Attendees talk about pollinators at conference

AFP Correspondent

AUGUSTA (March 1, 2015) — One of the sessions at the NOFA-NJ Winter Conference was designed to instruct everyone, farmers and homeowners alike, how to help save the pollinators we need.
Julie Jurusz, a backyard beekeeper and organic gardener, gave tips for attracting pollinators, including numerous varieties of bees and butterflies.
In a session at The Nature Conservancy forum on Farms, Forests and Rivers, Tim Dunne, a beekeeper and sustainable farmer who is retired from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service also discussed the importance of pollinators.
Dunne pointed out honeybees aren’t native to the Western Hemisphere, they are European. Beekeepers started keeping them in what we consider modern hives in the 1850s, for honey, but they have only been used for pollination since about 1900.
There was a huge increase in the use of pollinators as knowledge of their usefulness increased after World War II.
He addressed Colony Collapse Disorder and the combination of factors leading to the demise of so many colonies, including pests, mites, poor nutrition, trucking bees out of their native zone and pesticides.
He also noted one major threat to bees in northern New Jersey is the black bear.
Planting clover, buckwheat and milkweed is good for honeybees. Although they do well with native plants, these non-native species are excellent for pollination.
“Diversity is the key. See what’s missing from your landscape,” Dunne advised.
Jurusz went over a list of pollinators that most people don’t want around, such as carpenter bees and mud dauber wasps in an attempt to convince them that between their contribution to pollination and the fact many of them eat harmful insects they really should be welcome.
Jurusz also listed plants that attract pollinators. Most people know milkweed attracts Monarch butterflies and the Monarch population is declining.
They may not know that parsley attracts swallowtails.
She advised gardeners to leave some parsley after harvest to attract them.
Some other tips she offered included buying heirloom seeds rather than planting hybrids because often traits pollinators need are bred out of hybrids.
She also recommended buying plants from local nurseries because the big-box stores may stock plants that have been doused with insecticides. She suggested homeowners turn over a section of their lawn to wildflowers.
Bees need water, both Jurusz and Dunne noted. Jurusz suggested placing sticks or corks in a bird bath to keep bees from drowning.
Some plants attractive to pollinators are catnip, marigold, anise hyssop, sunflower, yarrow and zinnias. Most can be planted just by scattering seeds.
Jurusz had several handouts to help the audience choose what to plant and also some free corks.