How Planting Gardens can Benefit the Landscape and Environment

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Property owners and managers can add a little color and variety to their landscapes and at the same time help a growing effort to restore the nation’s bee population.

The number of bees that pollinate flowering plants which help produce up to a third of the world’s food supply has been in significant decline in recent years. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) says that installing pollinator-friendly gardens is a great way to attract and build bee communities.

“We’re encouraging people to create pollinator friendly-gardens,” says Missy Henriksen, NPMA’s Vice President of Public Affairs. “We’re talking about bees that may be passing through your property that are being raised by professional beekeepers. Those are what we want to be attracting with a pollinator-friendly garden.”

Pesticide applications have been blamed for killing thousands of bees

Why the bee population is declining hasn’t been officially determined but experts believe that mites, foraging issues and pesticides could be contributing factors.

Neonicotinoid pesticides have been cited for killing thousands of bees and stirring attention among government agencies at the federal, state and local levels. Last year, an improper application of a dinotefuran product, newer insecticide labeled as “reduced-risk” by the EPA, was determined to be the cause for killing 50,000 bumble bees. Other similar incidents of bee kills have been documented.

President Barack Obama capped National Pollinator Week in late last June by issuing a Presidential Memorandum expanding Federal efforts to reverse pollinator losses and helps restore populations to healthy levels. The Memorandum establishes a Pollinator Health Task Force chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Administrator of U.S. EPA and charged with developing a National Pollinator Health Strategy within six months that includes an Action Plan.

Without such a plan, the world’s food supply could be affected.

“Simply put, without bees to spread pollen, a large number of fruits and vegetables will not be able to form and grow, severely impacting farmers and consumers alike,” says Dr. Richard Fell, pollinator health advisor for the NPMA and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech.

Pollinator-friendly gardens can help restore bee population

Henriksen says pollinator-friendly gardens are created with flowering plants, herbs and vegetables and enhance the appeal of the home. Planting wildflowers, lavender, sunflowers, golden rod and honey suckle will attract bees while adding color to the property.

The greater the variety the better, she says, and work with local landscapers and garden centers to determine what’s best for the area.

“Look up and identify flowers and flowering plants that are native to your region,” Henriksen said. “That’s what pollinators in your community would be most easily adapted to, that’s what they’re ready for, that’s what they’re looking for and that’s what works.”

Even plants that bloom at night attract moths, and that’s a good thing, she added.

A healthy bee population should be handled with care

 It’s warm enough in some parts of the country to create a garden that attracts bees. Certainly, planning now for the summer doesn’t hurt.

But Henriksen cautions that stinging insects can pose health threats, and that gardens should be planted away from the home and gathering areas like decks and patios to keep residents and pets safe. Each year, about 500,000 Americans are treated for bee stings.

And if bee populations becomes unmanageable, the NPMA recommends not to go it alone to resolve the issue. Henriksen says to call a professional beekeeper – an apiarist – or pest management company to assist. Spraying a bee hive and killing the pollinators is a last resort.

“If you contact an apiarist or pest management specialist, there is a chance the beehive can be safely removed and the pollinators preserved,” she said. “If homeowners or property managers spray a hive, then no beekeeper can take it and the pollinators within it cannot be maintained. There are ways for professionals to remove hives intact, safely, that would allow the pollinators to live.”


(Image Source: Shutterstock)

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