Don't move it ... whatever, wherever it's growing.
Tim: Are you moving milkweeds?
Jean: I am, shamelessly.
Tim: Yeah, they're hard to move actually.
Jean: No, no, when you get them when they're, never mind.
Tim: Yeah, that that's kind of the double whammy, right. The milkweed, and there's a couple of species that are native to our area, because it's it is the only host plant that group of species, the only host plant for monarchs. And also when it blooms, and it's really unusual, it's also an amazing nectar plant. So if you do have common milkweed, I know you're out there digging things out what you shouldn't be Jean, but if you do have Belgrade in your garden, you really want to, you really want to try to protect it or keep it because it's covered with bees, and it's covered with other butterflies too. So it's the double whammy.
Jean: Now in my own defense, I have many areas where I allow and encourage...
Tim: The butterfly police or coming after you.
Jean: They can't find me. And I love the smell. The scent of those flowers is absolutely like honey in the air.
Tim: I agree. I agree. That's one of my favorite things about it. Okay, okay.
Jean: Am I redeemed?
Tim: You have redeemed yourself, yep.
Jean: Okay, so let's finish with this. What are some good sources to ID the insects that we see our yard.
Tim: So there's some great inset field guides. There's certainly a whole group of butterfly field guides. And you know, if you're really looking to identify butterflies in your garden, it's great to just pick up a field guide. You can pick them up even used on Amazon, and they will tell you host plants, they'll give you photos for identification. They'll give you range. So I always say you know one of the first thing you want to start with is an inexpensive field guide. But if you're also a little bit adventurous, you may want to try an app like iNaturalist, or their more simple app Seek, where you take a picture and there's artificial intelligence which will give you basically a couple of different species. But it basically identifies the insect and I use it all the time it's it's and I recommend it all the time for insects and for plants. It's a great ID tool.
Jean: Right, I've used iNaturalist and it is almost idiot proof. I have stumped it, but...
Tim: Yeah, yeah, I mean, you want to take a good picture, but it's, it's an amazing resource just amazing. And if you don't want to kind of register with it if you don't want to include your photos as data, try Seek which is also developed by them and it's kind of all you do is click and you get the ID.
Jean: Okay, so there will be links to all of these, several of these at any rate on our website.
Jean: Okay. Thank you, Tim.
Tim: Thanks, Jean.
You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.
Stay tuned for The Veggie Patch.
Teresa: Thanks for listening to this update from The Veggie Patch. My name is Teresa Golden. And today let's talk about seed starting. For this subject, you have lots of options. Seeds can either be sewn directly into the garden or started in containers, flats or pots. They can be started indoors or outdoors and then transplanted into the garden. Obviously, you also have the option of simply buying seedlings from a catalog, garden center or box store that can be directly planted.
Teresa: So why start seeds at home instead of buying plants. Aside from personal satisfaction of growing plants from scratch, by doing your own seed starting you can grow plants that will be chemical free. You can also give plants a head start and thus potentially a longer growing season. The varieties available in your local nursery or garden center may be limited, so seeds starting may let you grow heirloom varieties or harder-to-find options. And by using your own containers, you can also save money.
Teresa: Large seeds such as pumpkin, squash, beans, peas and corn can usually be planted directly into the soil at the correct spacing, so they really don't have to be started indoors. A good rule of thumb is to sow seeds two to three times deeper than their width. Smaller seeds for crops such as spinach, beets, lettuce and carrots can typically be gently scraped into the soil, but you'll probably have to thin them to get them spaced appropriately.
Teresa: Soil temperature has a major effect on the speed of germination. This is one reason why many gardeners opt to start seeds indoors and then transplant the seedlings once the soil is sufficiently warm, usually above 60 degrees. A soil thermometer will help you determine when it's safe to do this.
Teresa: Most warm season crops such as tomato, pepper and eggplant are typically started indoors, grown for several weeks and then transplanted outdoors to ensure a long summer harvest. Cool season crops can also benefit from an early start indoors so they mature prior to summer heat.
Teresa: You can buy seed starting kits that contain everything you need except the seeds and soil or you can use your own trays and containers. Regardless of which approach you choose to grow your own transplants from seed you will use a soilless growing medium typically containing peat, perlite and vermiculite. Moisten the medium and transfer to the containers. Sow seeds and trays following the directions on the seed packet to ensure they are at the right depth and are starting at the appropriate time for your area. Cover the trays with clear plastic to create a high humidity environment and set them on top of your refrigerator or some type of heating pads to help them germinate. Once seedlings emerge, remove the plastic and move the trays under grow lights that should be kept on for 14 to 16 hours each day. Make sure to keep the light no more than one to two inches directly above the plants to prevent the plants from becoming too leggy. The room temperature should ideally be between 70 and 75 degrees. Keep the soil moist, please don't overwater them.
Teresa: The first leaves that appear are ‘starter leaves’. They look alike on most plants. It's not until the second set of leaves that you will see individuality. Once these true leaves appear. You can transplant seedlings to larger containers, making sure not to crowd them. Keep them indoors until the weather is past the danger frost or the soil temperature is sufficiently warm. Bear in mind that your seedlings will need to be hardened off prior to planting in the ground. The seedlings need to adjust to the wind and to natural sunlight which can be hotter and brighter than indoor light. Over the course of a few weeks, bring them outside perhaps in a sheltered spot so they can adapt. After this process they should be ready to thrive in your garden soil. Happy planting. Until next time, this is The Veggie Patch
You're listening to Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley.
Stay tuned for Hum of the Hive.
Linda: Welcome back to the Hum of the Hive, a recurring segment of nature calls that follows the honeybee through the four seasons. I'm your host, Linda Aydlett, a Master Gardener volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties, and a Cornell University Master Beekeeper. In the previous segment, we talked about how the first few weeks of a worker bee's life were spent working inside the confines of the hive as house bees, taking on roles as they age that move them increasingly closer to the entrance. Today we'll talk about the third (and last phase) she takes flight is a field be an essential need of any living organism is to collect food and resources to ensure its survival. And of course honey bees are no exception. Honey bees forage for four things, pollen, nectar, water and resin. Pollen provides essential nutrients to feed the larva. Nectar provides carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars to feed the adults. Water is used to both dilute the thick viscous honey so it can be more easily sucked through their straw like proboscis, and to also cool down the colony in the heat of summer. Think swamp cooler. And resin from certain conifers and other plants is used to make a substance called propolis, which has medicinal or antiseptic properties to help the colony stay healthy and is also used to seal cracks and foreign surfaces within the hive. Regardless of the resource needed, honeybees have developed a fascinating means of communication to recruit a strong field force of sister foragers. It starts with a few scout bees who returned with news of what they found on their foray. And to convey that news they simply -- dance. It's called the waggle dance. Let's take a look at how it's done.
Linda: When a scout bee returns, she climbs the comb and, at a suitable spot, stops and starts vigorously shaking her body from head to rear end, very much like a dog wagging its tail. This is called the waggle dance, and it's very effective at gaining attention. She waggles excitedly in a straight line for a certain distance, abruptly stop shaking to make a hard right turn to circle back to the point of origin of her dance. Then she repeats that waggle phase with the same vigor, direction and distance as before, but this time on the second round, she turns a sharp left to circle back again to the point of origin. This first round completes a figure-eight pattern which will keep repeating over and over and over to recruit sister foragers. She might even stop a few seconds to extend her proboscis to give potential recruits a little taste from her honey crop of what she's collected, just to seal the deal.
Linda: So what is this dance communicating you might ask? Well, researchers have discovered three things. First, the vigor or excitement of her waggle indicates the quality of the nectar. The more excited the waggle, the higher quality she's trying to convey. Second, she's telling others which direction this bounty can be located. Keep in mind that honeycomb is built vertically. That is that hangs north to south, whether in a hollow tree trunk or beekeepers hivebox. If our dancers waggling straight up towards the top of the comb, she's telling others that the source is straight ahead of their entrance. If our forager's waggling in the reverse direction, or down towards the bottom of the comb, she's telling her sisters it's behind the hive. If the direction of the path she dances is to the right, she's telling recruits they need to fly to the right at the very same angle she's dancing to find the resource. Conversely, if the angle of her dance is to the left, they must travel to the left as well. And the final critical piece of information our waggle dancer is conveying is distance. The length of time that she waggle dances before turning either right or left to the point of origin tells a prospective recruits how far to fly. One second of waggle equals a kilometer in distance the nectar source is located.
Linda: Often many foragers are doing the dance at the same time to get as sort of a damp cloth with each dancer trying to recruit as much help as she can to gather the bounty of resources she's found. Each waggle dancer is communicating to her sister foragers, the quality, the direction and the distance of what she's found.
Linda: And how do we know all this? Although this behavior has been observed in writings centuries ago, it wasn't until an Austrian ethologists named Karl von Frisch published his investigative work in 1927 on the meaning of the waggle dance that a theory was offered to decipher this behavior. But his theory that bees communicated by dance wasn't too well received at the time. However, with subsequent research in the decades to follow, his findings were not only accepted as valid, but he was also awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973 for his original research.
Linda: While all this is quite amazing to us, it does come with a very high toll for the busy forger. Weather permitting foragers can fly up to five miles in any direction in search of forge, which is quite a bit of distance. And in her short period as a forger, she only collects 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. So she has to make thousands of trips back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth. If we were to scale this up to consider what it takes to produce that pound of honey that's in your pantry cupboard, 768 foragers would have to visit 2 million flowers and fly over 55,000 miles. The point is that all this constant activity simply wears her down. So look carefully the next time you see a honey bee alight on your flower. You just might see a hairless forger with tattered wing edges, a clear indication of the wear and tear her body is taking to provide for the needs of the colony. It could truly be said she works hard for the honey. And on that note, we're out of time. Please join me again for the next episode of The Hum of the Hive as we delve further into the fascinating world of the honeybee. Thanks for listening.
That concludes another episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. We'd like to thank Sandra Linnell and Devin Connolly from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties for production support. And a special thank you to our listeners for joining us on this episode of Nature Calls: Conversations from the Hudson Valley. You can find links to any of the topics mentioned in this episode at our website at CCEcolumbiagreene.org. Comments and suggestions for future topics may be directed to us at ColumbiagreeneMGV@cornell.edu or on the CCE Master Gardener Volunteers of Columbia and Greene County's Facebook page. For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties, visit our website at CCE Columbia green.org or visit us in Hudson or in Acra. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides equal programming and employment opportunities.
Last updated May 12, 2022