|Megachildae species on snapdragon|
SO--I am posting the short version here! And the first thing I shared with my lovely audience was a photo of a sliced apple. A very lopsided apple. Which is a symptom of incomplete pollination. In other words, not enough bees were on the job to see that every portion of the flower blossom got pollinated on that apple tree. The scary thing is--it is really difficult, at least at our local grocery stores, to find an apple that is NOT lopsided. (Learn more about the bee above here.)
In the larger context of things, this nation is faced with a likely scenario this year of a drop of 50% or more in food production coming out of California, due to drought. Cue the scary movie music here, and picture what is going to happen to the average food bill for families across the country. In a way, this may be a good thing, as it may force us to decentralize food production. Decentralizing production would reduce the petroleum impact of the average grocery bill, but more importantly would help to reduce food insecurity nationwide. For more on this topic, check statistics and other information on the USDA site here.
So how do you make an impact? You can, of course, grow some of your own food. But top of our priority lists has to be preservation of the species that do the work of pollinating those groceries. And the first way for us to preserve them is to stop killing them inadvertently. So the preservationist's yard is going to have to stop the use of any long acting pesticide (this should be obvious), stop using RoundUp (not so obvious, but the stuff washes into our waterways and kills the plants many pollinators need as habitat), and finally--at least for awhile--stop purchasing garden plants at the Big Box stores.
Let's look at these a little more closely. Pesticides/insecticides are actively designed to kill pests, which, in the context of gardens, are the insects that chew on our plants. Some things can be used safely (like insecticidal soap on aphids) because they wash off the plant when watered and act as desiccants--they dry the insect out, killing it. The vast majority of the new pesticides you find at your local big box, however, are designed to be long acting. They hang around, and work by interfering with the nervous system of the insect. I won't even get into the unfortunate impacts this can have (with continuous or prolonged exposure) to humans--especially children. But if you would like to know more, you can start your research at this page from the EPA. So. Don't use them. Blast those aphids off with the garden hose, and work on creating a yard where the beneficial insects and songbirds move in to keep your pests in check.
RoundUp--the big sin is that commercial agriculture uses huge volumes of this stuff on "RoundUp Ready" plant crops. Unless you buy only organic produce, you are ingesting this stuff. And all of the "weed" plants that used to grow in and around the fields of commercial farmers who use RoundUp as a method of increasing yields (which may just be a sales pitch by the chemical industry) are no longer available to pollinators. Fewer resources for pollinators means fewer pollinators.
The Big Box Stores--gardeners everywhere have been appalled to discover recently that suppliers to Lowe's and Home Depot (and some other big chains) have been pre-treating their plants with neonicotinoids--the pesticides wreaking havoc on so many of our insect pollinators. They do this to make sure the plants look "perfect" and have not insect damage. Even many of the employees of these stores are sick at heart. Find a local nursery that does not use these products, or you are simply introducing an attractive lure to kill pollinators.
That pretty much covers the downers. Now for the fun and easy things to do!
|Old spruce log chunks embedded in slope.|
When planting, leave some open soil exposed is certain areas away from your home's points of entry. Many native bees are ground nesters. If yellow jackets move in on you--that's a threat to your family's health and of course you would need to do something about a nest like this. But small patches of soil will give some of our bumblebees a place to hatch out the next generation.
|Female sourwood tree at peak bloom.|
|Two monarchs on a large pile of open-form mums.|
|Native bumblebee on native JoePye Weed|
Provide Clean Water: bird baths, water features and rain gardens can all help support pollinators. Bird baths need to be kept clean (rinse them well if you use any type of cleaning agent besides elbow grease). Water features need to have a "still" portion for insects to take advantage of them. Both of these need to have stones or other unglazed surfaces that bees can use to crawl down to the edge of the water safely. There is nothing more depressing than a batch of drowned bees in your bird bath.
|Coneflower seed heads being dined on by goldfinches.|