If you have been worried that the flowers you bring home from Lowe’s and other big nurseries will kill the bees and butterflies, you may be comforted to know that Lowe’s and other big stores are lurching into action, getting ready to remove the offending, neonicotinoid-treated plants. But for now, it’s still, consumer beware, or at least, consumer, ask a lot of questions.
We keep bumping up against a new trend in gardening that should be of interest to active gardeners, especially frugal ones (which is almost all of them!), and that is the old art of saving seeds.
You may not think you can do much to save the honey bees, which continue to die in alarming numbers worldwide. But you can take a stand in your home landscape by banning a class of pesticides that are especially harmful to bees.
The European Union votes to give honey bees a reprieve from a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, long suspected of triggering massive bee deaths that threaten agriculture worldwide. The pesticides are still be allowed in the United States.
Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy lives on, with a state full of wildflowers and a center that can help you pick the right native plants for your home landscape. Want to help bees and butterflies? The LBJ Wildflower Center makes it easy.
Beekeepers and environmental groups sued the EPA this week for allowing pesticides that are causing an epidemic of bee deaths. The suit asks the agency to suspend the permits for certain pesticides, which have been shown to poison bees, which in turn threatens a wide array of crops dependent on bee pollination.
Bats have historically gotten a bad rap as rabid, blood-thirsty creatures. While it’s agreed that the very thought of them conjures up vivid images of Béla Lugosi-style Dracula flicks, a growing body of research proves the mammals are beneficial to the environment in several ways.
Bats are chemical-free exterminators. A National Geographic profile on bats calls them “nature’s own bug zappers.”
The pint-size creatures also spend their time pollinating and feeding on crop-damaging bugs. “Worldwide, bats are important pollinators, dispersers of seeds, and help to control insects, including serious crop pests,” says Barbara French, a biologist and Science Officer for Bat Conservation International (BCI), located in Austin, Texas.
“Each summer, a colony of 150 big brown bats can protect farmers from up to 33 million rootworms, which are serious crop pests. Many bats feed on moths. The moths lay eggs that develop into caterpillars, like corn earworms and army worms, which feed on an amazing variety of crops,” says French. “Important agricultural crops, such as bananas, breadfruit, mangoes, cashews, dates, and figs, rely on bats for pollination or seed dispersal. And bats are critical for rain forest regeneration,” asserts French.
So far this winter, things are looking fair-to-middlin’ for David Ellingson’s honeybees, but the Minnesotan is holding his breath until later this month, when he learns how two-thirds of his commercial hives have fared during their wintering season down south.
Ellingson has 1,200 hives in Southeast Texas (normally 20,000 to 30,000 bees inhabit a healthy hive), where he hopes the bees are fattening up in the warmer, moister climate. His remaining 700-800 hives buzz about the fields of California, where they are helping to pollinate the state’s massive almond crop.
The next few weeks are critical for the third-generation beekeeper.
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Ellingson, a past president of the American Beekeeping Federation, will learn if he’ll have a repeat of last winter, when he lost 65 percent of all his bees. Also, in the next few weeks, he and those affected by Colony Collapse Disorder and other honey-bee health issues will learn if the current Farm Bill, which has a proposed $75 million for research and disaster-relief, will even make it to the House and Senate floors.
“This year so far our bees look better… If I had another year like last year (Ellingson saw an additional 15-20 percent loss during the ’07 summer), we would be getting ready for a sale. I’m 54 years old. I can’t go any deeper into debt.”
For him, a lifelong passion and family tradition are at stake.