(reprinted with permission of Windham Land Trust)
Photo Credit: Richard Hurd
Most folks have heard that the honeybee population is declining due to colony collapse disorder. According to the US Department of Agriculture, about one-third of the food we eat depends directly or indirectly on the viability of honeybees as pollinators. While there are several possible causes of colony collapse disorder and there is no definite solution, there are some things that we can do to support the bees’ health.
Farmers have discovered that planting a variety of wildflowers attracts bees, and bees seem to be healthier when they feed on such a variety. Each of us who have any garden space or even room for container gardening can easily plant a wildflower mix to help sustain these important insects. Some of the plants that supply the nectar and pollen that bees thrive on are red clover, foxglove, bee balm and joe-pye weed. More information about growing a pollinator-friendly garden is available at the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign website. (http://www.pollinator.org/guides.htm)
During the last 10 years, there has also been a rapid decline in the monarch butterfly population. One cause of the decline is a dwindling supply of milkweed, a once-common roadside weed. Milkweed is the only food source for the larvae of the monarch butterfly, and you can help reverse this decline by planting milkweed for the monarchs. Some species of milkweed can become invasive if there are no other weeds to compete with them, but you can control the spread of this type of milkweed by planting it in containers. There are nurseries that sell the pink milkweed that monarchs prefer.