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Volume 15, Issue 34 ~ August 23 - August 29, 2007

Bees Bring Us Variety

Without bees, our gardens and diets would be poorer

Without bees we would not have apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries blackberries, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons and more. Without bees, we would not be able to purchase seeds of most annual and perennial flowers. If we didn’t have bees, our diets — and many of our beautiful flowers — would be extremely limited.

No wonder scientists are so concerned about the decline in the honeybee population. Since there has been a major decline in the native bee population — including the bumblebee — due to loss of habitat, producers of horticultural crops have to rely almost exclusively on local and imported honeybees to fertilize most of their crops.

In addition to collecting nectar from the flower, bees carry pollen on their hind legs to use as high-energy food and as material for wax in the bee hives. Upon entering another flower to collect more nectar, the bees transmit some of the first flower’s pollen into the second flower, and so on. Once a flower has been pollinated from a foreign flower, it can then produce fruit and seeds.

Flowering annuals, such as marigolds, petunias and zinnias also need assistance from bees to produce seeds.

The flowers of most fruit crops contain both male and female parts. However, nearly all of our fruit are derived from clones. These varieties and vegetatively propagated plants cannot pollinate themselves; they must be cross-pollinated from other clones by commercial bees to produce fruit.

Another category of vegetables — including squash, melons, cucumbers and pumpkins — produce separate male and female flowers on the same vine. Here the bees are vital to the transfer of the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.

Thus without honeybees, our diets would be extremely limited. Our vegetarian diets would be limited to mostly grains, tomatoes, beans, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes and asparagus.

From Grass to Fall Garden

Q How long should I wait to raise veggies in my garden after killing the pesky grass?

–B. Potter, by email

A If you killed the grass with Roundup or a product containing glyphosate, you can plant vegetables within two weeks after the herbicide is applied. If you used another product, you had better read the directions.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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