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Bees & Butterflies by the Numbers

Unfortunately, the numbers are decreasing in alarming degrees. I’ve been meaning to write about the disturbing disappearance of honeybees for quite some time but never seemed to find the time. Now I’m afraid time is running out.

I’ve noticed fewer bees and butterflies, particularly this summer. There seemed to be no fewer yellow jackets than the occasional visitor I’m used to, but I don’t recall spotting a honeybee once all summer. Likewise, butterflies were sadly absent. There was one moth like white butterfly that sometimes flitted by by but from the looks it was just one regular guest, not a flock by a long shot. Also, I think I only saw this butterfly – if that’s even what it was – on its own, never in the company of others.

This past weekend I went to a free event in my neighborhood. It was kid-focused, a puppet parade held in the playground behind one of the public schools. It was swarming with hungry, hyped and rowdy kids. I was ready to leave when, at the last minute, I was persuaded to stay. Staying meant, as it turned out, that I heard Jennifer Hopkins, known as the Butterfly Lady, speak about what we can do to help bring back the butterflies. She recommends planting the following flowers:

Bee balm
Butterfly bush
Butterfly weed
Purple coneflower
Wild geranium

Check out more at

And more to come on bees by the numbers.

6 responses to “Bees & Butterflies by the Numbers

  1. Ralph ⋅

    Borage also attracts bees, plus it’s edible with a cucumber like taste. Young leaves are best to eat, the ‘fuzz’ starts getting stiff on larger leaves. I’ve spotted a bee or two working at my basil flowers, but nothing like in the past where there were lots of them.

  2. Ralph ⋅

    It is probably time to start looking into plants that do not rely on insects for pollination. Judging on observation alone, strawberries and string beans have done well in spite of the lack of bees. Both have been steadily producing for some time and are still going. Are there any other plants out there that are doing well without the bees?

    • Revel

      You’re right about borage – and it’s an attractive plant with small blue flowers. I grew some this year for the first time. I may have even gotten it started with seeds from the exchange – ? Anyway it grew pretty tall, and I didn’t realize that it’s self seeding so it has started to spread a little and I don’t mind a bit. I did end up seeing some that was diseased so I got rid of that one plant and now all the rest are flourishing again. The one that had the problem had tiny black bugs on it — they looked almost like small black seeds or pieces of dirt the wind might have kicked up and stuck to the bottom of the leaves. Have you ever seen this on yours before?

  3. Ralph ⋅

    I have noticed a few bees recently but nothing like a year or two ago. I am guessing the few plants that are still producing, namely string beans and strawberries, may not need bees to pollinate them- or the bees have been avoiding me. They do seem to be attracted to the small white flowers on my seeding basil plants.

    On a totally different topic, I have found and purchased from two all American companies. One manufactures blue jeans in Tennessee:
    I ordered 1 each of 3 of their types to try out. They showed up yesterday, about 3 days after I placed my online order. Size wise they fit the same as the Levis (from China) I’ve been wearing. This company also carries the in-between sizes you can’t find in stores. The material is a bit heavier than Levies which will probably make for a longer life. I also ordered their lined jeans which I will no doubt appreciate in the colder weather.
    The second US company I ordered from is:
    They manufacture protective eye wear. All their products meet safety specs including military specs. They supply to the military as well. Check them out, many of their glasses look like regular sunglasses and there are a variety of lenses in different colors which can easily be changed in and out of the frames.
    As with (from which I have also ordered) the prices may not be cheap but the quality is excellent. Check out all 3 companies, and if you do order anything you will be supporting American business and keeping Americans at work.

  4. Revel

    It’s a good question – what are the crops that don’t rely on honeybees, but I think I’m still going to stick to trying to grow what will attract them. I was encouraged when I went up to New Paltz to go apple picking recently that there appeared to be bees galore. Turns out the owners of the orchard I went to rent some space to a beekeeper who grows gorgeous tall zinnias that attract the bees, and also has an apiary on site.

    Bryan Walsh, who wrote the Times piece on the dangerous disappearance of bees, also recently posted an article in Science Times, here warning of the danger of the disappearance of wild bees. Because of our reliance on honeybees, he says, they will be probably be okay but no one really is watching out for the wild bees. These bees, it turns out, are also crucial to crops:

    According to this Facebook site:, some of the crops we could start looking to while we give the bee population a chance to rejuvenate are self-pollinators like tomatoes and wheat. Others are the crops that “don’t involve fruits at all, like lettuce/cabbage (leaves), carrots and beets (root crops), and broccoli/cauliflower (we eat the flowers).” The site also mentions crops that are wind pollinated like corn and pecans. They also list crops that are wild-pollinated but since I think those would probably rely on wild bees, that clearly are in as much if not more danger than honeybees, I wouldn’t plant my squash and cucumbers just yet (in addition to the fact that I had no luck with pumpkins when I tried them two years ago except that they took over my front yard and were largely all vine, and large vine at that). Let me know if you come across more!

  5. Ralph ⋅

    On the remains of my stringbean plants I have seen what looks like dirt on leaves. I’ll have to check closer with a magnifying lense for an ID to see if they are flies.

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