The Power and Perils of Pollinators
By Bret Snider
Several years ago, a friend of mine wanted to start a landscaping business with me. One of the services he intended to provide was mosquito protection. To do this, he proposed the use of a pesticide that he was familiar with and had used to eliminate mosquitoes from residential properties. While we did have issues with mosquitoes, I was dubious about the use of pesticides.
One night, as I was preparing dinner for me and my wife, I glanced at the backyard and saw fog. It was odd, as it had been a beautiful sunny day with the same forecast for tomorrow. Then out of the fog emerged my friend with a plastic backpack on and a sprayer in his hand. He had decided to demonstrate the effectiveness of the pesticide and, as it turned out, he wasn’t wrong. That season we had no mosquitoes. However, we also had no moths, no butterflies, no bees, and very few small birds.
When I investigated the pesticide product, I learned that one of the chemicals was a neonicotinoid which is a class of insecticides that are chemically like nicotine. When sprayed on plants they are absorbed and then show up in nectar and pollen which makes them deadly for bees, as that’s what they are out foraging for. It is one probable factor suspected in the increase of bee colonies dying at alarming rates and is referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder.
I decided to right the wrong that had taken place in our backyard and began researching pollinators and their role in our world. It is profound. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations:
“Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security,” said Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca, Ph.D., co-chair of the assessment and Senior Professor at the University of São Paulo. “Their health is directly linked to our own well-being.” There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees alone, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats, and other animals that contribute to pollination.
Ironically, the next year my wife and I were attending a conference held in Whistler B.C. at a Fairmont hotel. During dinner, the waiter commented that everything that was green on our plates was grown on the hotel grounds. That intrigued me. I found out that there was a tour provided by the Hotel of their gardens, so I signed up. The next day at the appointed hour I stood in the lobby awaiting the tour. I was alone. Finally, a woman showed-up in casual gardening attire and approached me. “Well, I guess you’re it,” she said. As it turned out, I was the only one on the tour as it was raining. Who knew it could possibly be raining in B.C.?
During the tour I noticed a lot of beehives and some curious structures of logs which I asked about. She explained that they were “Bee Hotels.” The Beehives, as we have come to know them were for honey producing bees that live in hives. The logs were for solitary bees that don’t live in hives. I later learned that to create a “Bee Hotel,” all you need do is drill eight-inch holes in the logs about a quarter inch wide and they will come.
The other factor is flowers and plants that attract pollinators. That became my wife’s passion. Our gardens now represent a diverse array of pollinator attracting, mostly native, plants that are bee and pollinator friendly. And, with some appropriate bird feeders, the small birds are back, some of whom eat mosquitoes. So now our gardens bloom and are mosquito population is down without the use of pesticides.
For a list of Plants that encourage pollinators see https://www.bluffsmonitor.com/bluffsmonitor-back-story/