Gardening PSA: If you are in the Montreal area and would like to know when and where to see garden shows and sales, to better know about the science and art of gardening and also its place in our local history, refer to the 2013 Gardening Calendar compiled by the Gazette.  And please do drop me a line when you know you are going to one of the functions; if it fits with one of my current activities, it would be motivating to meet up there.

We have had a very rainy June so far, after a brief and not-extreme warm spell in May. I prefer rain to heat at this time of year, but I am watching my plants, wondering “why is it only the perennials and native weeds that are lush?” So many of my plants have sprouted and stopped. They’re waiting for something, and I’d say it’s the sun right now. Still, with all the transplanting that’s gone on, the rain and cool have helped them take root rather than die, like they did last year.

Flying insects have not been abundant around here yet, with cooler weather and fewer flowers to choose from, though the blooms have been on time. In the interest of serving bees and having the bees serve us, I am celebrating bees because NEXT WEEK, June 17 – 23, is Pollinator Week! (I had to use all caps because I’m excited about it.) The Pollinator Partnership has tons of information about pollinators and things that we can do – such as provide them with habitat – to be as hospitable to them as possible.

What’s more, it’s not just about bees, as the website explains: “Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food.” Even rats, who I’ve blogged about here before and will soon again regarding nuisance wildlife, have demonstrated a role in pollination. (Click the title of that blog post to be taken to an article on The Globe & Mail.)

Bees that pollinate are honey, bumble, and many solitary types such as Mason (or orchard) bees. To learn more about bees, check out the videos on the Pollinator Partnership website, put together by Burt’s Bees, Wild for Bees, and Isabella Rosselini. Even more fascinating is the Ideas radio documentary “Dancing in the Dark” on the CBC website. If you want to learn a lot about bees’ variety, language, complexity and sheer sophistication in a short time, listen to this while doing other work. 

Because honey bees are suffering from a disease called “Colony Collapse Disorder” and there is no human intervention or cure for it yet, it is worrying. I’m a biologist by training, and so the basic tool I know of to do something that might help is throw numbers at it – and help by buying honey from local beekeepers, rather than at the grocery store. We need to drastically increase our beekeeping, even at temporary personal expense and expected loss, so as to increase the opportunity and occurrence of bees that are naturally more resistant to the disease to survive and go on to make queens and drones that help increase the surviving population.

I was pleased to receive an announcement on the francophone Urban Agriculture list about an event to attend on June 18th: “Nos abeilles sauvages en ville : une diversité insoupçonnée en lien avec l’aménagement urbain”“Our wild bees in the city: an unexpected diversity in relation to urban development.”

Two years ago, an apiary installed some hives downtown, and the Ville is not planning on regulating the practice.  And members of CRAPAUD, including Eric Duchemin who disseminates the Urban Agriculture list of events, will be in attendance at the wild bees discussion. They have hives of their own at UQAM. (A Google translation of that link can be read here.)

This past weekend, I created a Mason bee house. I first got the idea last year because of an interesting rant on the Montana Wildlife Gardener blog against honey bees (It’s interesting – here’s a link to all of his posts on the topic of bees.) Also, I received a comment about doing it, which spurred me to action. Now, my Mason bee house isn’t finished yet, as it needs a “roof” and it needs more holes (what can I say, except that my drill’s battery has a short life). But it is up there in the garden and I think there’s been a bit of insect interest in it. Here’s the process, in pictures:

A good-sized triangular log of wood

Drill bits! Choose 1/4″ or 5/16″ and at least 3″ long,
but don’t drill all the way through the wood. 

I drilled in rows that cross-hatched along the long sides
of the triangle. This is the first hole. 
Hung with a cup hook and a chain, with a notch on the triangle,
on the tall fencepost in my garden. Only half as many holes are
drilled on both sides as there will be when it’s done.