Hybridizers: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias, 1 by Zen_Man
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In reply to: It can be fun to breed your own zinnias
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"Just hate when I get up at 4 in the morning to try and beat the bees, only to find out they have gotten up earlier than me."
I had the same problem for years. I decided to make "hair nets" to keep the bees from robbing my prime pollen. The nets can also be used to keep bees from pollinating prime female blooms. I make the nets from inexpensive net fabric that I purchase in the Walmart fabric and sewing section. I imagine that other fabric stores would have similar materials. I chose a net fabric with an open weave to allow good air circulation and exposure to light, while keeping the bees at bay. I found that the color black made the nets less "visible" in the garden.
I make the nets using sharp scissors or a roller cutter to cut the fabric, black yarn as a joiner material, a big needle to "sew" with the yarn, and a big needle threader to make it easier to thread the big needle. I alternate the yarn from the front to the back about every ½" to ¾". It's not necessary to make the stitches very close together. I suppose if you had a serger handy you could also use that to sew the nets. I have a serger, but it takes me quite a while to thread the thing, so I just use the knitting needle. I can make several nets in an hour.
The attached picture shows my current favorite net design, although I have used other more elaborate designs and a simpler design. Some designs are easier to make and some are more resistant to being blown off of the bloom in a storm or high wind. A design based on a tetrahedron with seams open at one vertex was perhaps the best at hanging onto the blooms in storms, but was also more tedious to construct and to install on a zinnia bloom. After a storm, I pick up any blown-off nets and re-install them.
The nets are quite effective against honeybees, bumble bees, and carpenter bees, even though the bottom is "open". The bees are quite impatient and don't search the net for a way in. They simply fly off to the nearest unprotected bloom.
For the most part, butterflies are not deterred by the nets and use their long drinking tube to reach through the openings in the net to drink nectar from the disk florets. Hummingbirds also frequent my zinnia patch, but I haven't noticed yet whether they sip nectar through the nets. I don't consider butterflies or hummingbirds a serious problem in my zinnia breeding. I enjoy their presence. It is a little startling when a hummingbird flies right by my ear. The whirring noise is loud. I am present in my zinnia patch frequently enough that the hummingbirds have come to ignore me, and will feed quite near where I am working.
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