Bumblebee laden with pollen at Persimmon Ridge
When you hear the warnings that if we lose our honeybees, we lose every third bite of our food, it's not quite true. Honeybees ARE most efficient pollinators, what with their back-leg pollen baskets and fuzzy bodies that create an electrostatic charge so that pollen adheres to their bodies. But many other pollinators help get the job done. These include many species of wild bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, flies, ants and even birds, bats, lizards, and small mammals! (Yes, even those evil possums so prevalent here in Williamsport.) Just go outside and look at the bugs in your flower or vegetable garden. You many not see a single honeybee, but unless you're a pesticide fiend, you will see many other varieties of insects flitting about from blossom to blossom. In fact, honeybees are not even native to North America! They were brought over from the Old World with the early settlers. The Indians used to call them "white man's flies" because they announced his advancement across the continent.
But before you get too comfortable with knowing we have all these back-up pollinators, I have to tell you the bad news: the loss of honeybees is the canary dying in the coal mine. The same conditions that are killing off the honeybees are also causing a drastic decline in these other pollinators. And here is where I have to make a point for Boo, Lauren, and all my Williamsport women friends--if we lose the Mexican Long Tongued Bat that pollinates the agave plant, well there goes Margarita Wednesdays!!! (Now I've got your attention!)
Together all these pollinators are required by 75 to 95% of all our flowering plants. As they drink in the nectar and collect pollen for protein, they inadvertently transfer pollen grains from the anther of the flower (male part) to the stamina of the flower (female part). And without the union of these "parts," well no reproduction and no fruit and no new plants!
So, what's wreaking this havoc? Loss of habitat, monocultures of agriculture, and chemical pesticides and herbicides. Paid-for scientists will say they don't know what is causing Colony Collapse Disorder. They'll say that it's a combination of things--stressing an exotic virus or compromised bee immune systems. Well let me tell you that if I sprayed you with pesticides and herbicides and then fed you a diet of corn syrup, your immune system would be so weakened and you would be so compromised that you would succumb to any exotic virus as well!
As I advocated in my last post, I believe that our urban gardens can act as "zoos" for these vital pollinators until the time when the USDA and agribusiness companies quit beating around the bush and cop to the truth! So let's all make room for the pollinators in our own chemical-free gardens, and make a safe place for them--because we depend on them as much as they depend on us!