2017 has been a challenging year for pollinators. At South Mountain Bees we are worried about insects and how they reflect the health of our planet. We learned that between 1989 and 2016, the biomass of flying insects decreased between 76 and 82 percent, according to a report published in early October in the journal PLOS One. Although the research was carried out in Germany, it seems to unveil a global truth.
I was looking at an old album of pictures (remember those?). It had photos I took in the late nineties when I used to carry a heavy camera, and I could not even imagine owning a cell phone, let alone the quality of pictures they can capture these days. The images were from the backyard of an old friend in our area, and it was full of butterflies! I then realized that I haven't seen those in years, and it made me sad to realize the magnitude of the loss. We don't need a scientific study to see the difference, but we need the research to quantify the extent of the damage and to push us into action.
This is the first year we didn't have dozens of Tiger Swallowtails on our cone flowers, and because of the bees, we don't use pesticides or other chemicals in our yard. So what changed? Fingers point to pesticides and other pollutants. Although I wish our neighborhood could get rid of those mosquitoes without hurting the bees, I'm out of luck, because pesticides drift beyond property lines into the air, the water, even dew drops that bees drink. The reality is that there aren't any pesticides that will selectively kill female mosquitoes without hurting other beneficial insects we rely on for a healthy ecosystem.
Although they are not answering my phone calls or mail messages, Mosquito Squad says: "This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow to drift to blooming crops if bees are visiting the treatment area."
Please let us know when your yard is being treated, so that we can move the bees away until it is safe for them to return to the flowers. You can also let the New Jersey Beekeepers Association know so that they can inform other beekeepers in the area. Remember, bees can fly three to five miles searching for food.
Last but not least, the NJDA is proposing restricting backyard beekeeping so severely that it will be nearly impossible to get local honey other than from commercial beekeepers. The deadline to voice our opposition is January 19, 2018. We have a lot to do! Stay tuned.
In the meantime, and full of optimism, here's to a year of responsible gardening and full of healthy pollinators.