Bee disappearance

Asked June 26, 2019, 12:35 PM EDT

I have some plants flowering now in central Anne Arundel Co that should be pollinator magnets: daisy fleabane, monarda, salvia, goldenrod, oregano, red petunia, ruellia, butterfly weed, rose of sharon, white clover. But, other than a few bees on the rose of sharon, I see very little activity. Most conspicuously,even the carpenter bees that were so abundant around my front door have gone missing. I see a few dragon flies and some small white butterflies or moths. Do carpenter bees go through a lull in their life-cycle about this time, or should I suspect that an insecticide has drifted from a neighbor?

Anne Arundel County Maryland

3 Responses

Insect populations, in general, are in decline due to a combination of factors: deforestation and habitat loss, diseases, pesticide use, and climate change. Carpenter bee activity is typically noticed in the spring when they seek nesting sites to lay their eggs. The new generation of carpenter bees will emerge in late August, feed on nectar, and then find tunnels again to over-winter. You can read more about their lifecycle here. https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/carpenter-bees
It is helpful to provide as many flowering plants as you can in your garden -- to provide pollen and nectar and nesting sites for pollinators -- but insects also need healthy natural habitats for their populations to thrive.

Christa

I'm worried that I might be enticing insects to my yard only to have them killed by incidental pesticide exposure. I do t use insecticide myself, but my lot is less than 1/4 acre and it's in a community where lawn service companies treat some of the properties. Should I be concerned? Even my butterfly milkweed is devoid of insects and I feel badly that I m

ight have killed monarchs.

If there has been pesticide drift, you would be seeing a drop in pollinators compared to a previous time in the year. If drift is or has actually happened, but is not happening anymore, one would expect to see the populations of your pollinators increase with time, since new pollinators could be attracted from other surrounding areas. If you suspect that drift is an issue, you can discuss with your neighbors and see if the applications are really necessary. You could also put a small sign in your garden indicating that you have a pollinator habitat/pesticide free-zone -- to help educate neighbors about pollinator protection. Is there an opportunity to get involved in your community -- through a homeowners association or a civic group -- to encourage neighbors to reduce their pesticide use?

There can be other reasons why Monarchs and other pollinators are not present.

Pollinators may not have yet had time to find your flowers. Especially if your flower patch is in an area that doesn't have many flowers in general, the pollinators in your area will need a bit of time to know that the flowers are there. If you continue to have flowers there over many seasons, pollinators are going to start coming more regularly and you should see an increase over time.

If your flowers are indeed in a region with few other flowers, and you really want to attract many other pollinators, you can plant more flowers next year and/or talk to your neighbors and have them plant flowers too. (Perhaps offer them some plants?) The more flowers in a region/neighborhood, the more pollinators you may end up attracting overall.

If you have been having the flower patch for a while, it could just be that this year you have just a lower population of pollinators, due to natural fluctuations.

Sometimes it is not one but the combined effect of multiple reasons that make that pollinators drop. Remember that your actions are likely not going to bring results from one day to the next, but likely from one season to the next. For example, many pollinators reproduce only once per year, so you may have to wait until the next generation (next year) to see a difference. So, don't give up if you don't see an effect right the way! You're likely doing the right thing, but you just need to wait a bit longer to see the result!.

Christa