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Gardening & More: Cash prizes, native bees and free tree seedlings

TAKE THE SHOT — “Wild Oats” by Ricardo Gilson of Meadville, Pa., was the 2012 winner in the Jamestown Audubon Society’s nature photography contest in the plants category of the adult division. Cash prizes are offered. The deadline for this year’s contest is June 30. Photo courtesy of the Jamestown Audubon Society.
SPRINGVILLE — Today’s column touches on three very different topics. There is something for everyone!

Jamestown Audubon Society photo contest
The Jamestown Audubon Society’s nature photography contest offers cash prizes in three categories and two divisions.

The youth division is for kids ages 8 – 18, or those who are still in high school. The adult division is for photographers aged 18 and older, or those in post-high school. Young people and adults will receive $100 cash prizes in the categories of landscapes, plants and wildlife, as well as free photo finishing.

The entry deadline is June 30. Contest details are available at www.jasphotocontest.com.

Native bees important in crop pollination
If you have a crop, such as apple trees, that needs to be pollinated, bring in hives of honey bees, or Apis mellifera. Farmers have relied on these European imports because, unlike native bees, honey bees can be managed. These bees may be herded, transported and farmed, the way sheep and other animals are.

Concerns about honey bees have arisen for many reasons. Colony collapse disorder causes many worker bees to suddenly disappear from a hive. According to an October 2012 post by the United States Department of Agriculture, researchers still don’t know what causes this problem, although research is continuing, in a number of directions.

While honey bees are widely viewed as the most important crop pollinators, native bees may be playing a larger role than we suspected.

According to Professor Bryan Danforth and his team at Cornell University, growing evidence suggests that native bee species contribute significantly to crop pollination. This is especially true in apple orchards, where there may be as many as 60 to 80 species of native bees’ visiting apple blossoms, during the bloom period. Many of these native bee species appear to be important pollinators and a lot of apple growers are increasingly reliant on native bees, for apple pollination.

Surveys by Danforth’s team in the Finger Lakes region indicate that native bees may outnumber honey bees, in many orchards. The team is trying to determine what orchard management practices promote native bee abundance and diversity.

Many apple growers no longer bring honey bees into their orchards; they are beginning to rely on the naturally-occurring native bees, for apple pollination.

“We believe that native bees may provide a viable, economically-feasible alternative to honey bees for apple pollination,” Danforth said. “This is especially important, now that honey bees are in decline in North America.”

More information is available at www.danforthlab.entomology.cornell.edu.

Free tree seedlings available to schools
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is offering free tree seedlings to schools and it is selling tree and shrub seedlings for conservation plantings on private and public lands.

The DEC operates the State Tree Nursery in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Free tree seedlings are available to any school, public, private or parochial; nursery, elementary, secondary, vocational, college or university. Any school-sponsored organization is also eligible.

Spruce and pine are available. Only one species may be ordered and 50 seedlings of that species will be given, to each participating school.

The DEC encouraged planting on school property, so students can be responsible for the care and protection of the seedlings. Other possible locations for planting include parks, roadsides, public buildings and nursing homes.

Participants will need 1,800 square feet of open space, for the 50 seedlings. Each tree needs a growing space of approximately 6 feet in diameter.

Urban wildlife packets are available, for schools with limited planting space. This packet contains 30 seedlings of shrubs that attract different songbirds, as well as a variety of other wildlife. These should be planted 6 feet apart and require only 900 square feet of open space.

More information about the school seedling program is available at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9393.html.

You may also buy tree and shrub seedlings for conservation on public or private land. You must purchase the seedlings in quantities of 25 or more. A variety of species is available.

Orders for seedlings can be placed through mid-May, by calling 518-587-1120, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. This is the recommended way to order, since the operator will be able to answer questions or direct callers to the proper office, for more information. You can also order by mail.

More information about the tree seedlings sale is available at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/9395.html.

Connie Oswald Stofko is the publisher of
Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.
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