As spring explodes and most of us are spending more time in our gardens, it’s the perfect time to talk about pollinators. Many of us have basic knowledge that we need bees to survive, and that pesticides are killing them.
In Canada, recent awareness has been made about the need to protect our honey bees, but unfortunately our natural pollinators don’t get much attention despite their importance. Some of our large bumblebees for example, have extra fuzzy bodies that allow them to carry more than twice the pollen as that of a honey bee, and its lack of grace leaves behind more pollen, making it much more efficient than a honey bee by pollinating in half the time.
Fortunately, the public has an easy time seeing the benefits of the honeybee, such as honey and beeswax, and the efforts made to protect our honey bee populations, also benefit our natural pollinators. Over one third of our global food supply is pollinated by bees, and aside from honey bees, which originate from South America and Europe, the world has over 20,000 species of wild bees (4000 in North America alone) that also need our help.
All pollinators struggle with the lack of biodiversity, lack of food, insecticide and/or herbicide exposure and the decrease in habitat due to fencepost-to-fencepost farming and urban sprawl. They suffer from the lack of four season food sources; early spring is one of the leanest times for pollinators, and again in late fall.
One of the biggest concerns is Neonicotinoids -although Europe has banned them in ALL outdoor applications, Canada still has three Neonicotinoids currently approved for agriculture use: imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Some scientists believe Neonics are up to 8000 times more lethal to bees than DDT, and in “2014, an independent review of more than 1,100 peer re-viewed scientific articles concluded neonics pose an unacceptable risk to biodiversity.” (Sonia Hrynchyshyn, Mart-let, University of Victoria)
“Neonic insec-ticides are either found as a coating on the seeds of crops, or sprayed into the soil just before seed planting, or sprayed on young plants. The insecticide is taken up by the plant and distributed through its tissue as it grows.” –Liam Casey, The Canadian Press, Aug 2019.
In fact, according to a recent University of Guelph study in Ontario, Clo-thianidin was detected in 96% of soil samples and Thiamethoxam another major Neonic, was found in 81% of soil samples tested.
So what can we do to help?
- Let your weeds bloom, keeping in mind natural pollinators, not just honeybees.
- Be mindful of the time of day when mowing lawns -bees are most active in the afternoon.
- Buy seedlings/plants from a reputable nursery -ask if they use neonicotinoids.
- Read the labels of seeds/plants or buy untreated seeds and grow your own.
- Plant flowering plants, whether it be flowers, fruit trees or vegetables.
- Farmers can emphasize biodi-versity -have a wide variety, not just a focus on one mono-crop.
- Plant early blooming plants like jacob’s ladder, crocuses, hyacinth and ground covers.
- Plant late fall blooming plants such as sedum hyssop, heather and snake root.
- Do not deadhead your hostas until they have finished blooming, and dead-head your daisies and catnip for re-bloom.
- Reduce / stop the use of chemicals.
- Replace lawns or portions of lawns with gardens full of native flowering plants.
- Plant ground covers such as clover, sweet alyssum, sheep fescue –you will only need to mow and water ¼ of the time of traditional lawns.
- Provide undisturbed, open space –don’t just plow and pave all areas.
- Do not rake your fallen leaves until late spring, to provide habitats for pollinators over winter.
And last but not least, just get out into that garden and make some flowering things grow!!!
By Angela Hicke -Van Isle Wild
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