Bee Swell’s mission is to promote awareness of the problems our pollinators are facing today, including pesticides and a lack of habitat and food sources, and to encourage bee friendly gardening practices that support these essential members of our garden community.
Most of us have heard the media buzz regarding the difficulties our honeybee and native pollinators have been facing and as gardeners may be wondering what we can do in our own backyards for these beautiful and essential members of our garden community. Planting a variety of flowering plants, including annuals and perennials, (especially native plants like milkweed), blooming in succession, will provide our bees and butterflies with food sources throughout the season. Habitat is also important; leaving areas of your garden wild and untilled will make available nesting sites for wild pollinators such as bumblebees and solitary bees, both of which are nonaggressive and won’t sting unless stepped on or squished. Dead wood and stone walls are other favorite nesting sites. Besides loss of habitat and food plants our bees and butterflies face the omnipresent threat of pesticides. When dealing with backyard pests choosing the least toxic course of action, including tolerance, gives our beneficial insects the best chance. A blast of the hose or squirt of diluted dish soap is often all that is needed to deal with pesky aphids.
However, a new and powerful family of pesticides has come into use in the agricultural and nursery industry; neonicotinoids (referred to as “neo-nics”). This family of systemic pesticides works on bees and other beneficial insects as a neural toxin, impairing feeding behavior and immune systems in low doses and quickly becoming lethal in higher doses. When treated with neonicotinoids as a seed or plant, plants go on to express this toxin systemically through all parts; roots to leaves, flowers and fruit. From there it goes into the soil and water, impacting soil life, water life, birds and mammals. Neonics are persistent; staying in and building up in the soil for three to nineteen years, according to research by Bayer, the manufacturer. This makes it all the more important for us, in our effort to help bees and butterflies, to buy plants that have not been treated with these chemicals. The nurseries are slowly catching up with their growing practices. Ask before you buy; “Are you or your vendors using neonics?” If the answer is yes, or they don’t know, “Bee Safe” and “Bee Kind” and don’t buy!