Driving along the streets of Cincinnati, in the “Grampsmobile,” my beige 2000 Buick LeSabre adorned with a Ducks Unlimited license plate and an I ? Frogs bumper sticker, I sat listening to the “90-Second Naturalist,” a public radio program hosted by Cincinnati Zoo’s Thayne Maynard.
Maynard re-told a story that prompted a whole host of new initiatives at the Cincinnati Zoo and have now found their way to Hiram. Hearing about the detrimental effects of logging in Malaysia, Maynard was struck with grief and helplessness as he realized that, despite wanting to help improve the environmental situation in that part of the world, it simply wasn’t feasible for him to do so.
So he got to thinking…how could he help improve this part of the world? What could he do to address a local issue and have an initiative readily accessible for residents in the community?
The answer lay in pollinators. More specifically, creating refuges for local pollinators.
Over Sugar Day and Earth Day, the SEED Scholars and members of the Hiram Community with much generous guidance from Butterfly Hill Garden founder Jane O’Brien set to work, turning the unused flower beds on the Martin Commons walkway into the beginnings of something exciting: Hiram’s own pollinator gardens. A pollinator garden is a garden that consists of plants that attract and provide diverse food sources for our pollinators. The great thing about these gardens is that they can be implemented nearly anywhere where there’s a small patch of soil.
Why pollinator gardens? As mentioned in some of our other blogs, SEEDS’ mission this year focuses on food. What is one part of food that’s often overlooked? The very start: pollination. In fact, one out of every three bites of food we eat are only possible thanks to the work of pollinators.
First off, what are pollinators? They’re bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds and an assortment of other insects that feed on flower nectar and carry pollen from plant to plant. You may or not be familiar with the woes plaguing our pollinators, but the truth is that, at least for bees all around the world, their populations are in critical decline.
The rapid and detrimental decline of bee populations was first documented in 2006, and has come to be known as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD. CCD has been identified as a possible combination of parasites, bacterial diseases, viruses, pesticide use and nutritional deficits.
Many of the recent years have seen losses of an average of 33% percent of colonies.
Sounds disheartening, complex and out of our control, huh? Well, the answer to that is…sort of. But the last two reasons mentioned for CCD? We can do something about those.
Pesticide use, though it may seem great for controlling those pesky weeds, could actually be condemning our food supply in years to come. The act of applying pesticides to crops, lawns and personal gardens is playing a huge role in the deaths of the organisms that help provide us with this food and natural beauty that we value so highly! It’s essentially a poison that’s hurting our pollinators and is being absorbed by their food sources. This, combined with disease, isn’t giving our six-legged and/or winged friends much of a break. So how do we help them out?
How do we combat these issues, especially in our own homes and local communities? Well, pollinator gardens like Hiram’s are a great place to start.
These pollinator gardens are now a part of the Hiram community, fostering ecological awareness, beauty and community involvement. They’re composed of plants beneficial to pollinators, but also include native and edible plants. If you’d like to help out with them during the summer months or next school year, feel free to contact SEEDS director Debbie Kasper at KasperDV@hiram.edu
Get ready, Hiram. Let’s #BringBackTheBees
image credit: Debbie Roos of Extension Master Gardener