Greenpoint: Support your local pollinators now

Start by planting more flowers
Help the pollinators by planting more flowers.
Help the pollinators by planting more flowers.

Last week was National Composting Week. Some time next month it will be National Pollinator Week.

I’m officially opposed to the naming of each and every week, but these are two designations I can get behind, and not just for single weeks.

Composting is a year-round endeavor, to logically use the kitchen, vegetative and animal manure my home and barnyard produce, and to turn it into the soil that supports the food we grow. It’s a lovely circle, which both animals and humans profit from.

Of course, not much food would be produced without the pollinators, so supporting them is all a part of gardening. The official Pollinator Week is June 19-25, but if you want to celebrate it right you better start thinking now.

Everyone knows the honeybees, our most prolific pollinators, have seen years of massive decline. Disease, parasites and the mysterious “colony collapse disorder,” which seems linked to the use of certain pesticides, have combined to cause a rapid and alarming drop in the number of honeybees worldwide. There seems to be some evidence that the trend is reversing, perhaps as a result of limits and bans on those pesticides.

Honeybees are European immigrants and not native to this country. Worldwide, there are around 30,000 species of bees, and the majority of them are solitary, rather than hive dwellers. To date, seven different species of bees have been added to the endangered species list.

The decline in European honeybees, which are not endangered, is particularly alarming for agriculture. Since honeybees live in colonies that can number in the tens of thousands, they have been reliable crop pollinators. Commercial beekeepers truck hundreds or thousands of hives around the country, following the blossoms, particularly orchards.

Like apples? Blueberries? You need bees.

In recent years, cities around the country have declared themselves “pollinator-friendly,” pledging to plant more flowers and limit pesticides. Some 44 cities nationwide have joined the Bee City USA list by making similar pledges.

The die-off of honeybee colonies is a good enough reason for everyone to pledge to support all pollinators — from the solitary bees to the hummingbirds to moths, butterflies and bats. And you don’t need a special week or a special designation to do that.

Just plant more flowers. Drop some sunflower seeds along your home’s foundation. The towering flowers are wonderful to look at, and bees — honeybees, bumblebees and any number of other insect pollinators — love them. As a special bonus, you can eat the seeds or leave them for the birds. Or squirrels.

Hang pots of flowers. Hey, it’s Mother’s Day! How about getting a nice hanging plant for you mom and the pollinators? I don’t particularly like petunias, but my friends the hummingbirds do, so I generally get one for them.

Leave your flowering weeds alone. Bees love dandelions, wild mustard, daisy asters — most wildflowers will attract pollinators. We let flowering weeds grow around the outside of our vegetable gardens to draw the bees inside. We won’t get squash without them.

Keeping the honeybees healthy is important for anyone who is fond of eating. Corn, nuts, cucumbers, watermelons — one in three foods we eat rely on some form of pollinator.

Don’t wait for a special week. Help your neighborhood bees any day.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on May 28. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: Life and Arts

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