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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Tuesday - July 06, 2010

From: League City, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens, Trees
Title: Colony of bees nesting in sycamore
Answered by: Jimmie Oakley, Deryn Davidson and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a very large, old sycamore tree that has recently become home to a colony of honey bees. They have taken up dwelling in a hollow limb of the tree about 25 feet off the ground. While this is great for my native landscape, will this harm the tree in any way or drive away the owls that also nest in another large hollow limb of the same tree?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants thought it would be a good idea to consult someone who knows a lot more about bees than I do so I contacted Jimmie Oakley from the Williamson County Beekeepers Association and received the following wonderful answer:

"The story of the "Birds and the Bees" is as old as time; an indication that they do co-exist.  Taking advantage of the home that is provided by the hollows of a large old sycamore tree is something that is natural to both the owls and the bees; it is nature's way.  The nesting site of the owl's and of the bees' was determined by the specific needs of the species according to their nesting instinct, and the range of each may not overlap.  They will probably respect the domicile of each other.  The bees are not likely to try to nest in the owl site while it is occupied; but should the owls vacate the hollow, it would not be uncommon for a future swarm of honeybees to take up residence in the empty cavity if it were suitable.  The bees will not harm the tree by being there, and at that height they would be hard to extract. From your vantage point you may only watch as you witness a change in real estate in the future as the bees prove to be more adept at taking and holding the hollow being used by the owls.  You may not agree with it, but remember, it is nature's way.  We all watch in awe."

Another of our beekeeping experts, Deryn Davidson, suggested that if there seemed to be a conflict between the owls and bees, perhaps you could build or buy owl houses and put them in another tree.  She did mention, however, that bees have been known to move into the owl houses, too!

 

 

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