We need our pollinators

by Alastair Gregor

 

• Our pollinators are being poisoned and the birds that eat these insects are being poisoned too. We need the pollinators – bees, beetles, moths, butterflies, bats and hummingbirds – because 80 percent of our foods are dependent on them. Yet they are disappearing and need our help.

Farms in North America use over 5.1 billion pounds of pesticides annually. The chemicals are in the air we breathe; frequently sprayed by planes, they are carried off in the wind, poisoning surrounding land, forested areas and our water supply. (Get informed at www.PesticideFreeBC.org)

These pesticides are killing good and bad insects, and regardless of whether or not they are organic or conventional pesticides, they still kill. Today, systemic pesticides are used, which cannot be washed off the food we eat. Systemic means if you spray one part of the plant, the entire plant becomes toxic and kills insects for up to 15 years; it also toxifies other organisms that eat any part of the plant and the fruit it produces. These toxins remain in the soil and build up over time killing the beneficial microorganisms in the soil. (http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/systemic-pesticides-zm0z10zrog.aspx)

We are experiencing the sharpest rise in cancer, diabetes and other adult onset diseases than ever before. There is hardly anyone who doesn’t know someone who is struggling with these diseases and they almost all derive from our food sources. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates

In BC, you can find out how to plant a pollinator friendly garden from West Coast expert Linda Gilkeson, PhD, at her website www.lindagilkeson.ca You can also check out the Master Gardeners Association of BC’s website and learn how to attract pollinators to your garden. The organization has an excellent brochure on planting native BC nectar plants. (www.mgabc.org/content/attracting-pollinators-your-garden)

There are four main ways you can help pollinators: 1) Don’t use pesticides on your lawn or flowers or anywhere – not even organic ones – because bioaccumulation occurs in pollen and harms your bees. People spray for mosquitoes and ants, but those chemicals kill beneficial bugs, too. For instance, mosquitoes pollinate chocolate trees. 2) Plant large patches of flowers. Concentrate on plants that are native to your region and try to plan a garden with blooms throughout the year so pollinators always have a good nectar source. 3) Provide nesting sites for pollinators. These can be in the form of a bee house or un-mulched places in your garden (bare patches of dirt, piles of leaves, etc.) Avoid the use of mulching and ground cover cloth because 70 percent of native bees nest in the ground and need access to bare ground to complete their life cycle. They cannot work through artificial ground fabrics. 4) Talk to your neighbours, friends and family about pollinators and pollinator-friendly gardening practices. Some might find it hard to strike up a conversation with neighbours about something like pesticide use. If you display signage in your garden showing you don’t use pesticides or that you are working to create a pollinator habitat, it might be a good way to start the conversation with your neighbours.

The two best places I would suggest for more information are the Pollinator Partnership (www.pollinator.org) and (www.xerces.org). The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. The new book, Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies may be purchased on their website. Lastly, watch The Beauty of Pollination at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHkq1edcbk4

Alastair Gregor writes the Good Eats column in Common Ground. Look for it again in the October issue. alastair@commonground.ca

1 thought on “We need our pollinators”

  1. Don’t forget that a host of other bee- and pollinator-friendly resources tailor made for the Pacific Northwest in general and the Lower Mainland in particular are just a click away. And while you’re checking out the many resources, bee sure to register your bee-friendly garden too !!

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