With Earth Day today, Stuart and I were pretty devastated to find piles of dead bees outside one of my hives last week! This was a really strong hive and we were planning on giving these girls more room to stop them swarming because of potential overcrowding – not any more.

Most pollinator poisoning occurs when pollinator toxic pesticides are applied to crops during the blooming period. Poisoning of pollinators can also result from: Drift of pesticides onto adjoining crops or plants that are in bloom. Contamination of flowering ground cover plants when sprayed with pesticides.

Dead Honeybees outside the Hive Entrance

What’s the difference between Pesticides & Insecticides?

PESTICIDES – designed to kill Plants, Fungi and Animal Pests. eg weeds, molds, insects, rodents etc INSECTICIDES – designed to kill only Insects.

These two words are often used interchangeably but they are different! An insecticide is a pesticide, but a pesticide isn’t necessarily an insecticide eg if it’s a weedkiller. Remember, though, that any toxic product can travel through the environment and can potentially cause problems beyond the target zone. That’s the reason I talk about pesticides when in this blog I’m really referring to insecticides and their effects on our pollinators.

Everything is connected in Nature – soil, water, air, bugs, crops, animals, & people. My philosophy is to do as little an possible to disrupt these natural connections. I try to work with nature and not against it!

Insecticides and Pollinators

I suspect that because a lot more people are gardening at home due to the Covid-19 lockdown, some/many are using/overusing pesticides without the knowledge of what these products can do to our environment. Google “insecticides” the options that come up first are the commercial ones, you have to actively search for organic and safer options! This EPA website lists the common insecticides and you can see that many of them are “broad spectrum” meaning that they kill a wide range of bugs!! My Earth Day Plea to you is to not use these products in your gardens.

Learn about the products you think you want to use in your garden – the Pros & the Cons. See if there are safer alternatives!

When a beehive is killed or decimated by insecticides it’s very obvious from the piles of bodies found outside or inside the hive. What is not obvious is when our more solitary pollinators are killed. Since most native bees are solitary creatures – you won’t notice a small dead body here or there! But, they’re still dead….

Insecticides are toxic by their very nature – they are meant to kill insects after all. And if you feel you have to do bug control in your garden there is a scale of products that can be used from least damaging to wildlife to products that seem to kill everything in sight! And, please don’t think that labels marked “natural” makes them safe! Every product that designed to kill bugs can upset the natural balance in your garden if not used properly.

Gardening without Pesticides

Apart from using Mosquito Dunks in my little pond to kill mosquito larvae I have not used insecticides in my garden since I moved here in 2006. I have a healthy garden with some small bug issues here and there, but never anything that’s really problematic. That’s because Nature is generally very good at keeping things in BALANCE! It’s never perfect, but why should we expect that of nature!

Below is a simple list of what I do in my garden to keep everything healthy and strong:-

  • HEALTHY SOIL – add good compost to keep it healthy
  • DIVERSE assortment of plants – biodiversity not monoculture!
  • COMPANION PLANTING in veggie garden eg grow marigolds with your tomatoes to deter damaging nematodes
  • NATIVE PLANTS have evolved to grow well In their particular climate and environment which means they need less or no “chemical” support to do well

Companion Planting

I haven’t talked much about COMPANION PLANTING but there’s some really good information and planting lists online to help you. The link above is from Old Farmer’s Almanac – collected wisdom & observations since 1792! Certain combinations of plants have been found to provide (truly) natural pest control, shade, support, soil enrichment etc.

Young tomatoes on the right with marigold seedlings and mammoth dill nearby

e.g. Tomatoes are susceptible to hornworms eating the plant and nematodes in the soil. Dill & Basil naturally deter the hornworms and Marigolds deter nematodes. Plant them together and you can get a good crop of tomatoes and a bunch of tasty herbs to use in the kitchen.

Some companion plants naturally attract beneficial insects to keep your crops healthy by eating pests. Zinnias attract ladybugs, Parsley attracts praying mantis.

4 Good Reasons to Grow Herbs

  • Herbs generally grow really well in our S Texas environment
  • Great to use in the kitchen
  • Good plants for pollinators
  • Protection for Veggie crops when grown close by eg Basil & Tomatoes, Sage & Cabbage, Thyme & Broccoli

I challenge you to take a good hard look at the way you use your garden, what you put in it and make a commitment to create a healthier environment. Everyone can make a difference and it can be done in small steps! Make Every Day is Earth Day…

Caroline xo

1 Comment

Bee Update - The Good, The Sad & The Beautiful! • Chickens and Compost · April 26, 2020 at 5:47 pm

[…] like my Honeybees have been dominating my thoughts recently, for all sorts of reasons. If you read last weeks blog, you will know that we recently lost about 2/3 of our Texan beehive – probably due to […]

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