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Author Topic: Does Russian Sage kill bees?  (Read 13188 times)
2-Wheeler
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« on: August 02, 2008, 09:12:41 PM »

I've got some Russian Sage (perovskia atriplicifolia) in my yard and it is a quite common landscape plant in Colorado. Historically, the bees seem to love it in the late summer. Everything I've read, suggests that this plant is good for the bees.


I was looking closely at the flowers today with my camera, and saw something awful: many dead bees stuck to the flowers. Across 4 large plants like the one above, I saw about a dozen dead bees. Most were my honeybees, but I also saw a few bumblebees and small native bees. I also saw hundreds of live bees foraging the plants - that didn't seem to be bothered.

Here are some photos of the strange sights I saw:
<a href="http://s150.photobucket.com/albums/s93/2-Wheeler/>[/url]

<a href="http://s150.photobucket.com/albums/s93/2-Wheeler/>[/url]

<a href="http://s150.photobucket.com/albums/s93/2-Wheeler/>[/url]

(There has been no pesticide in the yard.)
Does anyone have an explanation? Has anyone ever seen this before?

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-David Broberg   CWOP#: CW5670 / CoCoRaHS #CO-BO-218
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Ross
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« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2008, 09:04:00 AM »

Do you see any predatory wasps around?  They were probably stung while foraging.
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ArmucheeBee
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« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2008, 09:18:11 AM »

My first thought was "crab spiders".  Look for a white spider with huge forelegs waiting under the flower.  They will not spin a web, just maybe an anchor line.  When a bee or butterfly comes to nectar they grab them and bite.  They may attach a line that keeps the prey on the flower like you see.  Or, are the flowers very sticky so they would hold the bees on like that?   Crab spiders usually mimic their flower.   

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomisidae
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Stephen Stewart
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ArmucheeBee
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« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2008, 09:24:25 AM »

Hold it!  Don't I see a predator in the 1st and 3rd pics?  Looks like an assassin bug.  Greenish-brown holding the bee.
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Stephen Stewart
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johnnybigfish
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« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2008, 09:43:56 AM »

Armucheebee,!!!
 What FANTASTIC SIGHT you have!!!
 After looking closely, I can see it too!!!
 How on earrth did you ever spot that bug??? shocked
 2wheeler, Those are GREAT pics too!! I mean, the subject matter is kinda melancholy, but you have really given a lesson about how bugs can hide their identity. This is really an exciting picture!...Like a "Wheres Waldo" sort of thing!

your friend,
john
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2-Wheeler
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« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2008, 02:00:16 PM »

Hold it!  Don't I see a predator in the 1st and 3rd pics?  Looks like an assassin bug.  Greenish-brown holding the bee.


Thanks for helping me see what this was!  ArmucheeBee was right, I went back out for another closer look and caught a couple of those life-sucking buggers in the act!  This is sad to see, but I guess part of the circle of life when you don't use chemicals. The life of a foraging bee is quite dangerous:





More on the assassin bug or ambush bug from Wikipedia.

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-David Broberg   CWOP#: CW5670 / CoCoRaHS #CO-BO-218
Blog: http://beesandblooms.blogspot.com/
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Shawn
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« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2008, 03:33:37 PM »

Great photos. So do the assassin bugs just hang out on the sage? I planted 6 Russian Sage plants this year because they are listed as a fair source for bees. I have been seeing a little white spider on most of my flowering plants but did not know what they were doing there, no webs. This is why this website is sooo great. You can post your questions, pictures, or problems and within hours you get a great responce. Again great photos.
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ArmucheeBee
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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2008, 05:11:36 PM »

It's all in the trained eye evil!   I have been a biology teacher for 8 years and a country boy for 39--I grew up catching things like that.  Lynx spiders will hang out on flowers too.  I got bit trying to catch one of those--not as bad as a bee sting.
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Stephen Stewart
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johnnybigfish
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« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2008, 06:14:56 PM »

In one of the pics with the killer on the bee I can see the bee stinger sticking out!

your friend,
john
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Rachel
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« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2008, 09:30:31 PM »

Those are AMAZING pictures!!! 
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2-Wheeler
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« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2008, 10:05:28 PM »

Those are AMAZING pictures!!! 

2wheeler, Those are GREAT pics too!! I mean, the subject matter is kinda melancholy, but you have really given a lesson about how bugs can hide their identity. This is really an exciting picture!...Like a "Wheres Waldo" sort of thing!

Great photos. So do the assassin bugs just hang out on the sage? I planted 6 Russian Sage plants this year because they are listed as a fair source for bees. I have been seeing a little white spider on most of my flowering plants but did not know what they were doing there, no webs. This is why this website is sooo great. You can post your questions, pictures, or problems and within hours you get a great responce. Again great photos.


Thanks!  Actually its quite easy to take extreme close-ups when the bee doesn't fly away!  Normally my shots are either blurred by the bee moving away (changing the focus position, not the motion-blur) or the plant moves because of the usually high winds we have here. When it was a calm day and the subject held still = success.

To repeat what Shawn said, this is a great forum and it has been most helpful for me. I hope this posting sticks around for a while and people can find it later using search, if they ever wonder about this mysterious bee killer.

Here is one more shot of that monster. This one was taken in my "lab" and clearly shows the bee's stinger extended. This angle also shows the camouflaged patterns on the Assassin Bug more clearly.

Click here to see the full-size enlargement.
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-David Broberg   CWOP#: CW5670 / CoCoRaHS #CO-BO-218
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My Flickr Album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbroberg/
Frantz
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« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2008, 02:50:52 PM »

Wow!! Kudos to all on this one, That was a facinating post to read. I have Russian sage all over the neighborhood so I knew that the plant did not cause any problem. I never would have guessed it was a little bug like that though. Excellent posts. What a lesson that I have learned today. There is always so much more there than we take time to see!!!
Thanks again all!!
Frantz
I am running out to my russian sage right now to see if any of those buggers are on mine??
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ArmucheeBee
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« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2008, 08:14:43 PM »

I think I'm hearing in some of the posts, that it sounds like some think the assassin bug is found only on the Sage.  Not so, the assassin bug will use any flower/plant where it's camoflage works and where there is prey.  However, I had an assassin bug killing Japanese beetles last week in plain view.  It was Black and Red, no friend of Jack!!!  These of course are warning colors in nature so it could not blend in.
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Stephen Stewart
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KONASDAD
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« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2008, 09:32:56 AM »

Amazinf photos. My bees love my Russian Sage but I will now look for these assassin bugs.
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firetool
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« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2008, 10:54:35 AM »

Does any one know how much of the Russian sage it would take for the bees to make a surplus of honey off of? Is the honey worth having any way?
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Shawn
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« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2008, 12:09:35 PM »

Russian Sage is only listed as a minor source for bees. "Russian Sage Perovskia atriplicifolia Jul - Sep can be ornamental minor." That is from the following link.
 
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Nectar_Sources_for_Honey_Bees
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2-Wheeler
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« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2008, 09:59:57 PM »

Amazing photos. My bees love my Russian Sage but I will now look for these assassin bugs.

Thanks Konasdad. 
Keep in mind I first stumbled upon this assassin on the Russian Sage, but they are indiscriminate killers. I have since found them on a variety of different flowers:


   
On a Zinnia


   
On a Sunflower


   
On a Pincushion

If you've got them, they will be all over.
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-David Broberg   CWOP#: CW5670 / CoCoRaHS #CO-BO-218
Blog: http://beesandblooms.blogspot.com/
My Weather: http://www.leyner.org/
My Flickr Album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbroberg/
Shawn
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« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2008, 12:44:28 PM »

SO far so good hear. Ive looked over my plants and have not found any.
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