Owning a piece of the same homestead that my ancestors settled makes me a steward of this earth. Like my parents and grandparents, there are days when I am sweaty and exhausted from good honest work in the soil; there are days when I sit in my cushioned chair on the deck admiring the clouds. I am fortunate to have ”one foot in the city” and “one foot on the farm.”
If you have ever had
to take a chainsaw to a 60 ft. pine tree on your property, then you know the
pain of losing a featured landscape tree.Here in Kansas, we are losing many stately trees to “pine wilt,”
which has affected my older neighborhood severely.
Pine wilt is caused
by a plant parasitic nematode, referred to as the pine wood nematode, which is
carried on the pine sawyer, an ugly insect in itself, which tends to have a
taste for our “exotic” pine trees.As
the pine sawyer feeds, the nematodes hop off, infect the tree and live and
reproduce in the resin canals of the branch and trunk of the tree.An infected tree will die within a few
months. Of course, landowners are asked to remove and burn the wood immediately
to contain the disease.
Our summer field
based botany class visited the John Pair Horticultural Research site last week,
just south of Wichita, and reviewed some of the research being conducted on
pine wilt.As an aging facility, the
research site has trees affected by pine wilt as
Dead wood inside tent traps
well as healthy evergreens for
comparison.Their current research is to
determine wilt resistant trees for landscape use.
In a small greenhouse
located at the site, insect collection chambers have been set up to determine infestation
rates.Filled with dead trees of varied
species, emergent pine sawyers are counted and documented.The degree of infection can then be
determined and attributed.
collections have been applied to young
pine trees thought to be
resistant.The trees will then be observed
and documented for resulting infection.
I suppose the
importance of trees of an “exotic” nature in this area might be questioned, but
I have always been a softy for any tree that is clearly beneficial.Of course, the advice of the extension service
is to plant native trees that are resistant to wilt, but one hates to lose a
tree for any reason.Especially as older
elms and weaker trees are removed, the landscapes take years to recover.
The research at John
Pair research center is encouraging in that it seems to hit at the heart of
city folks who treasure the trees that have taken generations to grow.
When you live in the city, it is
not difficult to let awareness of wildlife slip as we enjoy smaller spaces,
more confinement and tons of concrete that surrounds us.Urban wildlife is alive and well though, and
there is an abundance of bees and other pollinators living among us, buzzing
our flowers,vegetable gardens, and
fruit trees if we’re lucky enough to have them.
I had so many bees last year that I
asked my friend Barb, the beekeeper, if I should be considering a hive.She laughed good-naturedly, and then told me
the bees would starve to death on the resources I alone had to give.Besides, she added, those bees belong to
someone local.I would be wiser to help
that beekeeper by helping his bees.But
how, I asked, can city folks do that?
I found a helpfularticle on www.gooserockfarm.com, a supplier of
bee colonies, that applies to us city slickers.Want to help the honeybee and don’t know how?Is
there really anything the average person can do to make a difference?It turns out there is and that we do.
It turns out that spring wildflowers
are a critical source of pollen for honeybees.Not just the dandelion, for in itself, it does not provide adequate
nutrients. But it is a moderate resource for them.Add to that other wildflowers such as clover
and plantains in early spring and numerous other wildflowers throughout summer
and fall, and we have provided for a part of the bees’ needs.
There are some helpful options for
the average homeowner.
First, I can opt to not treat the wildflowers
in the lawn with chemicals.Note that I
didn’t call them “weeds.”
Second, I can delay mowing the
dandelions until other sources of pollen are available and the bees have moved
on.Actually, that option was easy to
achieve this year as the cool weather eased us into the summer with little
Third, I can help either as an individual
or as an HOA member by choosing and planting plants and trees that provide good
pollen sources for bees.
Fourth, in that same way, I can
choose not to plant plants and trees that are not beneficial to bees.(One example given was the Bradford pear,
grown commonly in my area.)
Finally, if I garden, I can do so
organically.That eliminates the whole
issue of chemicals;I can eat local
honey (thank you Barb and Rich for providing some to buy); andI can support legislation and environmental
measures to protect and assist bees.
As president of our small neighborhood
association, I have received repeated pleas from my neighbors to spray the
dandelions.While this year I was able
to avoid the issue because of the temperatures and rainfall, but next year I’ll
make an effort to solicit members'assistance. So the next time you see those pretty yellow
flowers covering the back yard, just remember – the bee you save IS your
own.It is pollinating the food you eat.
There is a great deal of interest
in my community about raising honeybees.Although the days of large alfalfa fields have passed with the days of
the livestock farmer, there are areas of nearby fields that provide good forage
for hives. There are also good responsible beekeepers who know the science of
caring for bees.
an article was published regarding the nationwide problem of colony collapse
which gave great hope for Kansas beekeepers.Apparently, the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection
Agency conducted a study to determine the cause of honeybee decline that
yielded some important information.In
searching for causes of the problem, researchers found multiple culprits.Among them were parasites and disease,
genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.The hopeful part for Kansas came in the
report conclusions, indicating that Kansas beekeepers are not experiencing
colony loss at the same rate.
It is the belief of Kansas researcher Chip
Taylor that this is because Kansas colonies are tended by amateur beekeepers
rather than commercial ones.Our bees
are not transported for pollination purposes and instead are kept at home.This, he believes, minimizes the stress on
hives, makes them less likely to be exposed to pesticides, minimizes the
nutritional issues, and helps in controlling mites and disease.
Local beekeepers Barb and Richard indicate
that the last two years have been difficult on the local bee colonies, largely
due to problems associated with the heat and drought.Some of the new hives required additional
feeding due to low forage availability and some simply weren’t able to survive
the lack of nutrition.
While local farmers are assisting
beekeepers with better farming practices, it is important that all of us,
perhaps especially urban residents, remember the impact of herbicide use.Bees need early forage and yellow dandelions
and other early blooming plants that thrive in our yards provide some of the
first pollen available.We would do well
to help pollinators out and NOT spray them.