I’ve had two super late nights in the past week, and while I certainly don’t like to make a habit of it, it was for another great cause. Chris and I didn’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day on Thursday. There was this whole snow storm thing, and our reluctance to ever leave the home thing. But it’s all good. Instead of Valentine’s dinner at an overpriced restaurant, we attended a special event dedicated to promoting conservation, education, and awareness on pollinators.
This was the first event of its kind put on by the Puget Sound chapter of American Association of Zookeepers. A relatively new brewery, Lagunitas, has a deal where they close every Monday and Tuesday for organizations to hold fundraisers. February is a perfect month to raise awareness for pollinators conservation and education. So it was the perfect time to host a special fundraiser for AAZK.
Wait. Pollinators in the WINTER?
Yes. This is the time to start planning for how to promote and attract pollinators to your garden. And wow, this event certainly shared some fantastic ideas.
One out of every three bites we eat is produced because of pollinators. If you are the type of person who CANNOT FUNCTION without coffee, be sure to thank a bee. Without pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, we wouldn’t have most of the foods we love and enjoy. Love chocolate? Thank a pollinator. Think strawberries are the fruit of the gods? Pollinators say “you’re welcome”. Even some alcohols wouldn’t be produced at all if it weren’t for pollinators helping them out.
On the conservation side of pollination, it’s sad, and yet interesting that bees are becoming endangered due to human “progress”. The most common threat is pesticides containing neonicotinoids, a paralyzing chemical which kills whole hives. These chemicals are also thought to be the main cause for colony collapse disorder. In a study done in Europe, scientists monitored bees at 33 sites where canola plants were treated with neonicotinoids. At most sites, bees who came in contact with neonics experienced difficulty reproducing and few colonies survived the winter ¹.
So what can WE do, besides attend a For the Love of Pollinators event? We can be pollinator advocates. Plant wildflowers in and around your garden. Even dandelions serve a purpose for bees. They are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring, giving bees and other pollinating insects something to eat before full bloom of our favorites.
There is also a service which allows you to “rent” mason bees. Mason bees are native species to the Pacific Northwest, but have been in a decline recently. The most common reason is not enough suitable habitat. But now, there is someone who wants to change that, and will help you get native bees back in your yard. Rent Mason Bees is a local company that ships mason bees to you. All you have to do is hang the wood nesting block in your garden, and then return the nesting block at the end of the nesting season. Rent Mason Bees does all the winter care for the bees.
Another way to promote pollinators, especially bees, is to support local beekeepers and local farmers. Yes, it’s a high glycemic sugar, but honey is a great way to promote bees. Buying your honey from a local source will also help you, as well. Local, raw honey helps alleviate pollen related allergies. But it’s a good idea to start taking your dose of honey now, several weeks before pollen starts producing in trees.
So, now is a great time to show pollinators some love and appreciation. And start thinking about your spring and summer goals. And how pollinators fit into the equation.
Have you hugged your honey bee today?
- NPR: Food for Thought– Pesticides are Harming Bees-But Not Everywhere- Major New Study Shows.June, 2017. Reported by Dan Charles.