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Recently I was asked, "Do you know anything about helping pollinators? I've been hearing on the news that bees are in trouble. What does that mean? And does it mean I have to help those mean 'ol yellow jackets, too?" I thought it was such a great question, and the answer so important for all of us, that I wanted to share it with you.
Pollinators, including honey bees whose numbers have been on the decline due to a variety of reasons such as mite infestation, colony collapse disorder and pesticide usage, are indeed in trouble all across the world. Helping pollinators should be a top priority for all of us as they complete the much needed process of pollination. Pollination is the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, and it's necessary for fertilization and the production of seeds and fruit.
Recently, I came across an article that may interest you, as it clearly defines how pollinators help. It was The Fish and Wildlife Habitat Management leaflet titled 'Native Pollinators' (#34, May 2005) which states, "Pollination directly affects the production of food, fiber, beverages, condiments, spices and medicines and also indirectly affects milk and beef production, as cattle are fed on crops. In addition, "pollinators also assist plants in providing food and cover for wildlife, prevent erosion and help keep waterways clean."
These services are so important, and the situation so critical, that cities and states are starting to ban the use of pesticides. (I think Hudson and Ohio should do so, too.) The EPA is facing a lawsuit from the Pesticide Action Network "for failing to protect bees," and in 2013, the Bill H.R.2692 titled 'Saving America's Pollinators Act of 2013' was introduced. It states, "Pollination services are a vital part of agricultural productions, valued at $20 to 30 billion annually in the U.S. or one-third of all food produced." And "according to scientists of The Department of Agriculture, current estimates of the survivorship of honey bee colonies show they are too low to be able to meet the pollination demands of U.S. agricultural crops."
The good news is that even though pollination is accomplished primarily by honey bees, it's also carried out in varying degrees by wind, water, bumblebees, native bees, birds, bats, small mammals, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and wasps (yes, even by "those mean 'ol yellow jackets.") By learning, understanding, fostering patience for, and helping all the creatures we share our yards with, we're ultimately helping each other.
To some it may seem like "saving pollinators" is too big a problem for individual homeowners, like ourselves, to solve, but there in, I think, lies the solution! According to the EPA, "the largest portion of pesticide applications in the United States, either directly or through spray companies, is by homeowners, who use 10 times more pesticides than farms," and the EPA estimates "lawns cover 30 million acres" and "80 million pounds of pesticides are used on U.S. lawns annuallt."
Just imagine if we all stopped spraying our lawns and landscaping, and started doing, even just a tiny bit more, to help pollinators. It would make a huge difference for the betterment of all of us. And it's so easy. June 16 to 22 is National Pollinator Week, please visit www.pollinator.org for activities, events and tips, plus I've included additional helpful resources at the end of this article, and to help get you started right away here's a planting list of some of the zone 5 (Hudson, OH) pollinator helpful plants that we have in our wildlife gardening display: ajuga, clover, dandelions, coreopsis, sedum, anemone, dianthus, agastache, nepeta, echinacea, mints, liatris, asters, phlox, blackberries, raspberries, butterfly bush, lavender, thyme, geranium, salvia, iris, serviceberries, cotoneasters, dogwood, honeysuckle, roses, monarda, achillea, asclepias, penstemon, sunflowers, lobelia, Turtles cap, and cherry and apple trees. All of these items can be easily found at local garden centers.
I hope this encourages you to think differently about your landscaping and that you take a road trip this spring, tour around Ohio and find a new favorite plant shop full of pollinator helpful plants, like we did when we found the latest addition to our wildlife gardening display, a beautiful Robinson crabapple tree from right up the road at Chagrin Valley Nurseries in Gates Mills. I can't wait to see those deep pink nectar and pollen rich blooms full of happy pollinators.
-- Elizabeth Gross is a Hudson resident and owner of LotsOfLifeOnALittleLot.com.