The Pervasive Problem of Pesticides
I spoke recently with Mace Vaughan, the Pollinator Program Director for the Xerces Society, about the grave issue of the effect of pesticides on bees, both wild and domesticated (honey bees). You can read that post here. My post was mainly focused on the neonicotiniods in agriculture, but Vaughan pointed out that their use by home gardeners is a serious problem as well.
The main problem (besides using them at all) is that there is no warning label alerting the gardener to the dangers to pollinators and other beneficial organisms in your garden. Gardeners who think it's necessary to use pesticides on their roses, for example, may have no idea that they are potentially killing bees and butterflies. Furthermore, pesticides and herbicides are usually used as a preventative, even when there may be no pest problem.
My personal experience is that roses are actually very hardy plants. Our home had over 20 rose bushes when we bought it about ten years ago, and we never pampered them. Most did very well and gave us years of incredible blooms, with no sprays at all- just yearly pruning and minimal feeding. We've gradually replaced most of the roses to make room for edibles, but I kept a few to enjoy their beauty, and if I use them for eating, I know they are safe and pesticide/herbicide free.
A Bee Friendly Garden is a Healthy Garden
I'm a big fan of lots of herbs in the garden to help create a healthy garden ecosystem, and I always let my herbs go to flower- the bees go nuts! They especially love oregano, thyme, and lavender. The Pineapple sage is popular too, and spectacular in bloom.
|Pineapple Sage is a spectacular garden plant popular with pollinators|
So I took the opportunity to ask Vaughan my burning question- are culinary herbs (oregano, thyme, etc,) considered good bee forage? It's great to have flowers to attract pollinators to your garden, but they have to be the right kind, nutritionally. I was very happy to learn that yes, if you see lots of bees on your flowering plants, then it's a good indication that they are what bees need.
I'll be writing more about pollinator-friendly gardening and creating a healthy garden ecosystem that you can feel good about. Please go forth and educate your family, friends and neighbors about eco-friendly gardening. They may even sleep better at night. The bees will.
See the Xerces Society Pollinator Resource Center for information about pollinator conservation by region.
Photo: Urban Artichoke