Ecology + Design

The Truth About Pollinator Pathways and Organics

There has been incredible support lately for Pollinator Pathways (see our previous post on the efforts in Westchester and Fairfield counties).  Simultaneously, the ecological landscaping and native plant movements have taken off in laudable efforts to improve our landscapes aesthetically and ecologically. What is often not discussed, however, is the pinnacle importance of organics.

Selecting native plants for a Pollinator Pathway gardens is a huge step in the right direction, but without an organic maintenance program, the garden is virtually useless.  For our beloved pollinators, traditional chemical gardening is like a Grimm fairy tale: Hansel and Gretel invited into candy paradise, only to realize nothing is edible.

Powerful Reach of Pesticides, Herbicides & Fungicides

The effects of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides on delicate pollinators, from bees to butterflies to humming birds to ants and syrphid flies, have been well documented. A 2014 Study by the Harvard School of Public Health confirmed the findings of a 2012 study that linked two common neonicotinoids contributes to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in honeybees and native bees.  CCD is phenomenon of bees losing their ability to return to their hive, eventually leading to their death.  Major neonicintoids including imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran are now restricted to those with pesticide application licensees – make sure your landscaper isn’t using them!

Glyphosate is currently the most widely used active-ingredient in herbicides globally (you know it from brands like RoundUp, RangerPro, Monerey Remuda and more).  Glyphosate targets an enzyme in weeds to kill them, but scientists recently found that bees contain the same enzyme in their gut.  When bees are exposed to glyphosate, it weakens their immune system, making them more susceptible to death by pathogens.

Glyphosate has also contributed to Monarch decline–populations fell 90 percent in the last twenty years–through its over use in agricultural applications.  Farmers spray RoundUp to kill weeds around their crops, and as a result, vegetative areas where Milkweed (the only Monarch caterpillar host plant) and other essential native plants are lost, consequently depleting our local Monarch and other beneficial insect populations.

Chlorothalonil, the most commonly used fungicide to control fungus on trees and other vegetation, was strongly linked by Cornell University to the development of the fatal nosema parasite in bees.  The fungicide is thought to kill bees beneficial gut bacteria, making them more susceptible to the parasite.

Chemical Tick & Mosquito Control is a Myth

Permethrin is often sprayed for tick and mosquito control.  Recent studies looking at the combined toxicity of fungicides and permethrin have found they increase mortality in bees and reduce their ability to regulate body temperature.  Permethrin combined with neonicintoids is also found to increase bees vulnerability to nosema.  Permetherin is also highly toxic to fish and cats.

Take Aways 

To really have an impact rebuilding our beneficial insect populations and broader ecology, our land stewardship must be organic.  Synthetic pesticides, fungicides and herbicides affect organisms broadly, especially when combined with other chemicals, since the cumulative effects are vastly under researched.   If you need help designing and maintaining your organic pollinator garden, or any other landscape project, give us a call! (914-560-6570) We are NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals  and follow the Healthy Yard Program on all of our properties.

Kathryn Saphire

VP of Landscape Development and Marketing

Green Jay Landscape Design


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