Here is a handy guide to finding neonicotinoid-free plants for pollinator friendly gardens
The rise of regular industrial pesticide use has created a whole chain of negative consequences, from winding up in the products we consume to causing the massive depopulation of bee colonies that depend on pollunating plants to survive. Worse, some 30 percent of the foods that we consume are dependent on bees pollunation. It has become an ecological survival issue, so let's look at one type of pesticide and what you can do to avoid it.
Neonicotinoids are essentially a synthetic version of nicotine that is put into the mulch that plants grow from. They were introduced in 1994 and quickly became one of the most popular pesticides in the world, primarily because they were safer for both farmers to use and for large mammals to consume. But the way they work is that they completely inhabit the plants they're used on, so every part of the plant is inundated with the chemical and anything that consumes them. Any of the bees that try to pollunate these flowers will bring the pesticide back to the colony.
Many countries in Europe have banned the use of neonicotinoids in farming, but they're still legal in the United States. Given that the average amount of pesticides in private lawns and gardens are far higher than in the same acreage of farming, it is important that all of us do our best to reduce or eliminate chemicals that causes harm to the environment.
1) Make sure that you only buy plants that don't use neonicotinoids or other pesticides.
The biggest way to avoid having pesticides in your lawn or garden is to make sure the plants you buy were not grown with pesticides. Many local nursuries and greenhouses are grown organically and are great starting points to building your garden. While Home Depot has a policy where they have to label any plant grown with neonicotinoids, many other major chain stores do not have warning labels on their products. With that in mind, shop locally for the safest plants available.
2) Do not trim your lawn so short
Many people like to have their grass cut so close to the ground that it looks like you can play football on it. Unfortunately, that prevents the grass from getting plenty of sunlight and keeps the roots from growing thicker and deeper. So keep the length between 2 ½ and 3 ½ inches to make the grass stronger and limit the need for chemical maintenance.
3) Use lawn clippings for mulch
A lot of popular mulch mixtures add unhealthy chemicals to their stock, but you can use old lawn clippings as mulch to help avoid using other materials. If you are attempting to detoxify a lawn that has been treated with pesticides, then avoid this step.
4) Water an inch into the soil
According to a lot of experts, people waste a lot of time watering their lawns and gardens incorrectly. The best time to water is before 8AM and to make sure that the top soil gets an inch of water.
5) Buy pollenator-friendly plants
One of the biggest steps that people can do is plant flowers that are pollenator friendly. Anything that little bees can use for sustinence would be greatly helpful to combat the spread of colony death. The experts over at the Organic Growers School recommend that you plant these flowers in bundles 3-4 feet in diameter with unbroken groups throughout your property. They've also included a great resource guide here:
Bee City USA:
6) Weed your own garden
A lot of people have turned to pesticides because they're either unable or unwilling to do the taxing work of weeding. Well, pulling up weeds is good exercise and encourages regular attention to the garden. Many gardeners have written about how strange garden care can be, including Christopher Brown:
I spent my youth, and a decent chunk of my adulthood, as a servant of the American lawn—that emerald expanse of invasive ornamental turf cut to the length of Dobie Gillis’s hair, an idea we acquired from our earlier Americans who wanted to emulate the pretentious gardens of European nobility (without remembering that what the nobles really loved were their private primeval forests). I paid for my first illegally procured six-packs with money from mowing lawns, as a young slacker drafted into the war against grass ever being allowed to grow tall enough to actually propagate seeds. This job also involved pulling weeds, which in the case of my Midwestern boyhood were probably the remaining native plants trying to survive the ecopocalypse of the tilling of the plains. And in my first houses in Texas as a young dad myself, I kept mowing, and raking leaves—even complying with the ridiculous mandate to put the leaves in big brown bags for municipal haul-off.
It's important that amateur gardeners take care to tend to their plants without using RoundUp or other harsh chemical pesticides. Aside from the known risks to the people using it, the damage it can do to bee colonies make them a substantial risks to their survival.
Many people turn to chemicals out of frustration, but there's a lot of alternatives that can help. WebMD has many articles on the dangers that pesticides can pose, as well as some suggestions.
• Give nature a little time to work. Damaged parts of your lawn may bounce back over time. And most lawn and garden pests have natural enemies that will help control pests. For example, ladybugs and praying mantises eat other bugs while not damaging your lawn or garden.
• Pull out weeds using a long-handled weed puller. It's usually easier than by hand. Vinegar can also be used to kill weeds.
• Mulch garden beds to prevent weeds.
• Remove diseased plants so the problem doesn't spread.
If you can follow all these steps, you can enjoy a vibrant and beautiful garden that can help bolster your local bee colonies.