The long dry summer has turned into a tough drought for Tyler County. Even though the mornings have become cool and the beginnings of fall are barely visible, the damage from the lack of rain is apparent. Everything around is us brown and crunchy, but yesterday we did have about a half inch of rain out here. The clouds and rain feel like manna from heaven as it breaks up the heat. My tomatoes have been wiped out, unable to hold out against the unrelenting sun. Many of my other plants have actually thrived in the sun, merely requiring more water to grow, but have been stifled by the lack of bees. I have no way to directly link the drought to the lack of bees, but just by observance it seems pretty clear.
For one thing it is not just bees that have taken a loss in the new dry climate. The first few summers we spent in East Texas were filled with mosquito bites from the never ending swarms that feasted upon us and our kids. I remember rushing the kids from the car into the house and still finding several bites on their legs. Both kids were mildly allergic and the bites would swell and drive them insane. One year it was so bad we had to hang a mosquito zapper inside the house by the front door. Every time anyone opened the door the house at least a few of the ravenous critters would get in. The kids would wake up covered in bites that they had scratched into open wounds. We practically had stock in Benadryl those years. Besides the mosquitoes, another benefit is the number of garden pests which has dropped dramatically.
No matter how nice it is to not have the mosquitoes and garden pests, the lack of bees is disturbing and directly effects the productivity of the garden. This year I will have to looking getting my own bee hives. I will almost certainly try to use mason bees because they are supposed to be easy to manage. I don't know how many dry summers will follow this one and the effects may only be get dramatic if the weather continues. I know of one home owner in Tyler County who already has pine beetles destroying a tree in their yard. Since pine beetles are most likely to effected damaged trees or those weakened by drought they could spread quickly if this continues. The economy of this area revolves around pine trees, the combination of drought and infestation could be tragic.
According to the us Drought Monitor many parts of Texas are in the extreme drought range, while we fall between moderate and severe. It is frustrating since we moved here in part to escape the long dry summers of Las Vegas. In the seven years we have lived in Tyler county we have had two hurricanes and three years of drought. Both of which are uncommon for this area. As the weather drives up food prices, the need for a productive garden becomes more apparent and more challenging.