“Houston, we have a pollinator problem.” And since we, as humans, are 100% of the problem and we, as gardeners, are fully complicit; it’s our duty and obligation to do something about it. And when I say “we,” I certainly include “me,” because I’ve done my damaging part, not intentionally, but in ignorant horticultural bliss.
Our gardens, our neighborhoods, our cities, our farms, and our beloved wild Texas has serious issues that need addressing; now, not later.
Let’s start with the monarch butterfly, our Texas state insect, no less. Monarch butterflies have purportedly declined some 80% in the last twenty years. Folks, that’s staggering and disheartening. Texas is home to over 400 butterfly species, the most diverse in the nation I think. And though most residents wouldn’t recognize the majority of them, I bet the beautiful orange monarch is one of the best known.
Monarch butterflies aren’t the only problem by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve all heard about “colony collapse” disorder in naturalized and farmed European honeybees I’m sure. But Texas is also home to over 800 species of native bees that are having problems as well. As a matter of fact, bees all over the world are struggling. Although pesticides certainly have something to do with it, I imagine the fact that almost all prairie and savanna habits are gone, formerly full of a multitude of native wildflowers and nesting sites, garners the majority of the blame. Our modern world full of asphalt, concrete, cattle pastures, and pine plantations simply isn’t conducive to bees, butterflies, or birds.
Unbelievably, research shows that we have lost almost 30% of our entire bird population in the last 50 years; vanished. As John Muir once said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” Butterflies, bees, birds, bats, and beetles are all just pieces of a big puzzle. And yes, we belong too. We as gardeners and landowners have got to start looking at the forest and stop obsessing over the trees.
If you want to learn more about the diversity of pollinators in East Texas and what you can do to help them, join us Friday May 27 from 9 till noon at the Tyler Rose Garden Center for a wonderfully information program. Meagan Elzner and Connie Collins with the East Texas Beekeepers Association will cover “Everything you need to Know about the Honeybee.” Horticulturist Dawn Stover with the Natural Resources Conservation Service will present “A Bee or not a Bee, that is the Question.” And I’ll talk about my home life encouraging pollinators in “Pines, Pawpaws, and Pocket Prairies.”
This educational event is presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Earth-Kind Environmental Horticultural Committee and is sponsored by the City of Tyler Water Department. The cost of the program is $25, payable at the door by cash or check. For more information call the Extension office at 903-590-2980 or visit the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service-Smith County website or Facebook page.
Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Heirloom Gardening in the South, and The Rose Rustlers. You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com and read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com). More science-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.