2013-04-21 Let it Bee

Let it Bee

After last Friday’s Munch Movie at the Bramble House, those of us with the Calapooia Food Alliance have been reminded of an important step in food security and an issue of great importance that we face today. Pollination by bees, beautiful creatures that in recent years seem to be telling us something about how we treat them and the earth around us, is under a great threat. Beekeepers in our own town have reported cases of the dreaded ‘colony collapse,’ and it is imperative that we not only encourage bee domestication but also awareness and respect for other pollinators that play such an important role in our environment.

One way that everyone can do their part is by leaving small pockets of space left to grow wild or to be planted with variably blooming flowers, forming a natural habitat area that attracts armies of pollinator friends throughout the season. There is an endless supply of appropriate plants to choose from, including everything from flowering kitchen herbs and carrots to dandelion and borage which readily pop up on their own in our area. Leaving a wild space with ground undisturbed will also encourage local hibernation of many pollinators as well. If you have a home garden, it cannot be understated how beneficial one of these havens can become.

Don’t use pesticides. If your circumstances require their use, take care to apply at dusk or with wind patterns that reduce drift (as a conventional filbert farmer myself, this is an unfortunate part of reality). In the context of a home-scale garden, there are a number of simple, tasty, and beautiful alternatives to introducing pesticide chemicals, one of which is attracting the pollen fly, or syrphid fly. These hyperactive hoverers are not only responsible for a healthy share of all pollination but also produce larva that have a huge aphid appetite. Consider the aforementioned pollinator friendly plants for their ability to ward off unwanted pests in the garden as well. It is truly amazing how pollinators have co-evolved with plants in such a way that allow for beautiful natural systems, orchestras of rhythm, visuals, and flavor that are best left without our own often clumsy manipulation.

Another interesting pollinator is the solitary Mason bee. These bees don’t use workers or make beeswax or honey, but are fantastic pollinators for fruit trees. I am frequently shoulder to shoulder with them in garden and haven’t felt the least bit threatened by the gentle little buggers. If anything, I find their industriousness more inspiration than distraction. Mason bee hives are a great way to engage children and are simpler than building a birdhouse, with many holes drilled into a block which mimic the beetle tunnels that the bees occupy in the wild. Imagine the fun of watching alongside a child as these tireless creatures occupy each hole with nectar, larva, and finally the closing of each bedroom with mason’s mortar, in this case mud.

If you’ve always wanted to keep bees, don’t delay! Keep an eye out this year as CFA is currently looking into the possibility of making bee hives available to interested members of the community. Contact us if you are one of these folks and we can help to get you started and connect you with wonderful experts right here in Brownsville.

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