Friend or Foe?
This issue is not nearly as black and white as we would like. Like all things, your garden must also have a dark and a light, literally and figuratively. Just outside your door there is a constant whirlwind of insect activity. Day and night ‘bugs’ are at work pollinating your flowers, decomposing organic waste and of course some are also damaging your plants. But many of the bugs you can spot on any given day are doing you and the nations food supply a great service.
Even though it may not seem like it, many of the insects in your garden right now are providing the service of pollination. Many people are surprised to hear the staggering numbers associated with these pollinators.
- 90% of all plant species require animals to help start seed and fruit production in flowers, ensuring full bodied fruit and seed set
- To date more then 199,000 invertebrate pollinators including bees, butterflies and moths have been discovered around the world
- 75% of food, fiber, condiment, spice and medicine crops are pollinated by animals, 1 out of every 3-4 bites or sips of a beverage was brought to you by a pollinator!
- This includes Asparagus, Broccoli, Cacao, Coffee, Lettuce, Olives, Black Pepper, Tea, Mustard, Cotton and many more!
- This equates to a $40 billion agricultural industry in the U.S. alone
When I think of pollinators the first thing that comes to mind is honeybees but they are actually non-native and can out compete some of our 4,000 native north american bees for resources.
What can you do?
- Don’t make assumptions. Just because you don’t immediately recognize a bug as ‘beneficial’ doesn’t mean that it is a danger to you or your garden.
- Do provide the basics of food, water and shelter.
- In order to keep and feed all of the beneficial insects you hope to attract you will also need a population of ‘bad bugs’.
- Also because a product claims it is safe to beneficial insects doesn’t mean that it is. Research a product and the ingredients in detail before choosing to buy.
- Do use your best judgment with products that claim to be safe as long as they are not sprayed on the flowers or the pollinators, assume that all plants absorb what is sprayed on them, distributing it throughout their systems (even to pollen and then your food!).
- Better yet eliminate sprays, soaps and chemicals altogether if you cannot be sure that they will not negatively affect the workers ensuring your healthy crop.