Monday, June 1, 2009

Help the Pollinators; Go Native

Honeybees have been having a difficult time the last decade or so. First it was mites and now for the last several years, a mysterious and fatal ailment dubbed Colony Collapse Disorders or CCD. Researchers are still trying to determine what is going on with the bees, which are essential to many of our food crops.
It could be a mysterious virus, pesticides, lack of our food and habitat or any combination of the three plus other agricultural factors such as genetically modified crops.
Pollinators, in general, are on the decline, although it is uncertain if CCD plays a role or if the decline is also the result of loss of habitat and food sources, pesticide use on the farm and around the house. Pollinators include many native species of bees (honeybees are not native insects), birds and butterflies and an untold number of valuable and amazing insects.
Because of the serious decline in the general pollinator population and because of their value to food crops, home gardeners can take some steps to help. One important step would be to plant a pollinator garden filled with native plant species which provide food and nourishment, habitat and breeding areas. Try to plant a variety of plant species which will provide blossoms throughout the growing seasons to ensure a constant supply of nourishment.
Another option would be to plant an herb garden or expand an existing one. Herbs attract pollinators and can provide some extra drama in the garden and in the kitchen. Borage is a good bee herb; so are sage, fennel, thyme, oregano and parsley to name a few.
Yet another option if possible, would be to leave some “wild areas” in the yard alone. Leave the weeds and dead trees; they provide habitat and food.
Try to never use chemical pesticides. They were developed to kill and usually kill everything in sight. If possible, try to use or build a water source; everything likes a drink.
Attracting the pollinators ensures even better pollination for the vegetables and will help in increased yields. Besides, it opens up a whole new world in the backyard and provides additional insights into our amazing, natural world.

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