Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Great Sunflower Project

Here at Countryside we are very concerned about the bees. There was an article last year in the Tribune detailing the decline in the bee population and what is thought to be a virus that kills entire colonies of bees. Any one in agriculture, and that includes all of us who eat, should be aware of how important bees are to food production. According to the USDA, roughly one-third of the food we eat is a result of pollination by bees and animal pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of 90% of flowering plants. Domestic honey bees pollinate approximately $10 billion worth of crops in the US (North American Pollinator Protection Campaign.)

So, what can the average homeowner do to help this situation? One thing we can do is reduce our use of pesticides, since according to the NAPPC pesticides kill $14.3 million worth of bees a year. When using pesticides follow the directions carefully, don’t spray on windy days, and try not to spray near flowering plants when bees might be present. NAPPC also recommends planting "bee" friendly perennials, such as foxglove, monarda (Bee Balm), and eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) in our gardens. You can encourage orchard bees, which are solitary, as opposed to hive type bees and are non-aggressive, to live in your garden by setting out bee tubes.

The other thing you can do is participate in the Great Sunflower Project. Researchers at San Francisco State University want to learn more about urban and suburban pollinators and their impact on urban home and community gardens. It is very simple to participate. Go to their website to learn more about the project. Registering is very easy and once registered you will be sent a packet of sunflower seeds. Plant them and when they flower do a bee inventory. An inventory sheet and instructions are on the web site. One of our customers, who is also a friend of mine, is participating and she is going to keep me appraised of her results. This sounds like a great project to do with your kids this summer. Let us know how you do.

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