Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Pollinator Dilemma

Much has been written recently about the pollinator crisis...the diminishing numbers of those "friendly" bees, wasps, and other pollinators whose job ensures the continuation and multiplication of the botanical world. "The birds and the bees" ARE truly about reproduction at the most basic level...and if threatened at that very level, it impacts the core of how creation has been designed to replenish itself.

Here are some factoids that can be easily backed up with data ever-so prolific:

1. Honeybees are dying.
2. Honeybees are directly linked to the numbers and health of other bees and pollinators. If the others are fewer in number, the less healthy honeybees are.
3. The disappearance of honeybees has reached a crisis proportion. This is not a hyped overstatement claimed by just one or two special interest groups.
4. It's not just a honeybee crisis, it's a human one.
5. The disappearance of the variety and numbers of pollinators in general is directly linked to the disappearance of available native plants.
6. Habitat for bees and pollinators IS habitat for humanity. If we think otherwise, we need to read up on the interdependence factor that works to balance creation. Synthetic foods will never substitute real foods and still maintain the existence of humankind. Engineered foods are not sustenance at the most basic level. We are "inventing" our way into a corner. Are we considering an eventual extinction of some of our basic food groups? (OK yeah maybe that's my going off the deep end in a rant...but where does it end??) :)

Back to the pollinators and their "happy plants."

I'm not sure why this issue has really taken heart inside me as something I MUST do...maybe I'm getting an urge to set up a corner of this place, my corner, to slowly attain to a picture I have in my mind of "how things ought to be." And somehow, that will make things closer to being alright? I can't explain it. It's not a quest for peacefulness, nor of escaping a world gone wild, but rather of seeing if it can be realized, even if just somewhat.

And somehow that world is abuzz with bees and lively pollen and nectar-thirsty insect life.

The Companionability Factor

When looking at the "bee lists" and research that is prolific and available from many sources, if only we'll access it, I'm scanning it with an eye for companionability. Just as I'm trying to mix companion plants among my small and growing "test veggies" (my term for the really small scale ...pots...we're using to try out the elemental basics of beginning gardening before one day moving to larger property and scale), I would like to keep that concept in mind when thinking of incorporating "pollinator-attracting" plants into a larger garden scheme, or naturalizing.

Which "pollinator plants" are equally friendly to both people and livestock?

That concern didn't really arise until I saw a couple of warnings in my perusing of the lists. Here are the concerns:

1. Some plants you'd think would be great for pollinators are least to bees. They'll kill them off.

2. Some plants, after being harvested by honeybees in particular, make the honey undesirable (as in unsafe, or questionable). Fortunately, these are few and far between. However, I need to be aware of what they are before introducing any non-native species (or even MORE native species) in larger numbers. If honey is ever made, it has to be safe for consumption for humans.

3. Some plants are pollinator-friendly, but if foraged by livestock, can cause irritation, injury, or death. Or an obnoxious taste to milk.

4. Some plants are not people-friendly, or have cautions in how certain parts of the plants are used by humans. I don't want plants around that kids could pop into their mouths and die from. Those, too, are few and far between, but worth noting. That would be a non-issue for some folks because of location or situation. For me, it's just my comfort zone reality.

5. Some plants are way too gregarious and will socialize without stopping...meaning they are invasive and dangerous to native plants. Some are not. Some can be contained in various ways. These are just responsible considerations. We don't want a well-intentioned introduction of a plant that will bully out the diversity of existing native good guys.

There are probably other concerns, but these are the ones that come to mind.

I'm shorter on time just now, but I'm compiling a list for myself of plants that pass the above tests...and will grown in my planting zone and soil.

I'm also interested in those plants that additionally can be utilized to add diversity to pasture so that selective browsing can take place, and which might add yet-undiscovered benefits to the food sources of responsibly pastured livestock of different kinds.

Thankfully, there are a lot of plants out there that fill the bill. I'm on a quest to make the list (isnt that part of the fun of the planning stage...lists?) :)

More on the unfolding of The List...but I have hammered out a process and will be focusing in an organized fashion (somewhat!) on groupings of these, notable details beyond the pollinator friendliness factor, and hopefully even listing sources of the plants/seeds for purchase.

This will be a continuing project, and since it can be bitten off a tad at a time, I can be productive while still having a packed schedule for the moment.

So...there's the and lists to commence very soon!

Yay! I'm "buzzing" with excitement....ha! ;-)


e4 said...

Sweet. I'm looking forward to more information. I always appreciate benefiting from somebody else's work. :)

Here's a link you may or may not have already run across:

Willa said...

I'm looking forward to the list. The bit about invasive plants really caught my eye- I had some comfrey confined (so I thought ) to a pot that was sitting on the cinderblock edge of one of my raised beds. Somehow the comfrey escaped the pot, and got into the raised bed. In another unfathomable move, my husband tilled the bed, and chopped the comfrey root in to millions of small pieces. Now we have millions of small comfrey plants coming up all over the bed. Sometimes I will pull up a tiny, 3 inch plant and it will come attached to a 6 inch piece of root as big around as my index finger.

On the other hand, pollinators seem to love the comfrey blossoms, and the leaves make great green manure to add to the compost, to feed to chicken, and to add to salves.

On a completely different note- isn't it a shame how working cuts into your life? I've been working more hours lately and I hardly have time to blog, much less do anything to blog about!