Tag Archives: pollinator

Enjoy National Pollinators Week!

June 20, 2016

The morning was hot and getting hotter, so at a recent pollinator workshop (June 4 at 21 Acres) we nan bumble crop WP_20160619_13_59_16_Protook an early field tour, observing various bees, nest holes for ants (flat) v. bees (ringed by excavation “dust”), and some of the experimental plantings underway. We spent the rest of the day viewing slides and learning about bee identification, ecology and conservation methods.

Much of the information from the Xerces Society and King Conservation District (workshop sponsors) can be scaled to yards and small holdings like Freeway Estates.

Conserving the Bumblebees says, “Bumblebees need three types of habitat . . . plants on which to forage for pollen and nectar, nesting sites, and places to overwinter.” (It doesn’t mention the presence of water, which surprised me. I later learned that only honeybees need additional water; natives get the moisture they need from foraging.)

Here are some of the other things I learned:

For bees in general, the best environment is a mosaic of “structurally different vegetation”;
mowing patterns need to be varied with some unmowed patches remaining. In preparation for adding native pollinator plants, some folks clear weed seeds by burning. These areas should never comprise more than a third of the native-species area, and they need to be adjacent to refuge patches.

Ground-nesting bees need swatches of bare or scarcely vegetated ground.

151004 Klock leafcutter bee IMG_4215Commercial flower breeding has increased petal complexity and decreased pollen content. Simple, single-flowered and flat-faced forbs feed various bees, which have different lengths of tongue. Heirloom varieties are sturdiest and take the least care. Lots of common, popular garden flowers and trees, however, also offer good nectar sources throughout the seasons.

It was especially rewarding to meet fellow participants and discuss their personal and institutional projects.

Sun, Jul 17, 10-12, Work Party
Tues, Aug 2, 6-8:30, Seattle Night Out Potluck – all welcome
Sat, Aug 20, 10-11, QiGong
Sun, Aug 21, 10-12, Work Party

To find seasonal charts, bee identification and commentary, try:

  • Conserving Bumble Bees: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America’s Declining Pollinators, The Xerces Society. This thin 8½” x 11” booklet has excellent analyses, charts, photos and instructions. (It’s national in scope, but you can skinny it up by saving just the general pages and those applicable to the Pacific NW.)
  • Establishing Pollinator Meadows from Seed, the Xerces Society, an 8½”x11”, 11-page pamphlet.
  • Tunnel Nests for Native Bees: Nest Construction and Management, an 8½” x 11”, 4-page invertebrate conservation fact sheet, the Xerces Society.
  • pollinator.org/PDFs/Guides/PacificLowlandrx9FINAL.pdf. This downloadable, 24-page pdf loads quickly and is worth keeping.
  • Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden Using Native Plants. This 9-page pamphlet, hand-illustrated in double-page-spread format, is from Lolo National Forest (in Montana), U.S. Forest Service. Its scope is national. Download it from www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/attractingpollinatorsV5.pdf.

The Xerces website is comprehensive. Their western regional address is 628 NE Broadway, Ste. 200, Portland OR 97232; phone 855-232-6639; www.xerces.org. The King Conservation District is at 1107 SW Grady Way, Ste. 130, Renton WA 98057; phone 425-282-1900; www.kingcd.org.


Control Freaks Wanted

June 14, 2015

Choose your battles. Focus on the invasive plants that damage the environment!smaller gp good 18589043550_d9c01ac5f9_o

That was the advice given us by Karen Peterson, King County Noxious Weed Specialist, who awed us with her excellent presentation on invasive plants last Saturday.

Karen explained that some plants are a problem statewide but others are a problem only in certain counties. Her department focuses on Class A noxious plants: dangerous, damaging plants that are not already completely out of control.

knotweed in neighbor's yard

knotweed in neighbor’s yard

Did you know you have a responsibility to control noxious plants on your property? Here are some reasons why this is a serious issue.

Vegetative spreading plants just need a piece of the plant to further propagate: yellow archangel, purple loosestrife, yellow iris, knotweeds, and Himalayan blackberry.

Some invasive plants can kill animals or people: tansy ragwort and poison hemlock, which is toxic even when dried!

Some can make you pretty sick, like bittersweet nightshade.

Giant Hogweed can cause burns and blisters and make your skin more sensitive to sunburn.

Knotweed, one of the hardest plants to get rid of without herbicides, damages stream banks, chokes out the native plants and causes erosion when chunks of streambed break off.

Scots broom is such an effective nitrogen fixer that native plants are ‘burned’ by the excess nitrogen.

Sun, Jun 21, 2-4pm, Work Party
Invasive plants & sheet mulching
Sat, Jul 18, 10-2, Path Building
Easy and hard jobs
Sun, Jul 19, 10-2, Path Building
Easy and hard jobs

What can we do?

Stay informed. A good place to continue your education is to sign up for the King County Noxious Weed email list serve. They send an email about once a month.

Before you rip up every plant in site, remember that often the seeds are the most dangerous. You could allow the bees to feed on the flowers and then cut the spent flowers before they go to seed. (King County noxious weed department is starting to consider pollinator activity as an input to their work.)

Speaking of food, the leaves of many nuisance weeds are edible, especially when they are young. In our orchard, we harvest plantain, dandelion, black nightshade (don’t do this at home) and shot weed. Try making pesto out of that garlic mustard, when the plant is young.

When visiting nurseries, mention the 2015 King County Noxious Weed list and ask if they sell plants on that list. Common examples are Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) and English Ivy  (Hedera helix ‘Baltica’, helix ‘Pittsburgh’, helix ‘Star’ and Hedera hibernica).

Properly dispose of plants. If a plant is on the King County list, it’s best to put any reproductive parts in the trash, Karen says. (She is not sure that the City compost gets hot enough to kill all seeds.)

If you are not sure about a plant, email a photo to King County Noxious Weeds and they will help  you identify it. It’s not a waste of their time!



Lucky for us at FECO, we don’t have any of the Ten Most Wanted. Nevertheless, the following plants are very nearby and we keep an eagle eye out for their encroachment: H. blackberry, English ivy, butterfly bush, English holly, bittersweet nightshade, Morning Glory and Woods Rose.

We are working to keep in check the following: common groundsel, herb Robert, fox glove, Himalayan blackberry and Canada thistle.

Join us for the next work party and improve your plant identification skills!


garlic mustard

garlic mustard

The Bees Begin

April 2, 2014

Draping over the corner of the orchard is a giant weeping willow. It was in0317114 willow blossom Justin photo22 full bloom during the March 16 work party, with innumerable sparkling yellow catkins. The willow is an important source of pollen for bees because it blooms early in the year. The Temperate Climate Permaculture website has all you want to know about this valuable plant that offers many products and services.

Kimberly October2012 048Meet Kimberly Christensen, a friend of the orchard and a friend of the bees! Kimberly recently won a grant award from Waste Management Think Green for adding pollinator pathways to the orchard site. Kimberly has been inspired by The Pollinator Pathway Project.

She is busy scouting out different sources for good pollinator plants. During the work party, she planted 6 Ribes (flowering currants), 10 Fragaria (native strawberries) and 10 Kinnikinnick and seeded Phacelia. You will notice her fine Tulip sm WP_20140401_005 bestwork in the middle of the orchard near the blueberries. While we wait for those plants to grow, the bees can hover over the delicate species tulips.

You will also notice that we are digging into the task of clearing more blackberries. We are working on the big patch to make way for more plants and a tool shed.

031714 blackberry work photo 26 smWe can really use your help during the next four work parties. We have light tasks and harder tasks. We provide tools but a large garden fork is very helpful. Thanks to Nancy H, we will host EPA volunteers on Friday, April 18, in celebration of Earth Day. All events are listed on the calendar page. Contribute some time now while the ground is soft and your reward will be time off in the summer!

By the way, I have not had any bites on the treats offered at work parties. What do I need to bring? M&Ms? Maybe one of you has a better idea.

Sat, Apr 5, 2-4pm, Work Party
Fri, Apr 18, 9:30-11:30am
Meet some volunteers from the EPA
Sun, Apr 20, 2-4pm, Work Party
Sat, May 3, 2-4pm, Work Party
Come for any amount of time that works for you.

Also, we are looking for an experienced green builder who would oversee the design of a tool shed of mostly recycled materials. WSDOT mandates special requirements so this builder needs to be open-minded and courageous!

A big thank you to Nancy M, Dana S, and Michelle P for recent grant application efforts!