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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - March 19, 2007

From: Driftwood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Decline of pollinating bees around Mexican plums
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Dear Dr. Smarty Plants While out working in my yard (about nine miles southwest of the Wildfower Center) this morning, I became aware that there was no sound of bees buzzing. I checked our Mexican Plum, which is in full bloom, and found no bees but lots of flying insects that I had had not noticed prior to this. They have slim bodies with orange/brown legs and metallic-green wings. Any ideas as to what they could be - and why we have so few bees this spring? Thanking you in advance,

ANSWER:

From your description I can't identify the insects that are visiting your Mexican plum. I did take a look at one of the Mexican plums at the Wildflower Center and saw some honey bees and smaller wild bees buzzing around it, but didn't see insects that looked like your description. Many of the small bees in the Order Hymenoptera, Family Halictidae, Sweat Bees, have greenish highlights and do serve as pollinators. Flies (Order Diptera) are also pollinators of many plants and come in a variety of colors.

Domestic honeybees have experienced declining populations for the past 50 years or so. This has created great concern for the future of food crops that are dependent on bees for pollination. The major contributor to the bees decline appears to be parasitism by mites and diseases transmitted by the mites. Improper use of pesticides and timing of their applications have also contributed to the decline. You can hear about efforts in the San Francisco area to increase the numbers of native bees as presented on National Public Radio.

 

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