Bee counted for National Pollinator Week

By Lynette L. Walther | Jun 13, 2019
Photo by: Lynette L. Walther Using fewer chemicals in the garden means some insects are to be expected. When Japanese beetles invade, handpick daily and check each beetle to see if it has tiny opaque white spots on its shoulders. Those are eggs of a tiny parasitic fly. If present, let it go so the eggs can hatch and consume the beetle from within. They are our only natural defense against these beetles.

The gardens have been slow to wake from their winter slumber as temperatures remained cool and skies gray four or more days out of five. But gradually the color is coming back and with it the insects. As I did my daily survey the other day of what did and did not make it through the winter, I was pleasantly surprised to see a cloud of tiny bees hovering above the tight buds of the low-growing sumac shrubs in the front yard.

Many early bloomers like the bloodroot and crocus have come and gone. But more blossoms are yet to show — everything in its time — and with them come the pollinators. Some gardeners have never considered the role these important insects play. Indeed many gardeners are more concerned about those insects that might eat their tomatoes or cause some other damage than being interested in welcoming pollinators. But the time has come to look at insects, not just pollinators, in a different light.

As gardeners we have a responsibility to do no harm to our environment. The very practice of gardening can upset the balance of nature, so it is important that we do so responsibly. Many of us have seen the alarming news that not only honeybees and other pollinators like butterflies, bees, some wasps and flies are dying and endangered. However it has been reported that all insect species are in serious decline as well. We are just going to have to discard the notion that we can spray away the bugs we don’t like, because the insect world is an example of a complex interdependence with many insect species relying upon other insects for their survival. In fact some 99 percent of insects are either beneficial or harmless, with only a tiny percentage of troublemakers.

Maintaining that perfect green carpet of a lawn can require a lot of chemical assistance and so too the way some gardening for ornamentals or food does as well. A number of insects, fireflies and several varieties of native bees spend most of their lives underground. They and many other insects are negatively impacted by lawn spraying with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. But that is rarely necessary if we strive to grow stronger, healthier plants fed with natural enhancements like compost for example rather than harsh commercial fertilizers that can boomerang by making plants more dependent upon them when they destroy microorganisms in the soil. Those tiny organisms enable plants’ roots to take up nutrients.

The fact is that when we garden for pollinators, we are also gardening for a plethora of other insects as well. But that’s okay! Remember, I said we were going to have to look at this issue in a different way? And that brings us to National Pollinator Week (June 17 to 23) which is one of the the projects of the Pollinator Partnership. The organization’s Pollinator Garden Challenge has registered more than one million new pollinator gardens in just the last three years. This year’s challenge is to encourage everyone to plant three new pollinator-friendly plants that bloom throughout the growing season to ensure a consistent food supply for pollinators by planting a new plant in spring, summer and fall.

“Pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we take each day and yet pollinators are at a critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline,” according to the Pollinator Partnership. “We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.”

Better yet, why not plan on developing a pollinator garden this week?

Pollinators Gardens Should:
Use plants that provide nectar and pollen sources — flowers
Provide a water source,
Be situated in sunny areas with wind breaks
Create large “pollinator targets” of native or non-invasive plants
Establish continuous bloom throughout the growing season
Eliminate or minimize the impact of pesticides.

Then once you’ve got that blooming garden up and running, be sure to join the millions who have already registered their garden, by adding your garden in this network. Go to: pollinator.org/mpgcmap/register Then you will have celebrated National Pollinator Week in a grand fashion.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Lucinda Lang | Jun 16, 2019 08:37

Thank you for this excellent article. I am going to print this and make some copies. Thank you for publishing the photograph of the Japanese beetle with the white spots and explaining the significance of this.  This is so important.   Picking off the ones without the spots and dropping into water will with a small amount of soap will drown them. If possible I wish that the world would understand that the use of any chemicals ...the use of any pesticides ...is killing insects and contributing to the demise and destruction of this one earth.   Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides are all made to kill. Dish soap sprayed on a plant will cover insects and smother/kill them. Vinegar is now popular to spray in the yard and vinegar will kill the insects. And thank you for such a terrific article about gardeners responsibility and how our actions impact this world.

 



Posted by: Lucinda Lang | Jun 16, 2019 08:29

Flowers are wonderful.  However research shows that it is not all flowers.....the dire lack of native plants is a very important part of why the insect population has declined by 40%+/-. No native plants = no caterpillars = no birds/pollinators = no food. Literally.  It seems that "everyone" has the opportunity to make a choice as to whether to buy at least one native plant or not. BUT ... EDUCATION is needed badly. The nurseries are selling plants in pots labeled native when in fact many of these are cultivars and or maine grown...neither of which make them native, neither of which have plants with the leaf chemistry and symbiosis necessary to be a host for caterpillars. The pollinator challenge lists only flowers which provide the nectar and pollen sources which insects can actually "use"...and looking into that shows that this is not all flowers.  Dr. Doug Tallamy will be here on August 20 at the Ocean View Grange. His work is on line and in his 2007 landmark book www.bringingnaturehome.net  Thank you.

 



Posted by: Lynette Walther | Jun 14, 2019 08:59

Excellent point! However not everyone has access to native plants, and that is why the Pollinator Garden Challenge recommends flowers in general.

 



Posted by: Lucinda Lang | Jun 13, 2019 14:15

A garden for pollinators really needs to be all native plants or 85% otherwise there are no hosts for the caterpillars. www.bringingnaturehome.net

 



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