National Pollinators week June 20-26, 2016    http://www.fws.gov/pollinators/

Pollinators

So what’s the deal? Honey bees, native bees, some wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles and a few birds visit flowering plants providing the cross-fertilization of pollen necessary to create the fruits and vegetables that we eat, and drink. Have you seen the link from the national grocery store showing the difference in produce available to us if we didn’t have pollinators?  Check out the photos at http://media.wholefoodsmarket.com/news/bees.  One third of what we eat comes from plants that are dependent on pollinators.   So loss of pollinators is a big deal.

photo courtesy of katiedidonline

photo courtesy of katiedidonline

Without pollinators only wind-pollinated grains and a few fruits and vegetables would be available for our consumption.  No coffee, no chocolate, no wine.  Human kind and the environment around us might have evolved very differently without pollinators.  In his book The Triumph of Seeds, Thor Hanson explains how flowering plants and pollinators co-evolved to help one another.  Our species has literally reaped the benefits of the pollination evolution.   

Today, our pollinators are in trouble.  Not just the honey bees, but our native pollinators as well.  The reasons why are multifaceted. The disappearance of native landscape due to human development is one of the reasons.  Our heavy reliance on pesticides both at the industrial-agricultural use, and just as importantly, in our home usage that increases every year appears to have had a detrimental impact on the health of all pollinators.

Solutions may be coming, if we are willing to work for them.

On April 13, 2016, The Springfield Republican reported:  “Ortho to drop chemicals linked to declining bee population. Garden-care giant Ortho said Tuesday that it will stop using a class of chemicals widely believed to harm bees as concerns rise about the health of the insects that pollinate a big portion of plants that people eat. The company plans to phase out neonicotinoids by 2021 in eight products used to control garden pests and diseases. The chemicals, called neonics for short, attach the central nervous systems of insects.” 

photo courtesy of katiedidonline

photo courtesy of katiedidonline

This is a great acknowledgement of the damage we have done to our environment and specifically to the ‘good bugs’ that provide pollination. Can we afford to wait another 5 years before starting to phase out any form of pesticides that are harming our bees and other pollinators?  Each of us can commit to remedying the loss of pollinators starting in our own gardens and lawns.  The use of pesticides is just as harmful to the good insects as the few bad ones.  There are alternatives to the use of pesticides. (Click here for the WMMGA article on Integrated Pest Management). We can also commit ourselves to doing the research and purposely designing our landscapes that supply food sources, from early spring through late fall, for pollinators.  We can research and provide the types of nesting sites for native bees, butterflies, moths, and pollinating wasps and hornets. Just as important, we can spread the word to our neighbors so that they too, can begin to care for our pollinators.

Locally, we have Bee Weeks coming up June 3-18 in Greenfield. Lots of activities so check out beeweek.org for more information.

We have two new feature articles for you this month.  The first is an introduction to native pollinators titled Massachusetts Pollinators: The Usual Suspects...And a Few Others written by Joanne Lavengood, Master Gardener.  We hope this will encourage you to observe the pollinators in your own garden, perhaps research their life cycles, and provide what they may need for food and nesting sites.  Our second article is the account of the loss of four honey bee hives over the past two years by Sharon Dombeck, Master Gardener Intern and an experienced apiarian, Some Vicissitudes of Beekeeping.

Our book reviews start with The Xerces Society Guide, Attracting Native Pollinators, Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies with foreword by Dr. Marla Spivak.  This is a fantastic resource for learning about native pollinators that visit and pollinate your garden. Next is The Art of Hummingbird Gardening, How to Make Your Backyard into a Beautiful Home for Hummingbirds written by Mathew Tekulsky. Making your garden a haven for hummingbirds will also welcome other pollinators.

We also recommend a return visit to our Pesticide feature articles and recommended books in our Previous Featured Articles and Previous Featured Book Reviews. Click here for Previous Feature Articles and Book Reviews.

Want to know what it is like to be inside a Beehive? Check out the artistic beehive from Kew Gardens.