Variety of Life

>> Sunday, July 1, 2007

There has been an ongoing study related to the disappearance of honeybees through a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder.

Susan of Garden Rant brought attention to this plight through her post ‘Honeybees – the Katrina of Entomology’ dated July 1, 2007. Thank-you Susan for keeping this very important issue alive.

In her post she directs us to the Washington Post garden writer Adrian Higgins article entitled ‘Saving the Earth From the Ground Up’ in which Mr. Higgins writes about a ‘bleak world without bugs’.

In this article, Mr. Higgins directs us to another of his articles covering pollinators in general in which he describes some of the many pollinators every garden needs to maintain a healthy garden.

Here is an excerpt from that article that I thought would be helpful in showing the important role that home gardeners play in attracting a wide variety of pollinators:
“As scientists seek to figure out why honeybees, brought here centuries ago by colonists, are missing in action, Laurie Davies Adams wants us to spare a thought for the other pollinators out there. Their ranks include a wide array of native bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, skippers, beetles, hummingbirds and bats.

From San Francisco, Adams directs the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, established in 1999 after a symposium at the National Zoo.

Working in a loose partnership with environmental organizations, scientists, public and corporate land managers and agricultural and horticultural groups, among others, the campaign has succeeded in getting Congress to establish June 24 to June 30 as the first National Pollinator Week.

Adams's group sees home gardeners who are concerned about pollinator decline, as vital helpers in the protection of pollinators. The campaign's Web site,, offers specific tips on encouraging and protecting them.

One strategy is to plant colorful and long-flowering perennials and annuals, and to group them in masses. Among the flowers in my garden that seem to draw all kinds of insect pollinators are goldenrods; any composite, including coneflowers, sunflowers and asters; the eupatoriums, including joe-pye weed, and lots of the stellar annuals now around, including improved strains of petunias and impatiens.

I'm not a huge fan of zinnias or marigolds, but they are pollinator magnets, too. Plants that are members of the carrot family produce domed flowers called umbels that seem to draw a lot of small pollinating bees and other insects. That group would include dill and angelica as well as parsley allowed to bloom. This year, I let some overwintering parsnips go to flower, and their resulting yellow umbels have drawn a lot of interesting little bees, ants and ladybird beetles.

The second important way home gardeners affect pollinators is in their use, or nonuse, of pesticides. Many products are highly toxic to bees, and if you must use them, do so in the correct concentrations and at a time of day when pollinators are not on the wing. Be careful about overspray and windy conditions, especially if your drift may harm your neighbor's garden. If you have a lawn and yard service, educate yourself about the company's sprays, methods and employee training.“

All of us should be mindful of how we use pesticides and whether the small amount of damage our plants receive warrant the use of pesticides. I just read Skippy's Vegetable Garden where Carlton shows in his post titled 'First Chili Pepper' dated July 1, 2007, he doesn’t worry too much about pests, I think this is a very commendable and responsible view of the insect world as it relates to our gardening pleasure.

I think that if there is but one overriding point to what Mr. Higgins makes in his article it’s that gardening is about variety. There should be a variety of insects and plants in every garden.


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