An environmental note from Birgit de Weerd

February 20, 2013

Submitted by Birgit deWeerd, a local Bedford beekeeper.

Honey bee image (c)
Honey bee image (c)

Thank you, thank you! From me and my  bees a heartfelt thank you! Some time ago I wrote to you with a plea to read the labels of the pesticides you are about to use.

That summer I had noticed unusual quantities of dead or dying bees not only in the grass around my hives, but also some in my drive way wandering around aimlessly,  and, spotted with my beekeepers eyes, some here and there on the sidewalks. My colonies did not build up. There was plenty of brood, plenty of sunshine with plenty of flowers to warrant expectations of a gangbuster honey year; but it did not come to pass. It was the worst year I and other beekeepers in the area had- an indication of deplorable weakness of our colonies.

You see, in the summer a healthy colony of honeybees is about 60 000 bees strong, thus enabling it to collect nectar to make  70 pounds of honey for their winter stores plus- ideally- extra 50 to 100 pounds for us honey lovers.

The most prevalent pesticide in our garden stores contains Imidacloprid- currently under discussion to be removed from all European markets. Among other things it is used, to quote  one of the advertisers, “for the control of sucking insects including rice hoppers, aphids, thrips, whiteflies, termites, turf insects, soil insects and some beetles. It is a material that is designed to mimic the properties of nicotine, a powerful neurotoxin found naturally in tobacco.  The chemical works by interfering with the  insect nervous system, resulting in the insects’ paralysis and eventually death”.

So, to come back to my Thank You: last year, it seems, one major foraging area my bees visited had stopped using Imidacloprid on their lawn and garden. I had the best honey harvest of recent years. My colonies were healthy and strong. That is why I give my most thankful thanks to you, the unknown friend of our bees, birds, butterflies and and and….

Please, let me harp one minute longer on that theme while I am at it:

Would you not consider a revolution in your neighborhood of super-green immaculate lawns- a wasteland and potentially pesticide and herbicide drenched  death valley  for many of nature’s critters. Let there be dandelions, coveted by bees for their resplendent nectar; let there be other “weeds” like ajuga, plantain and clovers, to name a few great nectar and pollen sources.

All these plants make our lawns green when seen from the street, but at close look are a wonderfully diverse assembly with no chemicals and the great plus of less watering requirements.

As for the aphids and other creepy crawlers eating away on your garden? Try spraying with soapy water. I works wonders.

As for the grubs or occasional mole? Learn to let them beeee.

May the dandelions dotting brightly your lawn be the testament to your love and consideration of Nature.

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February 21, 2013 12:19 pm

For the past ten or twelve years I have only grown organic, pesticide-free lawns, shrubs, trees and gardens. My passion as a master gardener has been to learn about native plants for all types of soil, level of water and amounts of sun in both New England and Ohio. We are experimenting in Bedford with eco-grass being sold locally which has deep roots that hold moisture longer requiring less watering and no fertilizer or pesticides. We were thrilled when some solitary wild bees decided to make their homes in our lawn… being careful not to step on them. Thanks for your great article.

carolyn weaver
February 21, 2013 9:27 am

Thank you for the beautifully written message. Bees are abundant in our yard, and as a person who is allergic to bee stings, I’m not crazy about having them so close. But we seldom use chemicals on our lawn and, now that I’m educated, will be sure not use Imidacloprid. I appreciate the delicate balance of nature and know we need those bees!

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