Have you ever seen one of these?
Um – yeah. I think they look like the insect equivalent of Freddy Krueger! It’s called a Bald Face Hornet, or a Bull Hornet, or any number of different names. Of course, I have a few more off-color names for them that I won’t reveal in this blog because I am a lady, for heaven’s sake. But let me tell you, these things are menacing!
And they are in my green bean plants!
Thankfully, I have learned the four tones of the different bees in my beans: The gentle hummmmmm of our honey bees, the annoying buzzzzzzzz of the yellow jackets, the loud “get out of my way!!” vroooooommm that emanates from the carpenter bees and bumble bees, and then the scary, terrorizing, deep and resonating (think Harley-Davidson) rumblerumblerumble of the Bald Face Hornets.
It started about three weeks ago when my green beans were really starting to put on beans. I had a lot of pollinators buzzing around and was so happy because I knew I was going to have a great crop of beans! Just like at our home in the valley, the carpenter bees, honey bees and bumble bees are the main pollinators. My beans are planted with cucumbers, amaranth and sugar beets (which are flowering right now), so there is a smorgasbord of pollen for the bees.
Then came the Hornets.
I started having to pick my beans with gloves on, because I noticed that they went toward the movement of my fingers. Gaaaaaaaaaaa! They would dart so close to my fingers that I could feel the vibrations of their wings on my hands. I figured the hornets had moved into the area to pick off the honey bees as they were pollinating, which explains why they were excited by the movement of my fingers. Which also explains why I don’t see any honey bees pollinating the beans anymore! I think the bumble bees and carpenter bees are just too big for the hornets to bother with.
Funny story: I enjoy eating the vegetables in my garden while I am working, plucking them off the bush, vine, plant and plopping it right into my mouth. Mmmmmm… tomatoes, green beans, strawberries. Yum! No – I don’t wash first. A little bit of dirt didn’t hurt anybody. Well, one day last week I was picking green beans, eating a few here and there, and when I chomped into one… it gooshed instead of crunched. I spit it out and looked at it. I didn’t have my glasses on, but it really didn’t look any different – it was green – but it was gooshy. I threw it aside and didn’t think about it until the next day when I was picking beans again. I saw a small hole in one of the beans and wondered, “what in the world?” Then a few plucked beans later I saw it…
Ugh… a caterpillar and, eeewwwwww… I must have bitten into a caterpillar the other day!
And they were eating my beans!
And that’s what is attracting the Bald Face Hornets!
The light bulb turned on.
Just this morning when I was picking beans I saw a hornet catching a plump, juicy caterpillar that was eating a hole in one of my beans! So – even though the hornets eat my honeybees, they are also eating the caterpillars that are eating my beans! So I guess every menacing creature does have redeeming qualities. I suppose. Sigh.
Then, I noticed the Hornets were also menacing my honeybees in their watering pond! The bees have been using this watering trough all spring/summer, and everything has been copacetic – that is until the hornets moved in. I sadly watched as bee after bee was literally plucked off the plants by the hornets! Gaaaaaaa! This is a sad, sad day, indeed, for the bees. However, I don’t think the hornets will actually kill enough to hurt the hive. You see, a queen bee can lay more than 2,000 eggs every day, so if the hornets take a couple dozen bees every day – well – I guess that’s just nature. Sad, but true. Not much we can do about it anyway.
So… “how are my beans doing?” you might ask.
Oh! Thank you for asking!
Great! Holy cow, these things are producing like hotcakes. They are worse (or as good as?) the zucchini at this point! We grew Kentucky Wonder beans this year, and they grew so tall that I had to trellis them, because they wanted to grow taller than my ladder could reach. I have pressure canned two batches of beans already and am about ready to can another batch. I just adore green beans in a beef stew, or tucked into a chicken pot pie, or just cooked up with some bacon, onion and black pepper. Of course chicken with green beans cooked in an Asian stir fry sauce over rice just can’t be beat! Yum!
This year I wanted to try growing some red noodle beans. Last year I grew some Asparagus Long Beans and really enjoyed it, and learned a lot! So, this year I wanted to try another variety of the long bean.
The red beans are great! Not quite as prolific as the green asparagus beans, but they are a lot easier to find in the bushes due to their nice brick red color! And with my aging eyes, that is a good thing, indeed! One thing I learned last year about the Asparagus Long Bean was that one of their main pollinators were ants! Can you believe it? Ants, of all things! Unfortunately, I haven’t found very many ants on my Red Noodle Beans, so maybe that is why they haven’t done as well as the green ones. I think, just as an experiment, I will try both beans next year side by side to see which one is truly the winner.
Something else I am experimenting with this year is the amount of green bean plants to grow so I have enough to pressure can at least 42 pints of beans, which will give us one pint a week for a year. Yeah – I know – there are 52 weeks in a year, but for the other 10 weeks a year we will be eating FRESH beans.
Until the harvest is done, the jury is still out, but right now I would guess that I will need somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 bean plants. I’m also not sure which green bean is better. Last year we tried a pole variety called Contender green beans. They did well, but when all is said and done, I don’t think they will have done as well as the Kentucky Wonders that we are growing this year.
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