Saturday, June 30, 2007

I Wonder



















The above picture shows a hummingbird feeder overtaken by honeybees. This is the first year I've seen bees visit here for sweetened water. The dispenser has been at this place every summer for many years.

The two pictures below show fields less than a mile from my home. The fields were sprayed with chemical herbicides to kill unwanted weed and grass growth in preparation for corn planting. This field turned from green to brown almost overnight. Two weeks after these photos green corn was growing through this dead ground cover. Now the corn is about four feet tall.

Today, modern farming involves "chisel planting". When I was young in the 1950's and '60's, farming this field meant plowing in the fall with "turning plows" attached to a tractor. These plows cut into the ground about 6 to 8 inches deep and flipped over the dirt. This process buried ground cover and exposed fresh dirt on top. During the winter, the buried plants decayed and the cloddy surface dirt froze and became easy to crumble in the spring when tractors pulled disk plows across the field. After disk plowing, a tractor again traversed the field and laid off rows, deposited fertilizer, and buried seed corn all in the same pass. As the corn grew, tractors were used to cultivate the crop a couple times as it grew to maturity. Finally, tractors with harvesting equipment drove over the field to mechanically strip corn ears from the stalks.

This farming method involved driving tractors six times across the field throughout the year.

Chisel planting requires tractors to visit the field only two or three times per year. Turning and disk plowing aren't needed with the chisel planting method. This technique reduces fuel consumption and labor hours. It is surprising how well corn, soy beans, and different grain crops grow with this method of planting crops.

I wonder if modern and widespread use of herbicides on farmland and lawns are contributing to the behavior of bees at my feeder? I wonder why bees choose sweet water over nectar from blossoms on trees, flowers, and weeds. One beekeeper hobbyist in the area told me there are times when blossoms aren't plentiful enough to support the bees. He places sweetened water near his hives to supplement their nectar gathering.

Beekeepers in New York City place hives on rooftops of high-rise apartment buildings. City bees in New York collect enough nectar to sustain their colonies. Why can't bees in suburbia of Winston-Salem, North Carolina find enough floral nectar to make my bird feeder undesirable?

Have a good week!






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