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Consider Your Back Yard Pollinators

The buzz about bees


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What follows, dear readers, is hard stuff to take, but it is vital that everyone who has a garden or lawn to take into consideration. YOU can make a difference in your own backyard, and put a stop to those elements that are making Earth a dangerous place to live.

There is no longer any mystery about the reasons behind Colony Collapse Syndrome (CCD) in tens-of-thousands of cultured bee hives around the world: it's pure and simple —too many pesticides. The Earth is getting saturated with the stuff.

One can chase one's tail from now until the cows come home, blaming other factors for our environmental problems, but in the final cut it will be too many chemicals—herbicides and pesticides—causing most of the problems.

One horrific example took place right here in Oregon, over in Wilsonville last month when thousands of native bumble bees were killed by a chemical pesticide applied in the wrong place at the wrong time. That incident was followed by another episode of bee deaths from chemicals in Hillsboro. As a result of these unfortunate "accidents," more than a dozen pesticides are now banned in Oregon after 50,000 bees were found dead in a Target store parking lot earlier this month.

To help prevent another bee killing, the Oregon Department of Agriculture is also (temporarily) banning the use of 18 pesticide products. Products containing dinotefuran can no longer be used on plants, or at least not until the ban is lifted. Unfortunately, Oh, Best Beloved, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The ban includes the Neonicotinoids, a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine—yeah, the same stuff people inhale from smoking tobacco products.

Like so many chemicals in agriculture used without really checking the sideeffects (or believing the manufactuer's "testing") neonicotinoids showed "much lower toxicity in mammals than insects," and the agriculture industry took the chemical companies "research" at facevalue and jumped in with both feet.

But the side affects are toxic. However, that hasn't stopped their use; the neonicotinoid, imidacloprid is currently the most widely used insecticide in the world, which includes: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam.

I placed those unpronounceable names in that last paragraph for you to cut out and save, so the next time you go out to buy a chemical to kill ants, or aphids, or dandelions, stop and look for them on the label. Then, if you must, buy it at your own risk—and the risk of bee populations, and, by extension, flowers and fruits.

Not only do neonicotinoids pose a threat to bees and natural pollinators, but Monarch butterflies and birds as well. In March 2013, the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) published a review of 200 studies on neonicotinoids—including industry research ABC could only obtain through the US Freedom of Information Act—calling for a ban on its use as seed treatments because of toxicity to birds, aquatic invertebrates, and other wildlife.

Enter the Xerces Society, named for the extinct Xerces Blue Butterfly, Glaucopsyche xerces once found in the Sunset District of San Francisco. Of all the public (and most governmental) scientific groups in the US, none care for the health and happiness of our invertebrate AND vertebrate life (you and me) more than the Xerces Society.

Every spring, scientists from Xerces arrive in Sisters, who, with a team local of volunteers, monitor the health of Wychus Creek. They collect and count a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates to learn what's going on in the creek and how what they discover relates to the anadromous fishery so many agencies and people are trying to reestablish.

Xerces most recent book, "Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies," is a gardeners' bible of conservation. At 380 pages, "Attracting Native Pollinators" provides dramatically expanded breadth and detail, reflecting the latest understanding about creating and managing pollinator habitat in one's backyard. It's illustrated with hundreds of color photographs and dozens of specially created illustrations, and divided into four detailed sections:

* "Pollinators and Pollination" explains the value of pollinators, and includes chapters on the natural history and habitat needs of bees, butterflies, flies, beetles, and wasps.

* "Taking Action" provides comprehensive information on ways to help pollinators and on creating nest sites and safe foraging areas.

* "Bees of North America" provides help with identifying the more abundant and important bee species, and supplies detailed profiles of more than 30 commonly encountered genera.

* "Creating a Pollinator-Friendly Landscape" shows how various kinds of land, including urban gardens, suburban parks, and farms, can be enhanced to support diverse pollinator populations.

Book stores in Sisters and Bend have "Attracting Native Pollinators," or you can order it from Xerces off its website, and if you want to know more about our native bumble bees, order a copy of the book, "Conserving Bumble Bees."

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