Although I’ve noticed a continuing decline in various bees and bugs over the past decade, this year the difference seems more drastic.
Even in late spring when blueberry bushes were in full bloom I didn’t think I was going to have any bees to pollinate. Finally a few showed up, but it seems to me that one bee was doing the work of what is usually dozens of bees do.
Increase in Potato Beetles
Usually I have two major “search and destroy” time periods for potato beetles during the growing season.
The first beetles come at the beginning of the season just after the plants emerge – usually about May. It’s my guess those over-wintered in the garden. There are usually not many and it only takes a few days of checking plants to get rid of first-comers and any eggs they’ve laid.
Then I have a few weeks of peace without the beetles.
After that I start finding them again. Then, as long as I check plants daily or at least every other day it keeps the numbers easily controllable. After a couple or 3 weeks the numbers diminish to the point that sometimes I forget to keep an eye on them.
If that happens I might come across a plant covered with larvae.That wakes me up to remembering it’s necessary to at least glance over the plants every other day. Otherwise the beetles can get out of hand quickly.
This Year Was Not the Usual Scenario
Beetles kept showing up all summer. And I know I missed some. So that makes extra duty next year when they first show up.
Hopefully being diligent about checking each day at the beginning of next season will allow me to get back to enjoying only minimum numbers.
Big Increase in Stink Bugs
The occasional stink bug is bad enough! But this year every day’s garden check included longer “search and destroy” missions for stink bugs on tomatoes and peppers. And it continues still.
The leaf footed bug —in the stink bug family – also made more of an appearance this year. I killed one to five at least every two or three days. They’re a lot faster moving than regular stink bugs and harder to catch.
Other Unwanted Bugs that Usually Show Up but Didn’t:
Cucumber beetles – I was delighted not to have these around.
Squash bugs (I didn’t grow squash in the garden, but some usually find the cukes.)
Many Predators of the Bad Bugs were Missing:
I didn’t see any praying mantis although their egg cases were plentiful in the garden.
No lady bugs. They prey on aphids and other soft bodied bad guys.
Some of the usual spiders were missing. Not one of those large yellow spiders with the big webs that were so plentiful some years back were to be found.
The most visible sign of the Braconid wasp is seeing its white larvae feeding on a by-that-time disabled tomato horn worm. Only saw one small tomato horn worm this year. Fortunately that had the larvae on it. For more information on this little wasp see this post.
Then there’s the Tachinid fly whose larvae feeds on various soft-bodied insects. Caterpillars, young soft-bodied stink bugs, and potato beetles are included. But from all the indications being described (like the number of stink bugs), I don’t think there were many Tachinid flies around. But I thought I saw several at the beginning of the season.
Wasps are great hunters and I’ve seen them carry off many a potato beetle larvae to feed their young as well as other pest insects. Love watching them up close. They’re amazing and don’t mind my gaze at all. But I didn’t see one wasp in the garden this entire season until the other day.
Bees Disappeared Totally at the End of August.
Further cause for alarm was that as we entered into August the bees (already few in number) totally disappeared.
Sedum and summer poinsettia by the end of August is usually covered with hundreds of numerous varieties of bees, wasps, butterflies and a few bugs as well. I grow lots of these plants through out the property mainly for the bees and wasps.
This year not ONE wasp or bee was to be found from the last two weeks in August – until 3 days ago (Sept 9) one bee showed up. Each day has added another bee and I finally saw a wasp on the poinsettia. Where are my hundreds of bees and dozens of wasps?
My Best Guess about the Cause
Somebody somewhere has to been spraying something.
I try to provide as much protection and food for the bees, wasps, and other predators as I can. But it is evident that something was done somewhere to adversely affect them.
For a while I didn’t think any were going to show up again. I was thrilled to see even one because it gave me hope for their making a comeback.
The Genius of the Creation
Nature provides so much and makes things so easy, It amazes me how over the past 120 years especially – the majority has been deceived into thinking that nature needs our help —and with chemicals and poisons no less!
Actually, just the opposite is true. We need her help. And she willingly provides it when given the chance.
But that’s what happens when we take for granted that everything told to us and promoted to us is true. Or think — “well that’s the modern way.”
Anytime we put what’s important to our life in the hands of someone else rather than thinking for ourselves — it’s most likely not in our best interest.
Why Things are “Made” Complicated
Most things like gardening, how to stay healthy, how heal, etc. is made complicated only for the money it puts in the pocket of big companies.
Fortunately the truth is still out there. You might have to look around a bit for it. But it can be found.
This website is a good place to start your search. You can find lots of helpful truths right here on Tending My Garden.
How are the bees, wasps, beneficials, and pest bugs doing in your garden this year?
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This has certainly been a strange year for weather, bugs good or bad, plant growth and everything else in the garden. Green beans good, yellow bad. Squash just starting to form female blossoms. Potatoes look good but first time for bugs. Either too much rain or too hard to soak in or dry, dry. Tomatoes still going full bore but some saved seeds aren’t producing look alike while others of same batch are true to form??? Again, never happened before. All part of gardening and still enjoying time spent out there.
So True and not only fewer bugs but fewer birds as well. Chemicals are killing our planet in the name of profit.
Theresa, sorry about your lack of bees. I haven’t had that problem, thank goodness. I have a large patch of Joe Pye Weed that is buzzing with all kinds of bees while it is in bloom. The volunteer Sunflowers attract them too. I have seen a few stink bugs and squash bugs, but not as many as usual. I have not planted squash in the garden for a few years now because they were so bad. I grew pumpkins this year for my grandchildren, and pulled the vines out as soon as the pumpkins turned orange.
I only had 2 tomato horn worms this year, and they both had larvae attache. That was the first time I had ever seen it in real life.
I will probably pick the tomatoes today that have split due to all the rain we had yesterday and today. That is if it stops raining.
Hopefully the good bugs will be back next year, tending your garden.
I Would like to dedicate this post to my mother who died last year at age 98. She was an avid organic gardener who taught me most of what I know. She loved for me to read to her your gardening blog and also from your first book. She was organic back from the late 1940s! A real pioneer that taught me that poison sprays and artificial fertilizers are not only NOT needed but just plain wrong and harmful!
Regarding bugs, I noticed a huge decline in both good and bad bugs this year – 2022. Never saw even one tomato hornworm. Good! But saw a huge reduction in bees of all types. Bad, very bad! I did have some bumblebees, I am happy to report.
I am reporting from Stafford Virginia which is heavily overdeveloped. And not that far from you.
In general the lack of insects this year was alarming.
Glad you brought this subject up. I had been thinking it all summer long. My heart hurts when I see almost no bees. Even yellow jackets were in short supply. When I was young the amount of bees including honeybees and bumblebees was staggering. My parents entire yard hummed in the springtime!
It was loud and wonderful!
Thanks for all you do!
Don in Stafford, Virginia
“Anytime we put what’s important to our life in the hands of someone else – rather than thinking for ourselves — it’s most likely not in our best interest.” This rings so true. The raising and training of children is the first thing that came to mind when I read this.
Less bad bugs overall this year for some reason. No cucumber beetles, very few Japanese beetles, squash bugs, yeah….. kept tearing off the parts of leaves with eggs and flushing them down the toilet, but still have quite a few. Not as bad as last year tho. Squash beetles didn’t fool me with their lady bug disguise this year. Last year their disgusting little yellow nymphs were everywhere.
I went after snails and slugs early before they could eat everything I planted. Last year I was picking off full grown ones, this year they were mostly very small. Don’t know if it’s because I started several weeks earlier, maybe didn’t give them time to mature this time around. But there were several thousand of them overall in the course of a few weeks.
As far as bees and beneficials, they’re around but seemed like not as many bees as in prior years. I read about the life cycle of bumble bees. There were so few in early spring I was worried. Had no idea only the queens overwinter and start all over every year. Have a decent amount of wasps, lots of butterflies and moths too. And bumblebees finally showed up in decent numbers later in spring.
Last Friday I transplanted into a 4 x 8 flowerbed (outside the garden) comfrey on the front corners, sedum in the middle of the front, lambs ear in between the comfreys and sedum, bee balm all across the back, with echinacea down one side and daylilies down the other. In spring I’ll put 4 o’clocks and zinnias in the center. Hope it’ll be a busy little place next season. I’ll keep on adding flowerbeds with things pollinators like as the years go by.
It was kind of funny this spring. Lambs ear had put up flower spikes about the same time bee balm came into flower right next to it, all of which is to the left of my garden bench where I sit and have my morning coffee. The bumblebees were all over the lambs ear and totally ignoring the beebalm.
I’m not surprised that there aren’t a lot of bees here. Walking around my neighborhood it’s nothing but lawns. That get mowed constantly. Might be a token flowerpot here and there, but that’s it. Our yard looks like some kind of jungle compared to everywhere else. Hoping it’ll turn into an oasis for bugs and critters over time.
I’ve read about a study done on mowing frequency and the effect on bees. Every two weeks is optimum. It gives things with pollen enough time to be available for bees. Every week kills their food, every three weeks and the grass gets too long and makes the pollen harder to get too. Don’t know how true this is, but I only mow every two weeks after reading it, just in case they’re right.
God bless and take care,
It’s very interesting – and very concerning – that also other people have noticed a visible decline in bees and bugs this year. I know it’s been going on for a while, but also here in New Zealand, this past summer (2022) felt worse than any previous year. The number of bees (and wasps) in my garden was sooooo minuscule compared to any previous year.
I could partly explain this by having fewer wildflowers in the garden than usual, and I know that some people would say that I shouldn’t compare… but, trust me, the decline was so noticeable – I suspect it can’t just be due to a few flowers missing…
That sounds like last year for me! This year I finally had loads of bees of all kinds (but only a few honey bees), ladybugs were everywhere and I had ants that arrived and literally obliterated the aphids that were feeding on my parsnips and kale. I had another year without potato bugs thank goodness. Although I have some soil issues that I found out about after testing, all in all, it’s been a great season for vegetables where I live, even though we’ve had some hot days that were not “normal” but certainly didn’t break any records (one only needs to do some research to find that most of the weather we’ve had is *not* record breaking and is only hype). Thanks for your newsletters. I just love them. I’ve learned a lot!
Although spray is the first culprit we think of, might be the drought. Bees started showing up when I began deep watering every week. Also kept one end of the yard unmowed and also planted a new bed full of flowers, which gave them a lot to eat.
I’ll reply to other comments as soon as I can, but I wanted to note right away what Abigail’s input brought to mind:
In the last 7 or so years in this area we’ve not had the droughts that we had in years prior to that. The last six weeks we’ve had no rain other than a sprinkling of rain until the other day.
No matter how severe the droughts have been in years gone by (sometimes 3 months long) — I’ve ALWAYS had hundreds and hundreds of bees. And I’ve never had the means to water anything other than a sprinkling can for newly planted seedlings or a select plant.
Many have written to me over the past few years and noted the decline in bees. And although no statement can cover every situation, I feel confident that although drought may not be the best situation for bees or the gardener, it’s not drought that has been the overall cause for the great decline in bees.
We also have had a decline in bees around the garden. We have noticed a couple plants that really attract bees when they bloom. Purple Shiso Perilla Herb grows around our house. We have many as they self seed easily. When they flower… the bees love it. There was approx 4 to 6 bees on each plant and we had many plants.
The other plant that attracts many bees is the fall asters.