What can I do to help fight the decline of bees and other pollinators?

Honey Bees, Bumble Bees, Monarch Butterflies, and other pollenators are under attack on many fronts. Herbicides, pesticides, parasites, and loss of habitat are all contributing factors to their decline.

All of these factors are within your control: at least for the property that you own or rent. While many of us love a lush, weed-free lawn, the fertilizers, herbicides and insectacides needed to keep them that way are part of the problem. If you can settle for a less than perfect lawn, or perhaps only a perfect front lawn, you can create a safe retreat for beneficial insects in your yard by letting the dandelions and clover flower to feed these insects.

By setting up your lawn mower to mulch the grass clippings and setting the blade as high as it will go, your mower will pass over the clover, allowing it to flower; the taller grass will develop stronger, deeper roots to provide enough water and nutrients to the laerger blades of grass; and the mulched clippings wil break down and feed the lawn instead of ferltilizer.

A hand tool called a dandelion rooter can be used to pry up dandelions by the root, effectively killing them before they go to seed. Spend a few minutes a day prying them up as their yellow flowers become visible and very soon you will have a dandelion free lawn without pesticides, making your lawn safer for your family as well as benficial insects.

Grubs are another common pest that can destroy your lawn. They are actually Japanese Beetle larvae that feed on the roots of your lawn. Grub killer may take care of them but may also kill everything else in your lawn, from bees and ladybugs to earthworms; and it has to be reapplied annually. Japanese Beetle traps will certainly cut down on the number of beetles layiing eggs in your lawn but an even better solution is called White Milky Spores, which specifically target Japanese Beetle grubs and nothing else. These natural spores are eaten by the grubs and mulitply by the billions in the gut of a grub until they burst, leaving billions more spores to be eaten by other grubs. While White Milky Spores may be more expensive than grub killer and does not produce as immediate a result, it only has to be applied once and will actually multiply and spread throughout the lawn as grubs eat it and die, becoming more effective over time.

Herbicides such as Roundup and brush killer can do more than destroy the target weeds. They get washed into surrounding areas, killing Milkweed, wildflowers, and beneficial weeds that feed and house pollinators and other benficial insects such as Lady Bugs and Praying Mantis. For major infestations of Poison Ivy, you may have no choice other than a brush killer, but for isolaed plants that occaisionally pop up in unwanted locations, putting on a pair of dispoasable rubber gloves, carefully pulling them out by the roots without letting them touch your skin, and stuffing them in a grocery bag for disposal, will easly keep them in check. Make sure to dispose of the gloves without touching the outside or wash reusable gloves thoroughly with soapy water before removing them.

You can even plant wildflowers, flowering trees, and other plants that are sought by bees and other pollinators along the fringes of your property or even create a small meadow and/or orchard in your back yard.

After a year or two of no herbicides and pesticides, the spread of wildflowers, and the recovery of beneficial weeds adjacent to your property, you will start to notice more Lady Bugs, butterflies, Bumble Bees, and depending on the wildflowers, even hummingbirds. Your vegetable garden will give you more produce from better pollination and your lawn will be lush and free of white grubs.