Sunday, May 3, 2015

Birds, Bees and the Pleasures of Pollination

With warmer weather and spring bloom, pollinators – bees, wasps, moths, butterflies and birds – are busy in the garden. There are actually about 200,000 kinds of pollinators in the world, but probably far less than that actually visit our own backyards.

The work of these pollinators is to spread the sex around, pollen grains (male) are moved to the receptive female parts, the carpel or pistil, and then seeds are formed that renew plantings the next year, in the meantime pollinators provide tasty fruit and vegetables.

Flower colors and smells are the big attraction for pollinators. And if, like me, you’ve planted butterfly bushes specifically to attract Lepidoptera, (butterflies, just showing off) or if you have citrus, a honey-bee favorite, or stonefruit trees (I’ve got Bing cherry and apricot), then you may want to consult the new booklet from the Coalition For Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship (CURES). It covers the steps to protect pollinators in the garden and on the farm, which has become especially important as more bees are affected with what is called “colony collapse disorder” meaning entire bee colonies are dying off.

Pesticides play a role in controlling insects, weeds, and diseases on farms and in urban landscapes and researchers continue to look for links between shrinking bee populations and environmental causes. Because areas treated for pests are often shared by pollinators, CURES reminds that using care with chemicals is more important than ever.

Blooming flowers on trees, shrubs, weeds and native vegetation all have allure for pollinators and many species visit multiple plant types for nectar and pollen throughout the growing season. In forested and other natural areas, they help in the production of fruits and seeds essential to the diets of wildlife, especially migratory and game birds.

Added to European honey bees, there are more than 4,000 bee species and various other pollinators in the United States. The CURES booklet provides guidelines to follow before treating an area with pesticides when pollinators are present.

By doing a quick read and following the simple guidelines, the valuable work of these busy garden helpers will continue to benefit your landscape. CURES advises gardeners and farmers to read and follow all pesticide label directions and precautions.

They recommend observing and understanding the habits of local pollinators. Follow good pesticide stewardship practices at all times. Cooperate and communicate with others in your neighborhood or growing area. Recognize unusual bee behavior from accidental exposure to pesticides. Check for specific county and local ordinances pertaining to pollinators, especially commercial beehive locations or designated preserves.

Chrysanthemums and viceroy butterfly 

The booklet Pollinators and Pesticide Stewardship" is available free online at