Pesticides and Pollinators

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Pesticides are chemicals used to control
                           weeds, pests, and plant diseases.
They include herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, and fungicides.

Pesticides, alongside other harmful chemicals, are contributing to a dangerous decline in pollinator populations.

What are pesticides?
Chemicals used in most pesticides are extremely toxic to bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, and flies, and others of the thousands of pollinating insects.  Note that if you have "nuisance" honeybees in your walls or a nearby tree, etc. that no beekeeper will come rescue them if they have been sprayed with chemicals, for good reason.

How do pesticides affect pollinators?
While all pesticides might not necessarily kill insects, they often impair the mobility and behavior of insects, inhibiting their ability to successfully pollinate.  Honeybees exposed to them will likely not establish a successful hive for a beekeeper.  All pollinators can become severely poisoned from chemicals sprayed on flowering plants. 

How are pesticides affecting your backyard?
Pesticides may be affecting plants and pollinators even in areas where homeowners are using "pollinator-friendly" options.  To protect pollinators, check out local regulations on roadside spraying and industrial chemical use to inform your decisions and knowledge on pesticide use. 

What are your options?
The safest option for pesticides (and humans) is to not use chemicals in your yard and garden at all.  Practicing conscious and limited use when applying pesticides can keep both pollinators and people healthy.  Many pesticides are labeled "safe for pollinators", and applying pesticides in early morning or late afternoon when pollinators are least likely to be foraging may help limit the effects of harmful chemicals. 

That said, the numbers will surprise you.  On a per acre basis, American homeowners use ten times more pesticides than those used on U.S. farms.  This article digs in on the rise of the natural lawn care movement, and the success communities have had in reducing and eliminating cosmetic pesticide use.  Plus, you'll find tons of resources for pesticide-free garden and lawn care, and a resource to ‘create a honeybee haven!’

Part of the issue is simply "doing what's (supposedly) always been done".  Dandelions in our lawns, for instance, have only been considered unsightly since the chemical-lawn-industrial-complex rose in the 1950's and promoted the sterile lawn environments we think of as "normal" now.  Their bright beauty is now seen as a failure of proper maintenance, but we can
think differently and provide our pollinators with a wonderful, consistent source of pollen - right in our own backyards!

Better yet, don’t use them!  Check out this link to the Pesticide Action Network - tons of resources for pesticide-free garden and lawn care, plus a nice resource to ‘create a honeybee haven!’  There are also tons of resources for creating your pollinator habitat on the Local Living Venture's Pollinator Pals page.

Lawn Be Gone!
One of the goals of the Pollinator Program is to convert as much sterile, manicured lawn to beautiful natural habitat as possible!  Lawns are wonderful things and appropriate in many places, even for use as paths and hang-out spaces in the midst of a pollinator garden, but the world does not need more needs pollinator habitat!  Many solitary bees and other small pollinators like beetles need no less than one to three blocks between pollinator habitat patches in order to be able to thrive.  When we remove every dandelion from our lawns, we cut down on the bio-availability these critters need.

A "weed" is in the eye of the beholder, and is subject to current "norms" regarding what is considered useful or beautiful in the landscape; but surely we can see the beauty in all such plants, if we look with an unbiased eye.  Not only the aesthetics apply here though!  Many so-called weeds are a source of both medicines and food for humans, too, as well as for animals and insects!

Natural Pest Controls
Consider the pollinators when dealing with a pest or unwanted plant in your landscape.  There are many natural or biological controls (such as ladybugs for aphid infestation or soapy water for mealy bugs) and other organic means to discourage unwanted plant growth or pests.  Here's one
great resource, and many more specific to your particular issue are all just a search engine keystroke away!

Thanks for your part in helping our region to be the pollinator-friendliest and wildflower-prettiest it can be!

Resources not linked above:
Xerces Society
Department of Environmental Conservation
New York State Pesticide Regulations (Cornell)
U.S. Food & Drug Administration


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