bees, birds, butterflies, Insecticides, Pesticides

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout the Birds and the Bees

Warning: this column is about the birds and the bees and might make sensitive souls uncomfortable. I’ll throw in butterflies for no extra charge. Has anyone noticed that over the past few years you have been seeing less of these amazing creatures in your gardens and at your feeders? If you have, you are not alone. People around the Wake Forest area are talking about it, and even people in Pennsylvania, my home state, have noticed it. I for one, am distressed by this, for a decline in personal enjoyment and from an ecosystem perspective. A few years ago, I had so many hummingbirds at my feeders that they even fought with each other, and with the bees, too, who also enjoyed the sweet nectar I served up for them. One day, bees were hanging off the feeder like a buzzing yellow and black beard. There was a time when every other clover had a bee sitting on it.  Now, I get excited when I see one or two hummers, bees, or butterflies hanging around. Is this just an aberrancy that nature will adjust in time? I don’t think so.

About two years back, before I noticed the scenario unfolding in my own back yard, I wrote an article about this, and I think it is now time to revisit the topic. In 2017, Food and Wine magazine detailed how our food supply is dependent on birds, bees and butterflies, and it warned that bees and butterflies were going extinct. Several reasons were mentioned, not the least of which was the use of pesticides, and thus began my awareness of the devastation these chemicals can bring on our world.  

I never use the spray types of insecticides and used “Sevin” dust only once, but it stayed on the plants and every time I looked at them, I wondered how many birds, bees, and butterflies I was killing. Instead, I decided to use the “Bayer 3 in 1 Advanced” granule form to handle plant insects, diseases, and mites because it was not topical, but I was deluding myself, and I knew it. Once those granules get absorbed into the soil, they enter the entire plant system. The only thing that comforted me was that I had not applied the product when my flowers were blooming, which is the time they are frequented by pollinators, who then ingest the chemicals. One year we had a lawn service spray for bugs. That year I had deformed, dead baby bluebirds in my box. That was the last time they came.

One of the worst of these chemicals is imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid, and the one that is in the “Bayer 3 in 1” line of products. Neonicotinoids have been used for two decades as a cost-effective way for farmers to control insect destruction of their crops. Because neonicotinoids, of which there are eight different forms, had initially been deemed “safe” for use on food crops for humans, it has been allowed continued commercialization. However, in recent years, pesticides have been linked to bee colony collapse and now to the decline in the hummingbird population. A Feb 23, 2021, post from the news blog “Beyond Pesticides” discusses the problem of pollinator decline and states that “overwhelming data has already been established on the threat neonicotinoids pose to the health of ecosystems worldwide.” Not only are pollinators affected, but now there is concern about their effects on humans, amphibians, and other aquatic species due to fact that these chemicals can leach into our environment, persist in the soil, and are highly soluble in water.

Has this discussion of the birds and the bees made you uncomfortable? I don’t know the answer to this serious problem, but I know that, thankfully, scientific research continues. I am going to try some non-toxic options to treat my plants this year, and if they don’t work, I’ll stick some artificial flowers there instead.  

Bible Verses, Bloomin Thought, Christianity, diversity, Gardening, Love, peace, religion

Bloomin’ Thought for the Day: Love One Another

John 12: 34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

When I was planning my new rose garden, I chose 5 roses, each with a different color. I’m not a vanilla kind of gal; I need a variety of flavors in my life. I think that’s why I worked in Emergency Rooms for the majority of my nursing career. We never knew what was coming in, so we had to be on high alert through the whole shift. I enjoyed the challenges each new day presented, and the knowledge I acquired from them. There was always something new to learn.

I’m feeling a bit frustrated right now, though, because the challenges that are smacking me in the head are those that we are all facing, not just nurses and doctors. We are all trying to discern ways to deal with COVID 19. This is something that none of us have ever experienced, and one that seemingly has no end.

There is a larger problem, however, that also seems unlikely to end any time soon. The racial tensions in America are at the highest levels I think anyone has ever seen, and I can’t help but think we are making matters worse instead of better. Hate is spilling over the top from both sides, racial and political, and the chasm between them seems to be growing deeper.  As a child, I never felt any fear or animosity against anyone unless they hurt me, and even then, by the next day the transgression was forgotten. I still give people who hurt me multiple chances at reconciliation.

Now, though, I struggle to understand, or make sense out of, the violence that is poisoning our lives. I’m angry seeing innocent people being harmed or killed or businesses destroyed. So many people have tried to explain that this is in response to many years of persecution that African Americans have endured. As much as I do understand that, no one can convince me that violence is the answer, especially since I believe that the residual riots have little to nothing to do with the initial trigger. Changes need to be made for sure, but it will take time, and we have to be patient. I must believe that peace will come. I don’t know when or how, and the resolution may be painful, but I can’t imagine we can sustain ourselves as a nation with all this hate and anger.

As I was enjoying my rose garden today, I was struck by the fact that, of the seven rose bushes I planted, all are either already beautiful, or showing healthy growth, but one: my Peace Rose. Granted, I planted it later than the rest, but it’s not even showing even tiny signs of growth yet.  I placed it right in the middle of the multicolored roses. As I contemplated the question of whether my Peace Rose will grow or not it, I became sad. Isn’t it a bit like the turmoil of today? Different colors on both sides of the virtual battlefields, and peace hasn’t yet begun to grow.

Just as African Americans are trying to achieve recognition and reparations in the world, God is also at work trying to do the same thing. I believe He is pleading with us to turn our attention to Him and to His sovereign words, the most important of which is love. If we would all do that, “red and yellow, black and white”, and remember that we are all “precious in His sight”, this world might stand a chance at survival. “Jesus loves the little children of the world”, and adults, too, and He charges us to do the same.


Good Fairies?

Bloomin’ thought for the day:  Who out there, who never read Wikipedia about the origin of fairies, doesn’t love them? I love fairies. They are beautiful, winged, and remind me of angels. I just bought this lovely Sunflower Fairy for my new bulb garden. I’m a child at heart, which is why I gravitate toward writing children’s books. I love fairies, princesses, and happy endings, anything good and pure. My first book “The Giggle Box” had a magical fairy named Giggleina who helped a little boy share his gift of laughter.

Enter the “origin of fairies” research for this blog. Whoa. Now I wish I had either not bought my pretty fairy or not read about the origins. Mythology does not present them as beautiful, sweet, and helpful entities, but as mischievous, even demonic, witchy creatures that were to be feared, and from whom people had to be protected. I scanned the whole Wikipedia article, searching and hoping beyond hope for some glimmer of goodness, but alas, there was none to be found. Come to think of it, Tinkerbell posed a bit of a problem for Peter Pan, didn’t she?

I have since reconciled my horror by reminding myself that fairies are mythical creatures, not real, and, therefore, can be subject to any interpretation I choose to assign them. I choose to have my Sunflower Fairy in the center of my bulb garden as a protector, not a fearsome troublemaker. In the spring she will keep watch as daffodils, tulips, and iris make their way through the thawed soil to bring pleasure to anyone who loves flowers, as I do. Fairies unite and change your stories!