Category Archives: Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds and Bees as Pollinators and the Threat of Colony Collapse Disorder

At last week’s Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, I was delighted to meet Ms. Becky Ruppel, who has done graduate work in biology and is a volunteer at the Wildflower Center.

She also studied the Yellow Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), an invasive species from the Mediterranean that threatens the native diversity and rangeland in Colorado.

Hummingbirds see red

Ms. Ruppel talked with me about how important pollinators are to our ecosystem to help plants reproduce. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds can see red, and that’s why they are attracted to plants with red flowers, such as Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii).

When hummingbirds go to feed on nectar, the pollen from the male part of the flower (the anther) collects on their bills. When they fly over to feed with another flower, they pass the pollen to the female part of the flower (the pistil) as part of the pollination process to help the flower form a seed.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD)

We also talked about colony collapse disorder. A few years ago, I saw a PBS Nature program, Silence of the Bees, about this tragedy affecting our honey bees who are pollinators and that live in colonies.

Beginning in 2006, for some unknown reason, honey bees from entire hives began to disappear. They just get sick and fly off to die. Since bees are a major pollinator, this puts many of our plants, especially our food crops, at risk.

Ms. Ruppel mentioned some of the factors scientists think might be causing it, such as pesticides, diseases, or mites, but she said that they haven’t been able to pinpoint one cause and be able to treat it yet. CCD may be due to many factors.

If honey bees are in decline, she said that our native solitary bees may be able to take their place as pollinators, such as mason bees. Landowners could leave areas of their property in a natural state and place ground features such as pieces of wood to help encourage the mason bees to make their homes there.

I hope they are able to help our honeybees soon!

Nature Nights: Power of Plants coming this week

Don’t forget that I’m bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center as part of Nature Nights on Thursday, July 5, at 6:00 p.m.  Bring your entire family to this free event and learn more about the Power of Plants!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Bees, Colony Collapse Disorder, Hummingbirds, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Mason Bees, Ms. Becky Ruppel, Nature Nights, Pollination, Power of Plants, Wildflower center, Yellow Toadflax

Hummingbirds hover into the Wildflower Center during Nature Nights

Black-chinned hummingbird (female)
Photo credit: User Mdf on Wikipedia

At the next Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on June 28, learn more about hummingbirds, especially two that nest here in Central Texas:

  • Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird

As part of the free evening’s activities, you can:

  • Participate in interactive hummingbird storytelling from the Austin Public Library
  • Talk with Jeanette Larson, who will be signing her book, “Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas”
  • Listen to Shelia Hargis’ presentation on Austin’s Amazing Hummingbirds
  • Walk the gardens to learn about hummingbirds and the nectar plants they love with experts from Travis Audubon
  • Have fun with hummingbird scavenger hunts and arts and crafts

Invasive Hunter Academy charges up the Power of Plants next week

On July 5, I’m bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to Nature Nights. This the same academy that was a big hit during Kids’ Day at the U.S. Botanic Garden during National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) in Washington D.C.

Learn about invasive species, practice your Invasive Hunter moves, and create a fun action diorama with you battling an invasive plant. Bring home your action scene, a Plant Hero pin, and other goodies too!

Learn more about the Invasive Hunter Academy:

I look forward to seeing you at Nature Nights!

Your friend,

Ben

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Filed under Austin Public Library, Hummingbirds, Invasive Hunter Academy, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Nature Nights, NISAW, Travis Audubon, Wildflower center