Planning an Oregon Beetle Bank

Four years ago I read about the benefits of building a beetle bank as part of my Master Gardener training. While they began in Great Britain, Gwendolyn Ellen and her colleagues at Oregon State University have been studying their effectiveness on organic farms here in the Willamette Valley for years. As an ag biodiversity proponent, anything I can do on my farm to encourage native pest predators naturally peaks my interest. And so I spent the last few years reading all the research papers I could find on beetle banks and the predaceous beetles that they get their name from.

Beetle banks are raised strips of land installed in the middle of crops that are planted with native bunch grasses and sometimes forbes, which provide Continue reading “Planning an Oregon Beetle Bank”

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Native Pollinators Pushed Out By Honey Bees

The urban beekeeping fad is still going strong in the United States with city and rural folks jumping in on this exciting agricultural hobby. For some it’s the lure of fresh honey; pure in form with no water added. For others it is part of the larger gardening craze called pollinator gardens. And I suspect for most people, it’s a little of both.

On the commercial side, honey bee pollination is critical to the agriculture system that has emerged here in the United States. Crops such as blueberries and cherries, are 90-percent dependent on honey bees and almond growers rely entirely on the honey bee for pollinating their trees. It is estimated that more than a million colonies are needed each year in California just to pollinate the state’s almond crop. Some argue that if it weren’t for the introduction of the honey bee, we would not be the agricultural powerhouse we are.

But this success story is not without a down side. Continue reading “Native Pollinators Pushed Out By Honey Bees”

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Plant Heathers with Blueberries for Increased Fruit

Blueberries have to be my favorite fruit. Whether I am picking them for a fresh blueberry pie or just grazing, you cannot beat them for flavor and ease of picking. However with our cool Oregon springs, it is sometimes difficult to get a good fruit set on the early blooming varieties. Many pollinators such as honey bees need warmer temperatures to be fully active. However, bumblebees are active at much cooler temperatures and planting heather with your blueberries will attract these hard workers in droves.

There are many insects that pollinate blueberries including honey bees, solitary bees and bumblebees. But as mentioned earlier, the bumblebees work at much lower temperatures. Continue reading “Plant Heathers with Blueberries for Increased Fruit”

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