Gardeners can improve plight of the honeybee

By Jennie Hagen January 08, 2013 08:48 am

Our local, and national, newspapers and agricultural news journals have reported in recent years the plight of our beloved honeybees and their demise as a result of colony collapse disorder. 

Although the honeybee is not native to the North American continent and was originally brought over by European settlers, they have been successfully raised here for several hundred years and have become one of the main components of pollination systems responsible for approximately one-third of all pollination of edible crops. In other words, our food supply has become dependent on the health and activity of the lowly bee. 

So how might this affect us personally and as gardeners, what can we do about it?

I am frequently reminded of the plight of the bee when perusing the multitude of seed and plant catalogs I receive or view online. And as most of us are currently in the process of selecting seeds and planning for the upcoming growing season, this is an opportune time to make choices that enhance the survivability of pollinator species and practice good land stewardship whether we garden in pots on the deck or our own “hundred acre wood.”

Simply because a known seed source or reputable supplier is offering certain seed does not make them a wise choice. Please take the time to read the seed information carefully. One of the most positive steps you can take is to stop purchasing seeds that advertise “pollen-free,” such as on many of the new, more colorful types of sunflowers.

It appears the floral industry has superimposed its choice for a pollen-free plant; it reduces the likelihood of having a messy table top. If you don’t like life-giving pollen, you can always buy imitation flowers for indoor arrangements! 

Even those with plant allergies do not see complete relief of symptoms with pollen-free plants. All pollinators should be encouraged, please select your seeds with that in mind.

For those interested in learning more about colony collapse disorder, the USDA website contains historical data and scientific studies supporting the most current research about this disorder. There does not, at this time, seem to be a definitive answer about the cause or solution for colony collapse. The best that we can do is to provide variety of plant species and utilize nonchemical/pesticide gardening practices. 

That really provides positive benefits for not just the plant and animal kingdom, but for us, as well.  For more information, type “colony collapse disorder” into the search field at www.ars.usda.gov.

The two potted rosemary plants that are in the barely heated back porch are getting flowers already.  Rosemary will not survive outside in our tri-county area, but the cool indoor porch setting seems to be adequate.  Had I known it was so easy to winter-over, it would have been indoors years ago!

Until next time, enjoy all those seed catalogs, do your research, and plan well for this year’s garden!