One evening this week, Chris, Shrek and I went to the Banks for a walk. This is a good place to have an evening walk near our farm, the rustic road leads down into a canyon and then through several meadows that are filled with wildflowers just now. There is a dry wash that runs along side of the road, that rarely ever has water in it, and if it does it is usually due to a flash flood type of event where the water comes on quickly and just as quickly it is over and gone. The picture above is what that dry wash looks like right now and it has been running water for the past couple of months. The water has washed the road out in several places, so walkers or horseback riders are the main way people can travel this road at the moment. A vehicle can’t pass through in places. It’s nice to see such abundant water where we live. This is the high mountain desert here and we are usually quite an arid climate. This time of the year is normally all about hot temperatures and very dry conditions. Not so this year.
If you have been following this blog, or you live near to us, you know that we have had a humdinger of a rainy spring season. The rain is still with us, although not to the same degree as during April and May. The morning I went for a walk at the Arkansas river, which is at flood stage and out of its banks in many places now. The river is deep and running very fast! It’s supposed to crest tonight sometime, but there is more rain in the forecast for tonight still. There is also a LOT of snow melt run-off right now.
Interestingly, we were supposed to get epic rains yesterday and today. Chris spent yesterday morning repairing downspouts and digging trenches to allow large amounts of rain water to be manageable. Our supply barn is still so muddy from past rains that you can ‘t walk in it without walking on wood planks. Otherwise you sink in the mud! So, he was going to be as well prepared for this next rain event as possible. We didn’t get a single drop!!! All around us people have reported that they got a lot of rain yesterday and last night, but us…no, we are completely dry here. So, the gardens needed watering, as did the new field transplants, so we have spent the day dragging around hoses and trying to get everything watered. Just goes to prove you can’t second-guess Mother Nature.
While we were on our walk at the Banks, this Penstemon had a pollinator visitor. I happened to have along my camera and got to snap the picture.
There’s been a lot of information in the media of late, well for some time now really, about bees and other types of pollinators and their importance to the cycles of life. It’s a really big deal and we should all be paying strict attention.
This video is amazing! It photographs the lives of several native pollinating bees, that unlike honeybees, live solitary lives. I hope you will watch this…it will not only help you understand the lives of these amazing creatures, the beauty of it, along with its important message is something we all need to know about.
The Solitary Bees on Vimeo
Here is a report that was released just on June 1st, 2015 that offers a lot of really important and good information on this subject of doing as much as we can to foster, not harm, pollinators and beneficial insect. It is filled with ways to handle insect problems in the least harmful methods and still get good results.
Native pollinators and honeybees are having a really tough time these days, and for many different reasons. You’ve read about this before on this blog (and other places too I’m sure), as it is a subject that is very important and dear to mine and Chris’ hearts, as well as to the survival of our farm. But, it’s a much bigger issue than how it affects Chris and I. The health and well-being of pollinators and beneficial insects, wild birds, water creatures, and so many other types of wildlife, is key to the survival, not to mention the quality of life, for human beings If these creatures don’t thrive and do well, then ultimately neither will we, as so many things in our lives is directly linked to theirs.
Pollinators of all types are struggling with habitat destruction, lack of good foraging for food, pesticide and other chemical exposure, disease and pest attacks, poor water quality…they have a lot of challenges to cope with. All of these challenges together equate to a great deal of stress, and pollinators are not much different from you or I in that if they are coping with a lot of stress in their lives, their ability to thrive will be compromised in a big way.
We as humans are directly responsible for many of the challenges that pollinators (and other wildlife) experience. It’s not enough to say that things that their challenges are not in our control. That is still yet to be determined for many of the factors affecting them.
That said, exposure to pesticides and other chemicals is something we absolutely can control, and it’s time to get really serious about this. It is not enough to say “we should plant more flowers for pollinators”. If the flowers we plant are poisoned because they’ve been treated with toxic chemicals, especially systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids, than we can plant all the flowers we like and it’s not going to be helpful for the pollinators. It will be harmful to them and quite possibly it will be deadly for them! There are marketers and various industry groups that are doing a superb job of putting out the mis-leading message that all we have to do is “plant more flowers”.
Yes, planting lots of diverse blooming plants for pollinators will be a fantastic thing to do, but only if those plants are not tainted with toxic chemicals. Another thing that is upsetting is the promotions to support butterflies with plants that they use for food like milkweeds and echinaceas and others. That’s a really good idea too, but then in the next breath we tell people how to kill the caterpillars on our plants because they are causing damage as they forage for food on the leaves. Well, those same caterpillars will become butterflies and moths, which are also great pollinators by the way, and if we kill the caterpillars, then we won’t have butterflies or moths. I’m not sure if everyone realizes that caterpillars are part of the cycle of the life of a butterfly. That is what we need to share with people, along with the fact that those same caterpillars lives at that stage of their life is really pretty short…about 1.5 to 2 weeks long. The message we need to be sharing is to remind folks to be patient when they see the caterpillars eating their dill or parsley. Soon enough they will form cocoons and change into butterflies. The parsley and the dill, or whatever plants it is, will recover and continue growing. Poisoning the caterpillars won’t be helpful, it will be harmful. If you need to manage those caterpillars, then pick them off the plants and toss them to the birds or set up a bird bath in the area and let the birds forage the caterpillars. That is a better solution than a chemical solution.
We are talking about important pollinators and beneficial insects here. Maybe it’s time for us to re-evaluate our need to have everything absolutely perfect and beautiful in our gardens. The cycles of nature WORK if they can be fostered appropriately. Maybe it’s time for us to be good observers and participates of the bigger picture. If you need to manage a problem in your garden landscape, see if you can come up with a way to do that doesn’t require harmful chemicals like pesticides or herbicides.
If you do decide you must use a substance to help control a severe problem in your garden, then use an organic or OMRI product choice, which will be less toxic and won’t be systemic in the plants for long periods of time. These products still must be used precisely and carefully, not only for them to be effective, but also for them to be used safely not just around pollinators, but also around us and our pets, our water supplies, etc.
So, tonight as I was closing up the greenhouses I noticed that there are lots of bumblebees visiting the foxtail lily that started blooming this week. What an amazing gift to see these creatures moving around among the flowers.