Skip to main content

I got up very early yesterday morning and I saw what I thought was aircraft lights low in the sky. I thought it must be an aircraft, because this light was bigger than Venus, which is usually one of the brightest objects in my sky, early morning, early evening.

It wasn't.It was Jupiter. After I had my first swig of caffeine, the gears in my brain started to warm up and I remembered, that a radio show announced recently that Jupiter would be passing close to the Earth in March of this year. That it would be particularly close on the 4th of March.

This morning I got up and got my binoculars. I could almost make out the moons. My eyes are going, so I am not sure. But it still looked very bright, and beautiful. Maybe when I get the kids up on the 4th, the planet will have passed that much closer.
I love that song--Drops of Jupiter by Train. That was the 2nd thing I thought of when I saw Jupiter through my binoculars.

The sky is very clear right now, which is great for star gazing. But that also means that extremely cold air has settled in this region. Which is not so great news for my bees. The first blooms of spring have popped, which are maple trees . These are often important pollen sources for emerging bees on warmer days, but as many of you know, we are about 30 degrees below normal. Yesterday we got up in the 40s, so perhaps it wasn't a total wash, though most bees prefer to fly when the air temperature is at least in the 50s.

When the weather goes back and forth between extreme cold and warm, it really confuses them and a lot of other critters.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw turtles out in some local ponds. It's way too early for them, but we had so many days where it was in the 70s and nights that stayed in the 50s, that the trees and turtles became confused. For 2 months now, I have heard birds doing their spring songs. Still, just too early. Usually they would start about now.

Seeing Carolina wasps active in January and February--unheard of in these parts. We usually don't see them til late March when the days begin to stay warm in the 70s and the nights in the 50s. (notice a pattern yet?). Today it will be in the high 40s, but we are expecting frigid temps and ice and sleet by Sunday. Up and down, back and forth, it just makes Ma-Nature seasick. She don't know if she's coming or going.

Hopefully when the Sand Plums and the Red Buds bloom, the air will be warm enough for the bees to access those sources of pollen and nectar. You see flowers- like milk, have an expiration date. They are only good as a food source for a certain period of time. If the air is too cold, one of two things happens: Either the flower is frost-killed and becomes infertile and dies (meaning no food for the pollinators) OR the air is just cold enough that the insects like bees are still torpid and the flower spoils and dies before the bees can visit it for pollen and nectar (meaning no food for pollinators).

This past month, in addition to turtles and wasps, I also saw some butterflies out. Mostly the kind that feed on poop or fungus. I remember not too long ago, during the drought, when it was like Houston in the Spring in these parts, I had butterflies in December and January visiting my bee feeders. So yes, I have seen this before, but still, it's not a good sign. We were warm when we should have been cold, and we got cold when we should be warming up. Hopefully the weather will get straightened out soon. This kind of back and forth is so hard on honey bee hives, that this is the time when we can lose them easily. If it stays warm too early and they have adequate food, they build up their brood. Then when a cold snap hits, they starve because of too many mouths to feed, and they cannot keep warm enough, because the cluster is no longer organized. Nosema can also be a big problem this time of the year. This is the bee version of the Norovirus.

As for the rest, my seedlings are getting tall. I bought some new grow caps for my trays. These are quite tall and allow my grow lights to rest directly on the cap. Making my seed starting operation more portable, and easier to disassemble and store. Usually when you buy the seed trays at box stores, they have the little 2 inch clear plastic lids. Those are fine in the very beginning. But soon your seedlings pop up and are bent over, too tall for that confining space.

Here are some visual examples:
Here is a tray with a short lid or dome Here is just the 2.10 inch dome by itself

Compare to this bigger, deeper dome.

So then what? We uncover the seedlings so they can stand up straight, and then it's contest between you and the water. If you water too much they dampen off and die, and not enough--and they get dehydrated and die. Finding that happy middle ground inside a nice dry house, under grow lights can be a real pain in the ass.

With these tall plastic caps, you can regulate the moisture just like before, but with several inches of growing height for your green babies. It's pretty awesome. This also allows you to let your seedlings get bigger. Many times I would be transferring these teeny tiny seedlings into individual pots, because they needed more room than the 2 inch dome could give them. Being able to switch out with the big dome has fixed that problem. Some of my tomatoes already have true leaves on them, but they are still small enough to fit under that bigger dome. Meaning better moisture control, and the plants will be a bit more ready for handling when it comes time to transplant.

All of our onions and potatoes are in the ground outside. I need to grab some shallots too. Shallots are tasty. Inside, I have started some other onions from seed and some chives as well.

None of my Comfrey seeds have germinated. I learned that I may have to dig them out of the start pots and put them back in the fridge, otherwise it could take up to 2 years (yes you read that right) to germinate. None of my milkweed have germinated either. I have planted Spider Milkweed and Blue Vine, but so far, nothing has happened. I have big plans for the Comfrey and the Milkweed, so I am hoping it germinates sometime this year, preferably sooner rather than later.

I have tinyLead plants peaking out of the soil and New England Asters, and some Alkanet, which is a relative of Borage. Many of these are my pollinator plants, just for the bees and butterflies. Which brings us to the topic of cover crops. The USDA has started a program to pay farmers, like Dairy Farmers to have cover crops for the bees.

Dairy farmers and ranchers in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas can qualify for about $3 million to reseed pastures with alfalfa, clover and other plants appealing to both bees and livestock. Farmers also can get help building fences, installing water tanks and making other changes that better enable them to move their animals from pasture to pasture so the vegetation doesn't become worn down. The goal is to provide higher quality food for insects and animals.
This is extraordinarily good news. Cover crops like clover, alfalfa, and buckwheat produce excellent honey, and can be tilled right back into the ground to enrich the soil, or in some cases, mowed for fodder. If any of you wonder why Buckwheat honey is so hard to find these days, it's because farmers stopped growing it in many places. Farmers stopped growing cover crops in general. This practice will increase the forage for wild and domestic pollinators alike, and increase our production of honey, nationwide.

This is one major issue that all pollinators face--a lack of forage. Now if we could end the use of Neonicotinoids on plants, that would be a significant factor as well. The problem I see with corn and soy farmers, is that well--any farmer that uses Neonicotinoids on their fields will simply poison the bees with their cover crops if grown in contaminated soil. Because systemics stay in the soil and spread to non-treated plants, which is then expressed through the pollen, nectar and guttation just like treated plants. This suppresses the bee's immune system, damages their nervous system and navigation skills, and it causes an imbalance in the soil fauna, creating an environment that is conducive to infectious soil pathogens like Nosema ceranae.

Pesticides are not good for bees in general, but NeoNicotinoids appear to to be the worst for now. Everything we can do to give them some room to breathe is good for them and good for us.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (16+ / 0-)

    "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

    by GreenMother on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 06:55:39 AM PST

  •  Bees are so important. (5+ / 0-)

    Mom has two HUGE butterfly bushes in front of her house, they bring butterflies, bees and hummingbirds out of the woodwork every year.  Bees especially seem to love them.  The plants were tiny when she planted them and now one of them reaches up to her second story window.  That and the smell is wonderful in the summer.

    I hope some of the farmers in my area take advantage of the USDA's offer.  We have many with livestock nearby so hopefully they can see the benefit in this.

    "I don't want a unicorn. I want a fucking pegasus. And I want it to carry a flaming sword." -mahakali overdrive

    by Silvia Nightshade on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 07:04:20 AM PST

  •  Another possible contributor to CCD -- (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, Ahianne

    is here.  Possible but it doesn't account for the spread of CCD to backyard hives.

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 08:28:55 AM PST

    •  Its not as nutritious as nectar AND (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl

      Its' grown with systemic pesticides/neonics, so it's in the syrup.

      "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

      by GreenMother on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 09:24:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That much is clear, but... (0+ / 0-)

        I didn't rob the honey, fed only sugar-syrup in lean months, and lost my hives to CCD.  No corn syrup involved.

        I wonder how many backyard beekeepers share my experience.  I know a half-dozen just in my area.

        So, while the corn syrup link is tantalizing and I wouldn't discount it, it could be a strong factor, but it must not be the whole burrito.

        "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

        by DrLori on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 10:22:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Corn Syrup would be one of several vectors (0+ / 0-)

          for CCD.

          Remember that Neonicotinoids are sold OTC for residential use, in addition to being used to treat corn, soy, cotton, and melons, foliar sprays in the past for oranges, and almonds, and a whole lot more.

          Because it messes with soil fauna, it causes an increase in microsporidian infections from pathogens like Nosema ceranae.

          And at sublethal dosages, it suppresses the immune system of the insect making it more vulnerable to every kind of pathogen.

          And because it spreads to nontarget plants in contaminated soil, bees can bring home contaminated nectar that is undetectable, but then becomes lethal when the water is evaporated off of the nectar as it becomes honey--which concentrates the neonicotinoids.

          Every time you buy a tomato plant or a flat of pansies from a box store chain, you are buying neonicotinoids for your pollinators.

          Most green house plants sold this way are treated.

          No studies are known that show what happens to fruit born by treated crops, when the rinds or left overs are composted. Clothianinidin can last for years in the soil with imidicloprid.

          They are so potent in the soil that they also kill earth worms and I am sure every soil dwelling insect larvae too.

          "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

          by GreenMother on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 01:27:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I do love that song. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, tobendaro

    And the planet.  <3

  •  Sorry I haven't been around for immediate replies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl

    Unexpected visitors--it's a good thing ;)

    "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

    by GreenMother on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 09:24:02 AM PST

  •  That's what that is in the eastern sky these past (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother

    few mornings.  Thank you.  I keep remarking on it but then get tangled up in worldly things and forget to do some investigating.  
    We've had a long run of below zero lows here -- like almost every day for two months.  I am told that this long bitter cold is doing wonders to kill off invasive deer ticks, ash borers, etc.  I feel for the critters out there.  I don't care if you did evolve to live in this climate, it's gotta suck to sleep outside when it's -24.

    Government works when you elect those who want it to. --askyron (2013)

    by Simul Iustus et Peccator on Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 12:22:38 PM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site