Soil Testing and pH Imbalances

Soil Testing and pH Imbalances

How healthy is the turf grass on your property? Even if your turf looks healthy, it might not be getting all the nutrients needed from the soil due to pH imbalances. Soil texture, water, sun light intensity and duration, fertilizer applications, and time are just a few of the many factors that can change the makeup of soil pH. I’m going to focus on soil texture and fertilizer applications for this purpose.

An ideal pH balance in the soil is between 6 and 7.5. This is where most nutrients are available for plant intake including many of the micronutrients that are often overlooked. A proper soil test can determine the pH, soil texture, and nutrient availability. Soil texture is a percentage of sand, silt, and clay in your soil. Each one of these soil types has different properties that affect what is actually in your soil. CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) is what we measure for nutrient availability in different soil types. CEC varies greatly between sand and clay particles. A sandy soil is likely to leach nutrients and water very fast resulting in a very slow rise in soil pH. As you can imagine, a heavy clay soil is the opposite from sand. Typically a steady rise in pH is due to sulfur retention and build-up from fertilizer and little water leaching if any.

Fertilizers can be used in many different forms (i.e. liquid, powder, granular). The most commonly used fertilizer form is granular due to its safety for the applicator, relative safety for the environment, and general ease of a uniform application. These granules often have a sulfur coating around the outside of the granule. As the granule gets watered and starts breaking down, the sulfur is released into the soil. The result is a rise in pH over time. Granted, sulfur is a micronutrient that plants use, but the usage is so little that the sulfur is either bound to the soil particles, slowly raising the pH, or it gets leached out.

A soil test is administered through a soil probe provided by John Deere Landscapes. The soil is placed in a bag and mailed off to The University of Minnesota for testing. When testing is completed, the results will be mailed back to Barrett Lawn Care where a full analysis can be done and we can determine the appropriate solution for your particular lawn needs.

If a soil test is administered and the results show a pH change is needed, Barrett Lawn Care can correct this issue for you. Lime is applied to turf to lower pH and sulfur is applied in the rare instance that your lawn is actually alkaline and needs to be raised. With a proper pH range in the soil, you can be rest assured that the soil under your turf is providing the best medium for growing a lush, healthy lawn.

By Chris Reifsteck, Chemical Applicator & Emerald Ash Borer Specialist at Barrett Lawn Care

Why Prune?

Why Prune?

Proper pruning can result in healthier plants. Pruning promotes strong scaffold branching, better air circulation, and reduces potential safety hazards. Pruning at the proper time will encourage better flowering and fruit development.

Cut It Out

Arborists recommend removal of dead wood, weak or crossing branches, and co-dominant leaders as a first step in the pruning process. The smaller or younger branches will callous over much faster than larger branches. This prevents intrusion of a pathogen or decay. Branches greater than four inches can leave a vulnerable scar for most of the tree’s life. Removing problem branches early in the life of a tree or shrub is critical for overall health.

Tree Trimming

Clipped, Snipped, & Whipped

Pruning many woody plants is best done while they are dormant because of disease concerns. Rejuvenating older shrubs can also be accomplished while dormant. Cutting most of the old wood very short stimulates buds to form new stems. This is very stressful for the plants and should be done infrequently. It is better to remove some of the older wood each year and leave a mix of both young and old wood. Shearing trees and shrubs is different and is best done when the plants have completed an active growth stage.

Cost Effective

It is more cost effective to prune trees while they are young. Establishing good structure and branch formation in young trees will aid in preventing costly storm damage later. Sometimes the trees become so dangerous and misshaped that removal becomes necessary.
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Who Says?

The U.S. Forest Service created a Tree Owner’s Manual to help people avoid the most common mistakes and be more successful with their tree care. Good structural pruning is recommended no less than three times during the first ten years after planting. Pruning young trees is often overlooked by property owners. Up to 80% of new trees never make it to maturity. Most perish in the first five years after planting.

Major Surgery (Or not)

We can’t measure a tree’s pulse or take it’s temperature to diagnose it’s health. Sometimes plants are too weak to be useful in the landscape, or won’t last through many more Minnesota winters. Experienced Arborists can make an evaluation and give appropriate recommendations.

We are genuinely concerned about your landscape and what your plants need to thrive. Our Arborist and plant care professionals are ready to help. Give Barrett Lawn Care a call today to set up an appointment!

Think Vertical

Think Vertical

According to Dictionary.com, the word “landscaping” (as a verb) is: to improve the appearance of (an area of land, a highway, etc.), as by planting trees, shrubs, or grass, or altering the contours of the ground.

landscape
We all get the “planting trees, shrubs, or grass” portion of this description. What about the last bit? “Altering the contours of the ground” can mean quite a lot of things. Most property owners will only think of changing the topography of their landscape when they feel it will serve a purpose such as reclaiming usable space due to a slope (i.e. retaining walls). Though soil retention is extremely important, there are other reasons that often get ignored.
If one were to take a drive around and observe individual yards, it would soon be evident that not every property has a hill or even a mild slope. Aside from the standard minimum 2% grade, a lot of lawns are essentially flat. Too many times property owners (and landscape companies alike) just take the easy road and insert edging, plant, rock, and mulch material in the ground before calling it good. What never occurs to them is that landscaping should be viewed as a multi-dimensional undertaking. There are colors, textures, seasonal interest, size, and vertical elements that need to be addressed. Ignoring even one of these can result in a poor or, at best, a down-right boring landscape.


In nature (or at least the “nature” I try to emulate as a designer), the native terrain is rarely flat. Oh yes, there are exceptions, but in general, there are very few places we find pleasing out in the environment that are as level as a baseball field. Berms are magic. Easy to install, they add instant height and interest to any landscape. Trees, shrubs, and perennials of all types thrive in them. When outcrop boulders are inserted, a little Karl Foerster grass, rudbeckia, Echinacea, and some conifers thrown in – look out! You just transformed your yard into a scene reminiscent of something north of Duluth. Well, it may take more than one berm to do that, but you get the point.

 

A little undulation of soil goes a long way in improving the aesthetics of a property. When properly incorporated, this simple technique can make a world of difference.

By Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer at Barrett Lawn Care

Shade Garden

Shade Garden

I have previously blogged about shady areas in the Landscape and some viable options for making them aesthetically pleasing. I have spent the past two years constructing a Shade Garden on my personal property, and would like to share some of the details with you. I hope you all find it inspiring. My family and friends enjoy it daily throughout the summer season! It’s a really great place to relax!
The western half of my “usable” yard is the area of topic. I have a space of about 1,000ft² that I fenced in for a vegetable garden as it gets a lot of full sun. This was part of Phase I as it were. Phase I ended up comprising of a complete renovation of the main portion of my property. In doing this project I added irrigation heads on 4’ risers for my entire vegetable garden.

Shade Garden 1
Bordering this portion of my landscape to the west was a space of about another 1,000ft² that seemed a nuisance to me, or at least for the better portion of the first summer I owned this property. This space had my vegetable garden to the east, my garage to the north, my neighbors’ fence to the south, and off to the west a steep decline in elevation and a primarily wooded space filling the remainder of my property. This provided me a 30” gate between my vegetable garden and garage wall as an access point. Due to the wooded area this space had little direct sunlight throughout the day, and I had not put irrigation in this area during Phase I. All of these conditions proved conducive to very mediocre turf, and an unattractive space in my yard. I already knew that I didn’t really want grass in this space even IF I could make it successfully grow with a little work. What do I do with this…?

Shade Garden 2 for Derek blog
After a couple of months of thoughts coming and going, an opportunistic solution presented itself. What if I just extended my vegetable garden to the edge of the hill? I can easily extend my irrigation system, as I would only need two additional heads to get 100% matched precipitation, and with about 40 linear feet of fence I would have it all contained. This solution did not attain my wife’s approval. The issue with this idea, according to her, was I already produced much more vegetables than we could use. I had to concede; she had a very valid point. Back to the drawing board I went.
I stewed about my property for another period of time paying closer attention to the photoperiods in this space. I quickly discovered that I had an intriguing sunlight spectrum in my little space of opportunity. Over approximately 30 linear feet (east to west) I had two, arguably three, distinct photoperiods. This left me excited and dismayed, but at least I knew what I was up against.

Shade Garden 3 for Derek blog
At last I had a solid idea. Why not just create a Shade Garden…? I presented this thought to my wife, and it met with her approval so long as it was over a period of time, thus not stressing our budget. I agreed and Phase II had begun.

Shade Garden 4 for Derek blog
The first step to this phase was to eliminate the mediocre turf. I sprayed this with a non-selective herbicide and began planning in the week I would have for the herbicide to run its’ course. I had a mostly sunny area, a mostly shady area, and a shady area in this space. Once the turf was dead, I added the two irrigation heads I would need to attain 100% coverage. After this was complete, I began to plant, literally one car-full of pots at a time. This route worked well for us as it proved inexpensive each time we added plants, and it bought us time to determine what we wanted to plant where. The volume of perennials available to suit our needs was almost incomprehensible. Over the course of the next twelve months or so I continued this process.

Shade Garden 5 for Derek blog
In July of 2014 I filled the last open space, and breathed a sigh of relief. Finally this nuisance space had a purpose. The end result offered a beautiful space with a walking path through it. The plants completely fill the space about the pathway as they mature. Thus, we only have to keep mulch on the walkway, rather than the entire 1,000ft². This design also proves successful in virtually eliminating weed growth. I planted literally dozens of different perennials, and a couple shrubs, in this area so I’m choosing to not even attempt mentioning them all here! I will add that I placed a few grasses in this area, and it worked, even though there isn’t a lot of direct sunlight to be found. This proves that sometimes it’s fun to experiment with the rules!

Shade Garden 6
In the end we now have a wide variety of elevation in this space, and no matter what the season is, we have an extensive color spectrum in our Shade Garden. This all worked together better than I could have hoped, and I found this staged process to be therapeutic. If there were benefits I had honestly not intended it would be the multitude of bees, birds, and butterflies that visit this space daily, and spending time with our young daughter in it. She is fascinated by all of the things going on in this little piece of nature inside the big city.

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

Smart Controller

Smart Controller

Technology is always changing and that is no different in the green industry. We are always looking for new and exciting advances to help save you time and money. One technology that is always changing in irrigation is the controller. There have been many features added over the years to better help you save time and money.

Smart controllers and ET controllers are the latest type to come out in recent years. ET stands for evapotranspiration, which means these controllers take into account soil type, sprinkler type, rain, wind, climate, and plant type to determine how much water is necessary for your lawn. By using these controllers you don’t have to worry about over watering during a rainy or colder week, the controller adjusts its run times for you, saving you time and money.

As the technology improves more and more of these controllers will be hitting the market.  If you are interested in learning more about these controllers or would like to have an estimate on installing one, please give Barrett Lawn Care a call and start saving water today!

By Bob Balgie, Irrigation Technician at Barrett Lawn Care

Monocot Mania

Monocot Mania
Ornamental Grasses

Found in the perennial section of your local garden center, ornamental grasses can provide a host of different uses in the landscape. There are a handful of these grasses that stand out since they are used so often. Calamagrostis xacutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is probably the most recognized of these. They are showy, easy & rapid growers, and fit extremely well in perennial plantings.

1

But there certainly are others and they all present their own unique look. There is a myriad of color and size, and texture possibilities. As we look at some of these, let’s also touch on the benefits of ornamental grasses.

Blue Heaven Little Bluestem
Blue Heaven Little Bluestem

Except for some spring cutback, ornamental grasses are very low maintenance. They generally have low nutrient requirements with insect and disease problems being rare.

Prairie Dropseed
Prairie Dropseed

White-tailed deer do not eat most ornamental grasses making them ideal for Minnesota properties.

Shenandoah Switch Grass
Shenandoah Switch Grass

Grasses are fast growing and most reach their mature size in about 3 years. A grass of note is Miscanthus x ‘Giganteus GIANT MISCANTHUS which can reach heights of 11 feet in zone 4. As a side note, research is proving great potential of this grass as an alternative source of energy to produce ethanol.

Ornamental grasses are also desirable for their movement in the wind and multiple-season interest. They are a jewel of an accent to any landscape and should be seriously considered on any property.

Silver Feather Japanese silver grass
Silver Feather Japanese silver grass

 

 

By Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer at Barrett Lawn Care

 

Soak it up!

Soak it up!
Capturing water and reducing runoff in the landscape

A Typical city block will create five times more water runoff than a similar sized forested area. Why should you care? What’s the big deal?

Where should I start?

Runoff will pick up and transfer:
• Soil particles that clog streams and reduce oxygen
• Nutrients
• Heat
• Oil
• Bacteria
• Grease
• Trash
• Fertilizers
• Pesticides
• Animal waste
• Road salt
…and other chemicals and pollutants that all can negatively affect the receiving water and aquatic ecosystems.

There are things that can be done to reduce the amount of water running off an individual property. You will never be able to collect all of it unless you live in a pond. The idea is the more of us that do it, the better for everyone and everything around us.

One of the biggest contributors to runoff is the amount of paved surfaces we have on our properties. That little fact I gave at the beginning of this subject perfectly illustrates this idea. Logically we should start there.

Limit or reduce the size of hard and paved surfaces when possible.
It could be something like adding a vegetative strip in the middle of the driveway. Since the only thing that touches the ground is a car’s tires, why not put grass, groundcover, or mulch in that unused space? There are a variety of permeable paving systems available now that are both aesthetically pleasing and very functional at allowing water to soak into the ground.

Paver patio

Replacing impervious paving with gravel, paving stones, cobble, mulch, and wooden decking where appropriate will be just as functional and do wonders to reducing runoff while adding positive landscape value. Not everything has to be concrete pavement. In fact, adding permeable surfaces will often enhance a property’s visual appeal.

Another thought (while we are on the subject of paving surfaces) is to replace the pavement at the bottom of your driveway with a French drain or grate. Lining impermeable surfaces with gravel trenches may also be effective. It’s okay to think outside the box. My career as a designer relies heavily on it!

Let landscape and nature to do the dirty work.
An exciting trend in the landscaping world today is the use of the rain garden. This effective feature can be a beautiful addition to any property. Essentially it is a shallow concave garden that prevents water runoff by allowing storm water to slowly soak into the ground, permitting impurities to settle out in as little as a few hours.

Rain Garden

Rain gardens can be placed at the bottom of a slope, by an outlet, by driveways, or naturally occurring low spots. It can be where water naturally flows or is directed by other means (which I will explain later). These gardens can prevent erosion and make a natural choice as a buffer to shoreline areas.

To make a rain garden effective, the right kind of soil and plant material need to be in place. These gardens will usually be dry most of the time so plants that can handle both wet and dry conditions must be present. The plant material that possess the ability to tolerate “wet feet” should be placed at the bottom while plants that require less water should go toward the top.

Aside from the above conditions, there are a few more rules that should be followed. A proper rain garden should drain 1” of rain in about four hours. Avoidance of standing water is critical for the prevention of mosquito breeding. Anyone in Minnesota understands what this means!

To prevent other problems, the rain garden should not be placed within 10’ of a house. Avoid septic tanks, buried utilities, and placing near walls. Damage from digging and the fact that water can be a destructive force should be reason enough for understanding the implications.

Making sure the water is flowing in the right direction and at the proper rate is imperative. If the natural flow of water is too fast and not moving where you would like it to, then reducing slope, creating berms, and digging swales are a goody remedy. Berms can be used to slow runoff on a steep slope, and swales can be directed toward a storm drain or rain garden. A swale can be filled with vegetation or even stone to create a dry creek bed. In any case, these manipulations are extremely effective and visually appealing methods.

Native plants, such as shrubs and wildflowers, have larger and hardier root systems than turf. These plants will hold much more water than grass. Not only will they help with runoff problems, they will require much less maintenance! Along with native plants, the planting of trees and the preserving of existing ones will serve you well. The root systems that absorb water over a large area and the canopy that slows rainwater can cut runoff considerably. The addition of compost or mulch to the soil will also prove helpful. Just don’t leave soil exposed! If you can’t or don’t want to insert plant material in a particular area of exposed soil, by all means, cover it with mulch, wood chips, or gravel.

The roof and the rain.
As a general rule:
1” of rainfall on a 1000 square foot roof will yield about 600 gallons of water.

What?!

That is a LOT of water. A lot of FREE water. You COULD connect some drain tile out about five or more feet and connect it to a pop-up emitter. It works great to get the water away from your foundation and we do it all the time. Running that rainwater away from the house to a swale or rain garden is desirable. But what if you could collect SOME of that water and use it? Yup—you can. It is called a rain barrel.

Rain Barrell

Rain barrels are inexpensive, easy to install, easy to operate and maintain. They come in a number of materials, and a variety of shapes and sizes. The system is essentially a barrel connected to a downspout that collects and stores rainwater. Most have an overflow safeguard which sends excess water away to a secondary collection vessel or downspout when the barrel is full. The barrel is equipped with a spigot or hose for the purpose of watering plants.

Now there is a “but” to this seemingly miracle device. Since a roof may contain bacteria and other disease causing organisms from bird and other animal waste, the water collected should NOT be consumed or used on edible plants such as garden vegetables. In fact, the barrel should probably be emptied and rinsed out every so often. If algae begins to grow in the barrel, one tablespoon of household bleach will stop the growth and not hurt landscape plants.

A couple of other things to remember– if you choose to acquire a rain barrel it is advisable to keep the lid of the barrel tightly sealed to prevent mosquitos from breeding and to prevent access by animals and children. The barrel should also be emptied and disconnected in preparation for winter to prevent freezing and cracking.

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t include the green roof in the conversation. For the typical homeowner, this is not really a viable option considering its unique nature. A green roof is a roof that usually contains a liner, insulation, drainage system, planting medium, and drought tolerant, low maintenance plants. As you can see, this is more of an option in a downtown, urban setting where open space is a commodity. They are perfect for high-rise buildings, where they shine in runoff management, lowering temperatures associated with urban heat islands, and improving air quality.

Urban green roof

Final thoughts:
Being a lawn and landscape company, we at Barrett Lawn Care AREN’T going to tell you NOT to install an irrigation system in your lawn and plant beds. We, in fact, highly recommend that you DO for a number of important reasons. The aesthetics and health of your lawn depend on frequent watering. However, responsibility must be taken. Our irrigation department will make sure that your yard gets the water it needs only when necessary by installing a weather-based sensor automatic system. These sensor systems take into account a number of different factors including: recent rain events, relative humidity, temperature, and time of day. We will make sure the water gets where it needs to and not on the driveway or other paved surfaces.

As a landscape designer, the topic of water runoff opens up a lot of opportunity for creativity. No two properties are exactly the same in respect to runoff conditions and taste of the homeowner. I take great pride in being able to walk that line and finding unique solutions within those bounds. The next time some rain passes through your neck-of-the-woods, take note of how your yard handles that water. I am sure you (like most of us) are going to notice some room for improvement!

http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/living-green/living-green-citizen/yard-and-garden/capturing-rainwater-and-preventing-runoff.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Reduce-Stormwater-Runoff-at-Your-Home

http://www.nesc.wvu.edu/pdf/ww/publications/pipline/PL_WI10.pdf

http://www.energyinnovationcorridor.com/page/showcase/target-center-vegetated-roof/

http://www.belgard.com/products/pavers/eco_dublin

http://www.wvwa.org/education/Sustainable-Gardening-Techniques/Rain-Barrels/134/

By Chad Bischoff, Landscape Designer at Barrett Lawn Care

Professional Installation of a Sprinkler System

Are you thinking about installing a sprinkler system? Debating on trying to install it on your own? There are many benefits of having a professional install your irrigation system; including saving time, headaches, water, and money.

Your irrigation professional at Barrett Lawn Care will be aware of any new technologies that could save you water and money. With our expertise in design, your professionally installed system will give proper coverage with aim to minimize water while keeping your lawn luscious and green. At BLC we offer a five year warranty on workmanship, which is insurance that your irrigation system will be functioning at its best for summers to come and alleviate the headache of time spent on repair and frustration.

There is no need to worry when having a professional install your irrigation system. At Barrett Lawn Care we will design, install, and maintain a top tier sprinkler system that will leave you with a healthy lawn to enjoy for years to come. Give us a call to set up an appointment to discuss options, benefits, and an estimate to get your lawn looking the best on the block!

By Bob Balgie, Irrigation Technician at Barrett Lawn Care

Hibiscus in Minnesota

Who doesn’t love the captivating beauty of a hibiscus plant? As most of us know, the hibiscus is a tropical plant. This fact has always meant that in order to have a hibiscus plant for our own, we had to follow some rules in order to keep it alive.

A hibiscus tree at a residential property maintained by Barrett Lawn Care.
A hibiscus tree at a residential property maintained by Barrett Lawn Care.

We had to keep it in the house, or at least for most of the year. We had to ensure that it always had enough sun through our windows. We could put it outside in the summer, but had to be very careful of the overnight temperatures in the spring and fall. Of course it always had to be inside in the winter.

Thanks to vast advances in plant propagation, this set of rules has changed. There are growers now that are consistently offering a handful of hibiscus varieties that can be grown outdoors in Minnesota! Is this too good to be true? Does this REALLY work? I have had the opportunity to get to know some of these hybrid hibiscus plants currently available in Minnesota. Let’s take a closer look.

Hibiscus vine

Most of the hibiscus plants you find are going to claim that they are hardy to Zone 5a. You should be able to find a couple that claim a hardiness of Zone 4a. The Cranberry Crush Hibiscus is a great example of a 4a variety. I will commit to the theory that if you properly care for any hybrid hibiscus classified Zone 4a-5a you CAN plant all of them as far North as Zone 4a. Now should you choose to go beyond Zone 4a, I’ll say best of luck, and if it works please email me with the details on your care to accomplish that!

A beautiful Cranberry Crush hibiscus.
A beautiful Cranberry Crush hibiscus.

There really isn’t anything too complicated to make these perennials work in Zone 4. As with all plants, they need the appropriate amount of daily sunlight. Now, I’ll often say that the photoperiods recommended by the grower can be shifted quite a bit and will still successfully grow, but it’s important to adhere closely to their guidelines on these perennials. Of course they require an appropriate amount of water and fertilizer in order to thrive. I have found that they perform best in soil that’s consistently quite moist. I apply no more than one tablespoon of a slow release fertilizer at the base of the plant once per month throughout the growing season. These, as we know, are perennials and therefore they must be cut back annually and will grow from the root again every spring. All of the growers that I’m familiar with recommend cutting the plant back late in the fall. This is where I disagree with what they say. I have found nearly a 100% success rate when I prune the dead canes off in the spring versus the fall.

Hibiscus 1
Hibiscus plants are known for their large blooms.

 

I won’t claim to have a bunch of scientific data to validate my theory over theirs, but here’s my reasoning: Hibiscus isn’t acclimated to grow here. It’s a delicate hybrid perennial. The enemy of the hibiscus is the cold weather. If we allow the entire plant, canes and roots, to go dormant together it stays one complete system throughout the winter not unlike a deciduous tree. There is no wound introduced in the plant right before the winter season arrives. In the spring, once the ground temperatures have reached 50°F or so, prune the dead canes a couple of inches above the crown.

Hibiscus 2
A Zone 4a hardy hibiscus.

 

This theory may not produce a 100% success rate forever, but how many things in the plant world are 100% guaranteed? I will say that I have yet to see a hibiscus not grow back in the spring when following my theory, but I have seen them fail to return when the canes were cut off in the fall. Is this coincidence? I guess I’ll let you decide, and if you gather evidence against my theory, feel free to provide me that information. Note that hibiscus plants are very late to grow in the spring, so don’t write them off as dead unless they haven’t returned until into the month of June! If you believe they are not going to return I recommend carefully digging around the crown looking for signs of life before disturbing the root system.

Hibiscus 3

As you venture into adding hibiscus plants to your landscape, I will recommend a provider to you. I have a tremendous amount of faith and trust in Gertens Greenhouses & Garden Center located in Inver Grove Heights, MN.

Enjoy!

By Derek Tweten, Landscape Manager at Barrett Lawn Care

The Growing Concern for Honey Bees in Our Environment

Honey Bees have been the topic of much debate recently throughout the community, state, and national level. The fact is that all bees are a major resource for pollinating a countless number of plants that humans depend on for sustainability as well as aesthetic purposes. Let’s look at a couple different factors that could be contributing to the sharp decline in bee populations.

In late 2006 into the spring of 2007, beekeepers noticed that they were losing 30 percent of their population compared to the average 10 percent. Some beekeepers even reported having 80 percent kill in the winter of 2006. People might think 10 percent is a large number of bees dying each year, but all the males in the colony are kicked out of the hive before winter sets in. These numbers have not declined all that much in recent years.

One theory, a disease now named Colony Collapse Disorder, came through wiping out massive numbers of colonies. There were no bees to be found anywhere; colonies were emptied out except for a queen and the young. There were also no dead bees around the hive. They simply disappeared. The only explanation with this theory is that this disease disoriented the bees, causing them to fly aimlessly in any direction and fall to the ground to their deaths when they ran out of energy.

Bee graph
Graph information is hard to see, but this shows the decline in colonies since the 1940’s, including when Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) hit in 2007.

The other theory behind bee decline is a new line of chemicals introduced about ten years ago called neonicotinoids. This chemical replaced organophosphates and carbamates that are also highly toxic but not as residual compared to neonicotonoids. Either way, all these chemicals go into the tissue of the plant, including flowering parts and pollen, causing anything feeding on it to ingest it. Now, in the defense of pesticide applicators, they aren’t out spraying bees intentionally. Aphids, beetles, and other problem insects are the target of these insecticides. Bees and other beneficial insects sadly become collateral damage of these applications.

Thankfully, bees are an extremely resilient insect and can bounce back easily. More research is coming out all the time on these insecticides and how we can improve the technology, their manufacturing, and even the application. Most importantly, applicators are becoming aware and are receiving more training and experience in how to handle delicate bee populations and not misuse a chemical.

There are many lawsuits currently in court all the way up to the Supreme Court concerning bees and the new chemicals that are on the market today. In the past two years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made it mandatory that all chemicals remotely dangerous to honey bees have a specific picture on the label indicating that extra precaution is necessary. This topic is going to get worse before it gets better, but the important thing is that people are talking about it and are thinking about the right thing to do and how to go about it.

New chemical label that indicates hazard to bees.
New chemical label that indicates hazard to bees.

At Barrett Lawn Care, we are taking all the necessary steps to make sure we are protecting the environment and the bee population with sound practices and accurate applications. If you would like to know more about honey bees, please visit the following links:

www.earthjustice.org/bees‎
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee
www.fcps.edu/…/ecology/honey_bee.htm

~Chris Reifsteck, Chemical Application Specialist at Barrett Lawn Care