Save the Pollinators-Save Yourself
For about the last 5 years, I’ve been committed to saving pollinators. This is a personal passion. I plant for pollinators, garden (organically), feed birds and try to practice environmentally friendly methods in all things. I’ve protested, signed and circulated hundreds of petitions, attempted to educate others, written my senators and congresspersons, and declared my little plot of existence pollinator friendly/chemical free.
Since starting this article a few days ago, a federal court has ruled the EPA must ban the use of chlorpyrifos (Dow Chemical) within 60 days and remove it from the shelves. A jury awarded "Lee" Johnson nearly $300M in his case against Monsanto (Now Bayer). Mr. Johnson developed cancer from applying Round Up to, of all places, the school district he was employed by.
We have the evidence these are highly toxic carcinogens right before our eyes. Despite experts and evidence confirming this, these companies and the current EPA/Administration continue to defend them as harmless, and have been negligent in informing the public of the serious dangers of these poisons. They have no place in or on your food, yard, home or school.
When I bought my property, no one had lived on it for many years. My aspiration was to certify it as organic. I caught the neighbor spraying poison in my yard, in my flower beds near the fence and cutting my trees. I was forced to relocate food beds so as to not expose them to chemical drift and to sue the neighbors for the 50 year old trees they cut and destroyed.
The neighbors were angry they were caught, facing numerous felony charges. I decided to settle out of court as a kindness, since I would have to continue to live next to them. I received a small settlement, but it could not undo the permanent damage they had done, nor compensate for the loss of “organic” status or the beautiful trees they destroyed. They don’t like me and my sea of dandelions, daisies, violets, deadwood and creeping Charlie. Out of spite, they have called the city to complain several times. I am however, not in violation of any ordinance as long as I mow.
Weekly, sometimes twice, the chemical truck pulls up to their door to douse and spray their property and every inch of perimeter. For hours on end crews weed whack, replace sod, and mow over and over every blade of artificially produced toxic green. Their property is sterile, a cemetery sans the stones. Next, the leaf blowers start, deafening the neighborhood for another hour.
I’ve lost several fruit trees and shrubs to their herbicides, defoliants and poisons. One day beautiful, fragrant plants filled with bees and birds stood; the next, drift from their application had completely defoliated them and all in its path. Most recently an apple tree close to the property line was hit. Everything they douse with herbicide along the fence is dead. If it survives and tries to climb the fence, they cut it and knock it down. My attempts at being cordial, explaining the dangers of the poisons they’re using fell on deaf ears.
Curiously, when I posted “Pesticide Free” and “Pollinator Friendly” signs in my yard (just in case the neighbors or the chemical company did not understand the property line), the chemical company started putting up advertising signs for the company on the curb after they sprayed.
I cringe every time I see the truck and ponder daily how to keep it off my property. I want to plant other spaces with pollinator plants, but fear drift from their activities will potentially poison my beloved pollinators. I worry anything near the fence line is drawing up poison and will harm the little creatures that feed on it.
Daily, starting in early spring, I do a bee walk. In the last 5 years I’ve seen a drastic decline in bees, butterflies, frogs, grass hoppers, moths, insects and birds. I’ve found numerous dead birds and other small animals with no obvious injuries and given them a proper burial. I attribute it to poisoning. In spring there are few peepers singing. At night the sound of crickets and peepers is almost silent. Fireflies, rare and transient on special nights congregate in my yard.
Despite a sea of pollinator plants, adequate water, food and sanctuary place, my gardens do not produce like they once did. This year, I am pollinating by hand with a Q-tip.
I am utterly astonished at how many people simply don’t know or don’t care about the issue. When trying to explain, I get many shrugged shoulders and “You’re a crazy hippie!” type comments. I’ve earned the reputation of being somehow eccentric in spite of shared facts and statistics. This attitude is prevalent, even from educated individuals in positions of agriculture, business and government-big agriculture, big business and big government especially.
Nothing makes me sadder than dead bees. With each year that passes, the death of honey bee colonies increases. Mites, colony collapse disorder and pesticides are taking a toll. Our own government is overturning environmental protections that will most definitely make a bad thing worse. My own community routinely sprays defoliant, pesticides and herbicides. To date, I’ve been told “There’s nothing you can do.”
Humans, bees and pollinators are being poisoned by glyphosate (Round Up), neonicotinoids, chlorpyrifos, chemical lawn treatments, dicamba, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, mosquito sprays, household bug sprays and traps. Pollinators’ ability to forage, collect pollen and remember their path is being impaired by toxins, in addition to an overall decline in their well-being and habitat, if they are not outright killed from applications of these chemicals. It is seeping into waterways negatively affecting wetlands and wildlife.
GMOs seem to be associated with pollinator problems, yet the companies creating them still strongly claim there are no adverse effects although this has not been yet definitively proven nor tested. Many small farmers attest to dead insects and animals being poisoned by them.
What You Can Do
My heart breaks at the loss of the pollinators and the poisoning of our planet. I grew up in the garden, playing in fields alongside thousands of pollen laden bees, butterflies and numerous other creatures.
In the 70’s, the public first learned about the dangers of DDT (developed by the same chemical companies) and it was pulled from the market. I am sickened by these companies and the government turning a blind eye to turn a profit.
It is up to each of us to take a stand, do everything in our power to save, preserve and promote beneficial insects and animals. We need to protect our environment, ourselves, our children and planet from a potentially fatalistic scenario. If the pollinators die, so do you. They pollinate over 1/3 of our food. Without pollinators we will no longer have fresh produce of all kinds.
The ecosystem is out of balance. Each person needs to make a stand and commit to saving pollinators. Ask yourself if you’d rather eat or have an astro-turf lawn. The idea of a perfectly groomed green lawn of non-native “grass” is an elaborate brainwashing. “Weeds” are food, medicine and a necessary part of a balanced eco-system. Numerous other countries have banned the use of these dangerous products. The United States needs to become one of these countries. Stop poisoning yourself, your food, your children and our planet.
Please consider adopting the following measures to help save the pollinators, the planet and yourself:
Stop using chemicals! Go organic! Eliminate all Glyphosate products (Round Up), chlorpyrifos, dicamba, neonicotinoids, chemical lawn treatments and fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical traps, sprays and mosquito treatments. Use non-toxic alternatives.
Demand your lawn service provide chemical free, organic treatments and lawn care.
Write your senators and congresspersons about the issue.
Sign petitions to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals. Start a petition in your community to ban them. Write to the companies producing them about their safety.
Educate your neighbors, relatives and community about the dangers of these chemicals.
Be wary of traps for hornets, pest moths, beetles or other nuisance insects. These trap beneficial pollinators and bees as well as undesirable ones.
Declare your property pesticide free/organic.
Read labels. If a product is a hazard to children, pets or wildlife, it is toxic and should not be applied. Don’t believe claims by the company or representatives that it is harmless.
Support and opt for organic, non-GMO seeds, crops and products.
Create habitats for pollinators.
Don’t buy plants or products treated with Glyphosate, neonicotinoids, fungicides insecticides or herbicides.
Use organic, eco-friendly methods in gardening and lawn care.
Educate yourself and others about the benefits of practicing pollinator friendly methods.
• Plant a pollinator garden.
• Provide food, shelter and water for pollinators. Put up a bee box. Create a bee bath. Put out sugar water when natural plants are not yet blooming and food is scarce. Feed the birds.
• Bee an activist
• Become a bee keeper. Keep a hive.
• Plant native plants and trees.
• Don’t use leaf blowers. They are horrible noise pollution and the force created by them can kill insects in their path.
Plants to attract pollinators (nectar & pollen):
• Blooming trees & shrubs (fruit, flower & nut)
• Joe Pye Weed
• Milkweed & Butterfly Flower
• Monarda (Bee balm)
• Sweet William
Bee well my friends!
Photos and article by Stephanie Bishop
Stephanie Bishop is an award-winning floral designer, sustainable wedding and events planner, gardener and author in Central Wisconsin. Follow her at Better Path Wisconsin, where she connects like-minded individuals about environmental, social and civil interests, and promotes green, healthy, sustainable living. View thousands of her food, floral and animal images on her Facebook page at Stephanie Bee and browse floral design ideas at Bishop Wedding & Floral Art. Read all of Stephanie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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