The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

September 23, 2011

Bringing Autumn Olive Under Control

Filed under: Shrubs — bob @ 12:47 pm

For several years now, autumn olives have been growing in the wild area of our property.  Part of that area I want to turn into an orchard so most of the autumn olives have to go.

These shrubs were introduced into Michigan a few decades ago to improve wildlife habitat.  Since then, they have invaded thousands of acres in our state.

Autumn olives produce a huge crop of berries that many species of birds eat.  Each berry contains a single seed.  Once a bird eats a berry, the seed passes through the bird’s digestive system.  It then gets deposited in the bird droppings — sometimes many miles away — starting a new stand of autumn olive.  Much of the fruit on the shrubs has ripened; that means the birds are eating them already.

Autumn olive is an attractive shrub. Its bright red berries stand out among the silvery-green leaves.

In the past, I’ve tried chopping the shrubs with an axe or spraying them with herbicide; they always seemed to come back.

This year I bought a circular brush cutting blade for my commercial-duty weed whacker.  It has only six cutting teeth that look like the teeth on a chainsaw.  The outer edge of that blade spins a lot faster than any saw chain moves so six teeth are all you really need to do some serious cutting.  Plus, there is no kickback with this blade making it very safe to use.

Once the shrubs are cut down, I brush full strength glyphosate herbicide onto the fresh stumps.  The remaining stump and roots quickly absorb the herbicide and die.

I found out the hard way that autumn olive plants have very sharp spines that can puncture normal leather gloves.  The very tips of those spines often break off deep into the flesh of your hands and fingers causing irritation lasting several days.

I’ve spent about six hours cutting and dabbing herbicide and have made a small but noticeable dent in the population.  Looks like I’ll need several more days to finish that orchard area.


September 2, 2011

Fresh Water Helps Honeybees

Filed under: Bees — bob @ 12:46 pm

We know that planting flowering plants will go a long way to help our local honeybees.  They need more than pollen and nectar from flowers however.  Providing a source of clean water will help them thrive.

As I was potting up plants the other day, I was reminded how important water is to honeybees.  Bees were collecting water from a bucket I have sitting out near the potting bench.  I keep this bucket full just so bees have a place nearby to collect water – they’re also fun to watch.

Bees use water during the summer to cool their hives.  They spread the collected water around inside the hive.  Then bees inside use their wings to fan air over the water causing it to evaporate quickly which cools the hive.

They like to keep the inside of the hive at about 93 degrees F.  You can imagine how warm it can get inside of an enclosed beehive exposed to the summer sun.  Even during cooler days, the hive temperature can rise due to body heat generated by all of the activity of thousands of bees – sort of like when thousands of sports fans get together inside a basketball arena with no air conditioning.

My bucket is out of the way where no one can bother it.  Sometimes the bees are so intent on getting water that they will accidentally bump into people passing by.

I timed individual bees and found out that it takes just about one minute for a bee to land, fill up with water and head back to the hive.  On a nice day earlier this week, the bees were drawing down one or two inches of water a day.  I know that my bucket is just one source of water for this hive and that they were using much more water than that.

As the temperatures approach the upper 90′s F today, more honeybee workers are assigned to the task of collecting water.

Even though we have moved into late summer, it’s not too late to provide your neighborhood bees with fresh water.  Just be sure to change the water often to keep mosquitoes from breeding in it.


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