Your Turn: Saving precious pollinators one local town at a time
I am not making it up: Bumblebees really do bite tomato stems to speed up flower production.
This phenomenon is so important that the Japanese engineered robotic bumblebees for a hothouse tomato crop experiment to see if they could rely on technology instead of nature. What they discovered was the native bumblebee bite produced faster flower growth and the flowers produced more pollen than the robotic bee.
Nature does it better and faster.
Bumblebees also perform buzz pollination. By unhinging their wings and vibrating at such an enormous rate the pollen is literally shaken off, wafting down upon the bee’s hairy body.
Scientists have calculated that the average buzz pollination frequency is about 270 Hz, which is equivalent to a C-sharp above middle C on the piano. Buzz pollination occurs on plants that do not give up their pollen easily but, thank goodness, they’ve had millions of years to work it out.
All that effort for the transfer of pollen from male parts to female parts. I guess it all comes down to food and sex.
The antics of bees make for engaging stories. Whether we realize or not it, we’re a part of their story.
The story has a high likelihood for a happy ending but we don’t know. It hasn’t been written yet. Over the last 40 years they’ve suffered serious losses.
It’s been a war of sorts. Invasive pests, diseases, loss of habitat, loss of sustainable food sources, and manmade chemicals. Scientists estimate there is a 75% decline in flying insect numbers in the past 26 years.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last year that the Monarch butterfly should be considered an endangered species. The gloomy data has been documented. People have taken notice, and a worldwide effort is now underway to conserve pollinator habitats, restore native ecosystems and eliminate chemical use in our environment.
Whether it be gardens, window boxes, patio planters or meadows, all are needed pollinator-friendly spaces. A diversity of native plants with consecutive bloom times from spring into autumn, along with host plants for pollination reproduction, assures ecosystem sustainability. It also enriches the food web.
If the idea of attracting pollinators, particularly bees, to your yard seems scary because of allergies, do not fear. These industrious insects rarely sting; they are too busy making a living.
Going pesticide free is an easy but vital step. Here, we let the food web do its magic. There’s a wasp that eats caterpillars and a fly that eats mosquitoes.
Why deprive insects of their food? Say no to lawn chemicals. Our watershed needs protection from toxins. Insecticides, pesticides, treated mulch, many lawn care products all contain chemicals in the same class as chlorpyrifos that are known to kill bees.
The EPA has placed these chemicals on an interim consideration review for health risks to the environment and us!
While pollinators are thriving in their pesticide-free habitats, gardeners can continue to be a tad lazy and relax through the autumn months. Putting your landscape to bed no longer requires a lot of dead heading, raking and blowing. By leaving some leaves and hollow plant stalks for insect hibernation, you are preserving next year’s generation. Fire flies and Mourning Cloak butterflies are two beautiful creatures we want to see in the following summers.
Marjorie Meekhoff lives in East Lyme. To submit commentary to Your Turn, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Connecticut pollinators and how you can help, check out:
Pollinator Pathway East Lyme Facebook page
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