March 15, 2013 Bees and Butterflies Need Our Help
This Earth Week please help our friends: The Pollinators. If we all lend a hand then together “we” are an unstoppable force – guarding Mother Nature and our exquisite blue planet.
City dwellers often have mixed feelings about insects.
Some fear being stung by bees. But you might be pleasantly surprised to know that bee venom, or Apis therapy, is a potent medicine treating arthritis, fibromyalgia, tendinitis and multiple sclerosis. Most folks probably know bees are essential pollinators of flowers. In fact, bee pollination contributes more than $180 million to the economy in Ventura County alone. Across America, bees facilitate $44 billion in commerce annually.
Some people get frightened when they see spiders or beetles crawling on the ground, but we smile in wonder when a similar looking “bug,” the butterfly, flutters through the air in front of us. Butterflies are also important pollinators. Without pollinators, there are no seeds, and without seeds, there is no food.
So how do we treat these valuable creatures? Each year around the globe, we are adding 5 billion pounds of insecticides to our biosphere. A new group of pesticides called neonicotinoids causes bees to lose their memories and shake to death, similar to humans suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Unfortunately, honeybees, wild bees (there are more than 5,000 native species in North America alone) and butterflies (in particular, monarchs) are in big trouble. Their populations are crashing, and scientists including myself have been monitoring the causes of their declines. EPA scientists are reviewing neonictinoids and may ban them, but other challenges remain.
Ventura County is on the migratory flight path of monarch butterflies. These bright orange, flittering beauties grace our county at this time of year as they return from wintering in Michoacan, Mexico, conifer forests, but their population fell by nearly 30 percent over this past year.
Their problems include global warming and the epic drought in Texas, deforestation in Mexico, and loss of feeding habitat from liberal use of herbicides.
We can help butterflies by improving their feeding habitat here in Ventura County. Female monarch butterflies will lay their eggs only in milkweed plants, and not enough cultivated landscapes include this plant. To feed these butterflies on their journey through our county, please help the monarchs by planting milkweed in your garden.
Also, this spring consider planting a bee- and moth-friendly garden with lilacs, penstemon, lavender, sage, verbena, wisteria and milkweed. In the summer, I suggest planting mint, cosmos, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies, black-eyed Susan, passionflower vine or honeysuckle. And during the fall, I suggest using fuchsia, mint, bush sunflower, sage, verbena and toadflax.
Do not use insecticides, herbicides, miticides or fungicides in your yard. Also, place a small bowl of water and replenish it daily for the bees. They get thirsty, too.
Make it a family day and Google your local beekeepers of Farmer’s Markets, visit them and buy their honey. Our beekeepers need your support.
Text © by Dr Reese Halter 2013. All rights reserved.
Tags: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Conservation Foundation, Avaaz, bees, butterflies, Conservation International, Defenders of Wildlife, Dr Reese Halter, Ducks Unlimited, Earth Day, ellen degeneres, Environmental Defense Fund, Green Peace, Grist, honeybees, Jacque Cousteau, John Denver, leonardo dicaprio, National Audubon Society, National Geographic, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy, Oprah, Peta, Riverkeepers, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Sierra Club, Steve Irwin, Ted Danson, Treehugger, world wildlife Fund