The Simple Things….continued

I started off my Friday post with a quote from a previous post about “sometimes doing the simple thing is also the best thing for our pollinators.” I sort of intended that post to be about pollinators and then it wasn’t. Sometimes that’s how it works out.

What I had in mind there was that rather than bringing out the big old can of spray every time we see a weed or an insect, there are really much easier approaches to dealing with both. I know I’ve talked about my “Freedom Lawn” (aka lawn full of weeds like clover and violets) as being a lawn that’s beneficial to lots of pollinators.

In preparing an upcoming lecture on pollinators, however, I was a little startled to discover that 5 different species of butterflies, as well as my beloved ants, use the clover and violets as food sources. And I know I talked last year about how the clover was sort of “detouring” the rabbits away from some of my perennials and vegetables. It’s working so far this year as well (with a little encouragement for my rescue dog, Amie, as well!). That’s what I call freedom!

I’ve also talked in the past about how some customers in my retail gardening past would come to me, puzzled, because they would have no vegetables in their gardens. I would ask them if they saw any bees and they’d say no. Then I’d ask about their insecticide use and inevitably they’d be doing a chemical 4 step lawn program and a grub program and probably something else as well.

So I’d try to gently explain that bees were very susceptible to pesticides–the grub control in particular most likely was one of those dreaded neonicotinoid type pesticides–and that they might be working at cross purposes by at best driving away all the bees and at worst killing them. I’d say that if they didn’t want to be hand-pollinating their crops they might want to back away from the pesticide use a little.

This was always very unwelcome news and was usually resisted quite strenuously. And then I’d tell my story about the butterflies. It’s really simple and very effective.

The year before we got married–but I was dating my husband and gardening on the property–I noticed there were no butterflies.  Hmm, I thought, this is strange. What’s wrong here? So I started to read up on them and found that they were very susceptible to pesticides. At that point, way back in 1994, I decided that we weren’t going to use any because I’d rather have butterflies than perfection.

By 1996, when I applied for certification as a backyard habitat, I counted 36 different butterflies and moths on the property. Technically that was only 2 springs without pesticides. It doesn’t take much. Stop using pesticides and they will come. It’s the simple things…..




Our Creepy Little Friends Need Help!

I’m almost two months early with this post–most folks associate bats more with Halloween than with early September–but I’ve just read about an initiative put together by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that is attempting to coordinate state, federal and tribal concerns to help the six species of bats that are affected by white nose syndrome (sometimes called white nose fungus).

Since this fungus was first discovered in 2006 in caves in New York, it’s been found as far north as two Canadian provinces and as far west as Tennessee.  It’s decimating our bat population and as most of my readers know, bats are the good guys!  While they can be a carrier of rabies, so can so many of our other backyard species.

Bats help us in so many ways.  First and foremost, they eat hundreds, if not thousands of insects a night.  But that’s not all that they do to help gardeners.  They are also pollinators of crops as well.  Among other plants and flowers, bats pollinate agave–without bats, there will be no tequila!

Without the two important functions played by bats, gardeners and all agricultural interests will see a noticable difference in their gardens and fields.

In my own yard, my bat population has dropped off precipitously.  I used to be able to stand and watch them come out of my bat house at twilight and streak off toward the street light.  There are none left in my bat house.

When I would go out with my dog(s) I would occasionally put on a spotlight and I’d see multiple bats soaring high in the tops of my pine trees, presumably scouting for insects.  Now it’s a rare night if I see one.  And the mosquito population in my yard has increased dramatically.

I haven’t seen a noticable decline in the pollination of anything–so far as I can tell–but my enjoyment of the night has surely diminished without my bats.  And with the decline in honeybees as well, let us hope this new initiative helps the bats get the help that they need!