BUT MY QUESTION TO YOU IS......WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT????
I stay pretty involved with the latest news coming out about the decline of our pollinators. This includes both Honey Bees and our Native Pollinators, like Bumble Bees, Orchard Mason Bees, Leaf Cutter Bees (just to name a few), but my question to you ....YES YOU reading this blog!!
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP THE POLLINATORS?
I attended a conference this past October. It was held in Hendersonville, NC. A beautiful little city in the North Carolina mountains. The temps of the hot summer had cooled down a little, but the topics at the "First National Conference on Protecting Pollinators in the Ornamental Landscapes" were a HOT item.
Since the President's Task Force to create a Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators was implemented in June. 2014, I had heard a few news items regarding the subject, but nothing like I heard at this conference.
Almost every state college in the US was represented at this conference, including Colleges from the UK and Canada. The president's task force approved grant money allowing field trials to be conducted regarding the status of our pollinators and the effects of various stresses. There was a day and a half of reports by Professors and undergrad students that conducted these field trials. To me, there was overwhelming evidence that there has been a decline of all pollinators due to three (3) factors.
Lack of Habitat, Pests and Pesticides!!
Of course, there was no media present at this conference and none of this made any headlines news, but representatives from Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science were both there (they were actually sponsors of the conference). Neither company could dispute the findings nor did they have any real current solutions to the problem. After all, they are pesticide companies. They make pesticides and insecticides and both of those products kill insects. Our pollinators are insects.
In signing up for this conference I did not really know what to expect, but when it was over, I felt positive about the fact that studies and trials are being done by someone other than the pesticide companies.
I look forward to each of the speakers at this conference, releasing their findings to the public.
Here is one report that has been made available to the public at this time:
Lack of Habitat, Pests and Pesticides!!
Lack of habitat - As you are probably aware, urban sprawl is at an all time high. Subdivisions are popping up all over on land that used to be farm land or wooded forest land. Many of these subdivisions enforce Homeowners Association (HOA) rules and ordinances to the individuals that purchase these houses. Most of the ordinance include clauses that force the homeowner to have what I call "a cookie cutter" yard. GRASS...NO WEEDS and all the same button shapes bushes and shrubs. This is MONO CULTURE for sure!! Many of the Japanese or Chinese cultivars of bushes and plants have no food value for any of our pollinators.
So what can I do for our pollinators if I am a homeowner in a subdivision such as this? I really do not have an answer to that because I believe that these Homeowner Associations have way too much power. They even have the power to foreclose on your property in some instances! Do some research on the plants in your yard and maybe approach your HOA to see if by-laws can be revised to include the addition of some native plants that are beneficial to our pollinators.
For those of us not under the strong arm of an HOA, I urge you to plant for the bees!!!
Get rid of grass (not all of it) but some of it. Grass is of no benefit to our pollinators!! And certainly, if you do have a large area of "grass", don't use herbicides. Let those dandelions grow. Plant Milk Weed & Butterfly Weed. Let the clover intermingle through the yard. These are food sources for our bees and pollinators. Dead Nettle and Hen Bit are some of nature's first foods in the spring for our pollinators. Take a corner of your back yard and create a pollinator friendly area with native plants. They can look quite beautiful if designed correctly. If you don't mind a less structured look, let an area go wild. Don't mow it, throw native plant seeds out and let them do what they will. Our pollinators will thank you by being around to pollinate your veggies in your garden and fruit on your trees.
I have plans to install not only a large pollinator garden on my 4 acre property, but I am also going to install a
Pests - Our Honey Bees are really under siege from a pest called the Varroa Mite. It is a mite that attaches to the bee and sucks the life force from them. I wrote about it in my last blog. They are horrible pests and are responsible for many losses in the Honey Bee apiaries.
Maybe there is not much you can do about this awful pest, but much research is being done to breed mite resistant bees. A recent study is showing a positive result from mushroom fungi that is being fed to the bees. Most college have research programs to learn more about this pest. North Carolina State has a very active program. Maybe support these programs with a financial contribution?
Pesticides - We can ALL do something in this category! You go outside to your garden. There you see your rose bush covered in Japanese Beetles. What do you do? Grab the can of spray and kill them all ??? Maybe we can try something a bit different. All the big box stores have aisles and aisles of bug sprays. Maybe we need to rethink that whole concept.
In Mother Nature, there is a balance. There are good bugs and bad bugs. When we kill the bad bugs we reduce the food source for the good bugs, so they go somewhere else. You've disrupted that balance in nature. Maybe we can find a less toxic way to deal with those bugs eating our roses. There are organic things like "Milky Spore" It is a nematode that eats the grubs of the Japanese Beetle. Less grubs, less beetles. If we must use a chemical, choose a less toxic one and ALWAYS spray it either early morning or late evening when pollinators are not out foraging. You can pick those beetles off by hand and throw them into a bucket of soapy water. By doing this, you are not only killing the beetle, but also their eggs. And Please NEVER use Sevin Dust!!!
The longer an area is left untreated by pesticides and herbicides, the more beneficial insects and native pollinators it will attract. It's like they tell each other where the safe places are!!
I am also a Master Gardner. There is probably a group of Master Gardeners in your county. Before you spray, ask a Master Gardener an alternative way to deal with the pest that your are encountering. You can find them through your County Extension Service.
By all working together and learning the best practices to manage pests, we will in turn be helping to save our pollinators!!
Education is the key!!