Providing a 'Benefit Package' for our Pollinators: Bee Bennies!

Providing a 'Benefit Package' for our Pollinators: Bee Bennies!

There is a lot of buzz about pollinator plants and pollinator plots and with good reason! It is so important we provide a complete 'benefits package' for these 'unpaid workers' in our fields and gardens.

Pollinators are at the HEART of nearly all that happens in our seed production plots. The vast majority of seeds we produced are dependent upon insect pollination! Habitat loss and pesticide exposure are reportedly the main drivers of the loss of our pollinators. Enter organic seed production-- providing pollinators with the best 'benefit package' we can-- the most favorable conditions, benefits that will ensure their ability to flourish. Doing so in turn supports our ability to provide high quality seed. We depend on them to produce seed and we get to share that seed with all of you—because we ALL depend on them for our gardens!

I called them 'unpaid workers' because their ecosystem services are free! The pollinators are there, as part of this beautiful and intricate world we are so blessed to enjoy. We strive to provide them with a complete “benefit package” to increase their quality of life, helping them help us in this big, beautiful circle of life we are part of... “What goes around comes around!”

One of my earliest memories involves a bumblebee! I was a toddler out exploring my world and vividly remember capturing a big, beautiful creature between my hands off the top of a large purple flower. I was taught a shocking lesson, receiving a good sting in the palm of my hand from a very alarmed bumblebee, who was just going about its business when it was so rudely interrupted by this ignorant child.

Fast forward a few decades... I am very much aware that this ignorant child still lives within… I have so MUCH to learn about these creatures! We absolutely depend on them, so obviously it is in our best interests to really get to know them, understand their needs, their struggles, and what makes them happy!

In order for our pollinators to provide us with their best pollination services in the wild, in our agricultural systems, and in our gardens-- there are some specific requirements that must be fulfilled. These include flowers-- gift them with flowers; then pay attention to their nesting needs, overwintering sites, and finally, protection from pesticides. If you can help insure these needs are met, your pollinator friends will benefit.

But ‘cha can’t just bring them ANY old flower… ignorance is not bliss in this case! Look for flowers labeled free of “neonicotinoids” or “neonics.” This insecticide has been flagged for a number of years already as being particularly toxic to our pollinators. It is a systemic insecticide—which means it is absorbed and transmitted into every part of the plant. It is not just a spray on the surface of the plant; it is in every cell. The plant literally BECOMES the pesticide. The pollen and nectar the plant produces is laced with it. So when the bees visit those flowers, they carry the insecticide back to the hive in the form of pollen and nectar… poison food.

If you buy flower plants, look for plants labeled free of neonicotinoids. Many reputable nurseries have taken great pains to become neonic-free. The best alternative is to seek out organic flowers. Or you can go the most secure route and plant your own flowers from certified organic seed. Here is a link to our pollinator garden flowers to help you start planning.

I found a great resource for help where I have so much to learn… Let me introduce you to the Xerces Society! Their full name is the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Back to those science classes—invertebrates are all those creatures that do not have a backbone! Xerces is nonprofit organization working to protect invertebrates and their habitats. Pollinators are a part of that mission. Their name comes from the North American Xerces blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche xerces), which is now extinct.

Here is an article that will help you dig deeper, and help 'Bring Back the Pollinators!' Once you're there, check out all the other great resources available through the Xerces Society and join in the fun!

If you love videos and need a ‘little summer’ on a winter’s day, check out our short video of Bees on Lacy Phacelia. Enjoy!

Our best to you,

Theresa & Dan