As many of you are probably aware, our populations of beneficial insects are in trouble. Bees and butterflies are what come to the forefront of my mind when thinking of beneficial insects, although they are far from the only ones. There are a variety of insects, including beetles, spiders, caterpillars, and more that offer wonderful contributions to our world.
So why are they in trouble?
Well, there are a lot of theories out there. The probability is that it is a combination of factors. Two of these factors, habitat and pesticides, are addressed in the Bee Better Certification. The Xerxes Society, via grant from the USDA, has partnered with Oregon Tilth to provide the Bee Better Certified program. You can read more about it here.
While this program is for farmers and ranchers, there are lessons to be learned for the rest of us. It is of vital importance for us to be conscientious about our use of pesticides and what we plant. There are a lot of plants out there that do very well for different insects. Even if you don’t want to put a lot of research into it, planting something that flowers is a great first step.
In September and October in Upstate New York, we have what is referred to as the fall “flow”. Bee Balm, Asters, Goldenrod, and Ragweed are all blooming. While allergy suffers don’t like it very much, the bees love it! This is the last chance, so to speak, for the bees to get enough food (honey and pollen) for winter. They will primarily be storing honey at this point, as pollen is primarily used for raising brood. The queens, this time of year, are not laying as strongly as they do not want to have too many bees to feed going into winter. They are also kicking the drones out of the hives, as they (hopefully) will not be swarming anymore at this point.
How Can You Help?
If you are not a farmer, the best thing to do at this time of year is start looking at your property and thinking about what you could plant next year to help the native and/or beneficial species of insects. You can view our seed starting basics articles here to help get you started. In some cases, you can even buy insects such as ladybugs and lacewings and have them mailed to you. These two particular insects can actually serve as natural “pesticides”, as they eat bad bugs – think aphids.
What will you do to help your local pollinators?