This year has really been a ‘buzzer’ for me so I was very excited to take part in a conference that enabled me to explore a few of my favorite things:
- Beautiful North Carolina mountain scenery,
- Gorgeous fall weather,
- Scientists and educators passionate about pollinators.
I had a truly inspirational experience in Hendersonville, North Carolina this past week attending the Protecting Pollinators in Ornamental Landscapes conference. The conference was attended by over 80 educators, 10 industry scientists, 20 academic scientists, 8 suppliers, 11 students, 13 growers and 2beekeepers – truly a diverse and well-rounded group! I learned so much from the excellent speakers and presentations and was reminded of why gardeners should be concerned about native bee populations. Here are a few highlights from what I learned at the conference.
- There is tremendous diversity and abundance of bees in urban and suburban areas – so plant pollinator friendly plants and provide habitat and they will come!
- Neonicotinoid pesticide are often discussed and debated in reference to European honeybees, but their impact on bumblebees is troubling; there is scientific evidence of learning and memory impact, foraging and homing impact, decreased flower visitation ability, decreased colony formation and decreased pollinator service ability.
- Cultivars and propagation techniques matter when it comes to the ‘friendliness’ value of plants to pollinators. For example, I often mention ‘cosmos’ as a great pollinator plant. However, cosmos propagated from cuttings and sold in nurseries is not particularly attractive to pollinators. The cosmos I grow at the Meals Plus harvest garden comes from seed. Unlike cosmos grown from cuttings, its flowers are bombarded with diverse visitors throughout the growing season. Same is true for sunflowers. Sunflowers grown for the cut flower industry do not tend to produce high pollen loads and hence those types do not attract pollinators like their ‘pollen-heavy’ relatives.
- Best Management Practices (BMP’s) need to be established and exercised by landscape professionals and residential landowners. We all have a part to play in appropriate pesticide use and other garden maintenance practices. Here were a few of my favorite pesticide use BMPs mentioned at the conference:
- Only apply insecticides to plants when necessary – consider ignoring insect-induced cosmetic (non-fatal) damage to plants.
- Prune to remove blooms before treating plants with insecticides toxic to bees and other pollinators.
- Treat plants with insecticides toxic to bees only after they are done blooming.
- Prior to control of lawn pests (like white grubs) with insecticides toxic to bees, mow the flowers of weeds, like clover or dandelions, to limit the exposure risk to non-target insects.
- Establish ‘no-spray’ buffer strips around areas planted with pollinator-friendly plants and make sure to clearly label these areas for others.
- Read and follow all directions on the label of the insecticide you plan to use.
Finally, I found inspiration from the wonderful work of some of my out-of-state Extension colleagues. I met Debbie Roos from North Carolina Cooperative Extension and learned about her ‘Pollinator Paradise’ garden. Debbie is a wonderful educator and amazing photographer. I truly encourage you to check-out her garden website for your own inspiration – personally I plan to follow her beautiful garden for many years to come! Pollinator Paradise Garden Website