The Decline of The Pollinators

Date 10/04/2009

By: Patricia Pearson, Florida Wildlife Federation Habitat Coordinator
Updated: 06/09/2016 Original Article: 10/04/2009

Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on the honeybee to pollinate that food, according to Zac Browning, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation. Beekeepers on the East Coast are reporting losses of more than 70 percent of the bees in commercial hives and those declines are mirrored in the wild bee populations. Such declines have brought about a whole new industry…beekeepers who rent out their bees to pollinate orange groves, apple orchards, nut trees, and other pollinator dependent crops. Pollination dependent crops include soybeans, cotton, grapes, almonds, apples, oranges, strawberries, peanuts, peaches, blueberries, all of which are Florida crops, not to mention the things we grow in our home vegetable gardens. Some pollination can be done by wind or water or birds and bats, but the great proportion of it depends on honeybees.

Florida’s losses of bees are the same as other states on the East Coast, and the causes are poorly understood. They include introduced parasites such as the varroa mite, loss of habitat, and pesticides, and too much monoculture on large agricultural lands. Aerial application of pesticides, or crop dusting, widely practiced in Florida, is a particular hazard for honeybees.

What can we do as Florida residents to help in this alarming situation?

Plant and cultivate native wildflowers. These will provide wild bees with the nectar they need. Do not use pesticides, particularly those that have warnings that they are “highly toxic to honeybees” on the packaging. Please note that Thuricide – Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) – the chemical that is used in “dunks” to kill mosquito larvae in standing water, is toxic to butterflies, moths, beetles and flies as well, so be mindful of that when considering using them. Do use organic sprays such as garlic oil instead of dusts if you must treat pests on your plants.  Only spray the pest-infested plants and be careful of overspray. There are many good articles on organic pest control techniques at rodalesorganiclife.com and in books on organic gardening.

Buy floating row covers — the light-weight version – at your local garden store, and use them as an insect barrier. They can be draped over vegetables and other plants. Remove when the plants flower for pollination to occur. The covers let in 80% of available light, and allow rain and sprinkler water to pass right through. Check the Florida ordinances on crop dusting, and encourage any local businesses engaging in this practice to follow the rules. Speak to your Neighborhood Association and your Gardening Club and your friends to enlist their help in protecting and encouraging our native pollinators.

I don’t think any of us want to lose every third bite of what we eat.

Information about the potential risk of organic-approved pesticides to pollinators

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/xerces-organic-approved-pesticides-factsheet.pdf

List of neonicotinoid home garden products to avoid
http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/NeonicsInYourGarden.pdf



Tags: Wildlife Habitat, Bees, Pollinators



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