Wednesday, May 8, 2013

We've got a serious case of leafcutter bees! The good news is, they're native pollinators that seem to have moved into the greenhouse en masse. The bad news is, right now they're cutting the leaves of the pak choy in the greenhouse. Totally worth it.

Last year we certified as a Bee Friendly Farm and hosted a Pollinator Party where we planted native flowering plants for forage, and made a number of nest boxes for native bees.  We also made some changes to the way we mow and till, trying to better provide habitat and work around bees' needs a little better.
(Here's a recent newspaper article about our efforts!)

This spring, I was cursing the mouse eating our pak choy. Huge chomps it appeared to be taking from the asian greens we'd just planted in the greenhouse floor.

However, around the same time we noticed some impressive bee activity around the beds - many dozens of active bees. At 1st we thought they were honeybees from the hive not too far off, but on closer inspection they appeared more greyish in colour. I had our beekeeper take a look and she confirmed that they are leafcutter bees! No mouse here! The bees look like this:

Although they are solitary bees and generally nest in holes in wood (like the nesting box I made - photo below), I'm pretty sure it's crawling into hole in the greenhouse bed. Not quite sure what to make of that. Leafcutters are very efficient pollinators because they're not actually very good at nectar-gathering so have to spend a long time doing it! They're particularly good at pollinating legume and berry blossoms because of the way they buzz around and shake pollen loose, but given that there are over 20 species in Ontario, their preferences are wide and varied.

A little pak choy leaf loss for future crop pollination efforts -seems like a great investment!