Pollinator connection: Bee the change


    Photo by Kristina Lefever A bee harvests nectar from a flower.

    I am continuing my theme from November (“Bee Engaged”) because, yes, together, we can make change happen. Hopefully you agree.

    In my last column I expressed concerns about Section 9101 in the proposed Farm Bill, which would have removed current and future abilities of municipal governments to restrict pesticide use on their properties. Thanks to your calls and letters — including one from the city of Talent — and thousands from all over the country, the language was removed.

    Talent deserves another accolade: Because of the determination and perseverance of many residents, the City Council voted unanimously on Dec. 3 to implement its first Integrated Pest Management policy, one that states synthetic pesticides will be used only as a last resort for maintaining city and park property. Congratulations, Talent! I am proud to say that this change happened in part because of the Non Toxic Rogue Valley initiative formed by Beyond Toxics and Pollinator Project Rogue Valley. I have no doubt other cities in the Rogue Valley will be making such a change in the near future.

    Another bellwether is the 12-cottage development to be built on Laurel Street in Ashland by KDA Homes. I was very pleased to have been asked to provide information about deer-resistant pollinator plants for the project, and even more pleased to know there will be a no-synthetic pesticides policy, even during construction. They plan to apply for a Bee City USA Ashland Pollinator Garden designation and will be on the Rogue Buzzway.

    I posed a few questions to Tom Madara of Madara Design about the project, called The Garden Cottages:

    Why are you choosing this business model?

    TM: We understand the profound impact that pollinators have and their critical link in our lives and want to encourage a model of developments that is focused on the very real fact that without pollinators, we will cease to exist.

    Is this a movement that is happening, or are you on the cutting edge?

    TM: We believe this is a movement that is happening, although we’re the only group we’re aware of willing to step up in this way.

    How many communities have you developed that have either or both of these components (native pollinator plants, no synthetic pesticides)?

    TM: This is our first, but as our awareness has grown we are sure it won’t be our last.

    How will/do you maintain the landscaping in these developments?

    TM: It will be written into the CC&Rs that the site will be maintained by organic and mechanical means. It will also be a requirement that there be no synthetic chemicals used in the common areas and/or on the individual home sites.

    We have not yet seen statistics that reflect an increase in market value for such properties, but no doubt there will be a growing demand for such developments.

    Sherri Morgan, of Morning Gardens Landscape Design, recently told me that she is now working only with clients who want to focus on native plants. When I asked her why, she said, “Because we need to support our native insects and the ecosystem they create — they provide food for birds and other wildlife. Insect populations have decreased drastically everywhere (did you read “Insect Apocalypse”?) and it is our responsibility as gardeners to support the ecosystem we are part of — and planting native plants is one easy way to do that.”

    What is a native? I like this definition from Natural Resources Conservation Service (Connecticut): “A plant that is a part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem.”

    The flowers of exotic/non-native plants, as beautiful as they may be, don’t provide the nutrition our native bees need, and caterpillars of many butterflies species can’t eat their leaves. Which translates to trouble for our birds: “In the United States, 432 species — more than one-third of birds — are insectivorous and, thus, could be harmed by declines in food availability and at risk of local extinction in urban and suburban areas [with too few native plants],” according to the University of Delaware Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.

    Here is a very local resource about native plants: “Plants of the Rogue Valley,” from North Mountain Park Nature Center. And please visit Pollinator Project Rogue Valley’s Resources webpage for more local sources and information.

    Thankfully, Sherri and KDA Homes are not the only ones focusing on native plants and eschewing pesticides. But it is clear we need to grow the available supply of native plants and seeds, and we need more people creating pesticide-free pollinator landscapes for their homes and businesses.

    Here’s my holiday wish: May all beings enjoy the best pollinator garden ever next year!

    Kristina Lefever is a member of Pollinator Project Rogue Valley, Bee City USA Ashland, and a board member of Beyond Toxics. The Pollinator Connection appears quarterly.

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