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Protect our Pollinators

Butterfly on mikweed

Bees, birds, bats and butterflies are crucial to the sustainability of our food supply, but many people overlook the essential role these pollinators play in our lives. That perfect peach, tremendous tomato, or wholesome honey are just not possible if these crucial critters do not spread pollen and nectar from plant to plant. Whether it is the mighty Monarch butterfly or humble Mason Bee, our pollinators are in serious danger and they need your help! Here’s how you can support the sustainability of these small but mighty superheroes:

  1. Say NO to Neocotinoids and Other Pesticides – Many commercial pesticides contain poisons that not only kill pests, and can be dangerous for humans, they take out pollinators too. Instead, look for organic pest management options that are pollinator safe, use the smallest amount necessary, and follow the instructions carefully. Many organics like neem oil or spinosad based products are equally effective and are harmless to pollinators only a few hours after application. Just wait until the bees are in bed to apply!
  2. Plant a Pollinator Patch – Consider setting aside part of your yard or garden as a pollinator patch. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators can survive and thrive in urban and suburban areas if there are enough small patches of pollinator-friendly plants. The Land Trust tries to make sure there are plenty of these green spaces, but we need everyone to do their part. Think of it as a rest area on the highway, only for busy bees. The best pollinator patches have variety of native plants that flower at different times so there is always pollen available. As an added bonus, a pollinator patch can boost the yield of your garden because more flowers get fertilized.
  3. Make the most of Milkweed – Milkweed is the only naturally occurring food for the Monarch butterfly, one of the most endangered pollinators. Without Milkweed, Monarch caterpillars cannot survive their migration cycle to become beautiful butterflies. Milkweed also provides critical support for other pollinators like bees. So consider including Milkweed in your garden near the fruits and vegetables. Just make sure it is a variety that’s native to Waltham and not a Breezer!
  4. Nix the Non-Native Species – Here in Waltham, one of the worst non-native invasive species is black swallow wort, which isn’t just invasive, it is an imposter! This green viney plant likes to masquerade as Milkweed, but unlike Milkweed, a Monarch caterpillar that hatches on swallow wort cannot eat it and will not survive. Swallow wort also chokes out other pollinator-friendly plants like goldenrod and flowering clover. The safest way to get rid of it, and other non-native invasive plants, is early detection and removal by digging or pulling, but keep them out of the compost pile! Swallow wort reproduces with pods of fluffy seeds in mid to late summer and seeds survive for years. Get to it before pods form, or remove them carefully and throw them away, otherwise you may end up with more than you bargained for.
    black swallow wort.jpg
  5. Build a Bee House – Bee houses provide shelter from the elements and a safe place for young bees to grow into adults. Unlike bee hives which center around a queen, bee houses are for bees that live independently, instead of in colonies. Solitary bees are popular pollinators because they do not need to protect a hive and they rarely sting. You can build a bee house by drilling holes about 5/16th of an inch around and 3 to 5 inches deep in a scrap of untreated lumber, or buy one online. Hang your house on a south-facing tree, post, or wall and the bees will have a protected place to live and play.
    bee house.jpg


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