Pollination is a reminder that ecosystems are comprised of a series of interdependent relationships.
Approximately 90 percent of all flowering plants require pollinators to survive. Almonds, cherries, pears, apples, avocados, blueberries, cranberries and even carrots depend on honeybee pollination. Pesticides commonly found in lawn and garden products and used in agriculture are known to be hazardous to bees –some killing them outright and others with subtle effects that reduce a bee’s ability to thrive.
Honeybees and Other Pollinators in the Landscape
In agriculture, while honeybees are the best-known and primary managed pollinators, responsible for a third of all pollination, they are not the only ones. Both in non-agricultural and agricultural crops, wild pollinators also play an essential role in plant reproduction and food production.
Wild pollinators—bumblebees, wasps, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, birds, and bats–have suffered “multiple anthropogenic insults”( human-caused) in the last several decades. These include habitat destruction and fragmentation, pesticide use, reduction in food availability for pollinators, land management practices and the introduction of non-native species and pathogens, all of which collectively threaten their existence.
For example, spraying parathyroid insecticides in the early morning or late afternoon, when honeybees are less likely to be foraging, is considered a risk mitigation measure for honeybees, but it actually endangers wild pollinators such as bumblebees which are particularly important in the current honeybee crisis because they pollinate many of the crops that honeybees do. These distinct differences must be taken into account when considering pesticide risk assessments and risk mitigation measures.
A multi-faceted approach to ensure a healthy and diverse pollinator community, which will, in turn, contribute to a sustainable food system, must look at the effects of pesticide use on all pollinators. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) provides the perfect opportunity to exercise what many have long advocated as the proper approach to pesticide regulation —the precautionary principle. CCD may well be the result of a combination of factors, but the documented toxicity of certain pesticides’ to bees calls for severe caution.
More and more gardeners are anxious to do their part to help the bees and other pollinators by adding to the shrinking inventory of flower-rich habitat in their area. Doing so will bring pollinators to a garden, provide a bountiful harvest of fruits, seeds, and vegetables, and offer the opportunity to watch pollinators up close.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you grow your bee-friendly garden:
- Rethink your lawn. Replace part or all of your front lawn grass with flowering plants, which provides food and habitat for bees and other wildlife.
- Chose plant varieties for your bee garden that are native to your area. Native plants will attract a nice variety of native bees. Certain bees require the native plants of their area to survive. The flowers will be a useful source of nectar and pollen, but your wild garden will not just attract bees — the tall grass will also provide a welcome habitat for a number of other creatures, and the berries, fruits, and seeds produced by some of the plants will be food for birds and other animals. Soon this part of your garden will be teeming with life!