Sunday, January 8, 2017

Resolutions 2.0

Often we make resolutions for ourselves at the start of each New Year: lose weight, drink less soda, take vitamins more often, eat more fresh vegetables …. We all have these, right? I was reading an essay (“Ecosystems at Our Doorsteps”) in The Xerces Society Wings magazine (Fall 2016 edition) and it occurred to me – we should make some resolutions that benefit the other critters on Earth. So here’s my take on some improved resolutions; let’s call it Resolutions 2.0.

Male bumblebee

We have the power to make a difference in our own yard (back and front!). The choices that we make can help or harm all that live in this area: bees, butterflies, birds and even other humans.

Are we using pesticides that harm insects or lawn chemicals that affect any animal that walks across the grass? Are we polluting the air with fumes and noise from leaf blowers (when we could be burning calories by raking and sweeping)? Are we providing good sources of pollen, nectar and fruit/seeds?

So be it resolved:

  1. I will protect pollinators by not using pesticides in the yard. Bees will be free to gather pollen and nectar that has not been altered by pesticides like neonicotinoids and others. In addition, other bugs will be safe from unintended harm caused by spraying of pesticides designed for one bug (such as mosquito treatments) but which kill others too.
  2. I will be aware that bees and other insects need a place to live. Many bees are solitary and nest in the ground (need some bare patches) or in wood like tree bark and dead branches/trees. I will use this awareness to leave room for nesting. I will be aware that butterflies and moths need a place to pupate – in a chrysalis or a cocoon or even over the winter in dead leaves.
  3. I will allow the balance of nature to control pests such as other insects or birds that eat them. I may choose to selectively deter pests by spraying them with water from the hose or hand-picking bugs like Japanese beetles and dropping them into a bucket of non-toxic but lethal soapy water.
Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) is always a winner in the fall; common checkered skipper agrees

  1. I will plant flowers with abundant pollen and nectar for insects. I can use three lists that I put together in 2014 for spring, summer, and fall. These lists will give me plenty of ideas of what to add to my garden for this goal.
  2. I must remember to buy them from places that didn’t treat them with pesticides while they were growing them.
  3. I can plant with wildlife in mind. When choosing what plants should be in my yard (either as new or as replacements for non-native plants), I can be more aware of what benefits each plant brings to the greater ecosystem (not what just brings me pretty flowers).
The work of small bees on this butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) resulted in many seed pods

  1. Butterfly gardening is more than colorful flowers. I can choose plants that provide multiple benefits: not just floral rewards (nectar and pollen) but those which also are host plants. For example, milkweed (Asclepias) is a great nectar plant (my bees love it) but it is also a host plant for butterflies such as the monarch. If you have a small garden, learning about plants that support both roles means you can do more with a smaller space.
  2. I can increase my overall plant diversity to help more insects. There are hundreds of butterflies, thousands of native bees, and even more thousands of native moths and many of them have special plant relationships. Without their special plant being available, the insect cannot remain in that area. There’s no value to planting the same thing as everyone else and planting large groups of the same thing.
  3. I can look for regionally appropriate plants to make sure local insects get the support they need. For example, while I love Florida anise (Illicium floridanum), its native range is nowhere near me; it is native to the southeast Coastal Plain where Georgia adjoins Florida. Therefore, I recognize that having it in my landscape is not much different than having a plant from another country.

New plant this year, downy wood mint (Blephilia ciliata),
popular with bees
Amorpha fruticosa fed many caterpillars
this year


  1. Happy New Year, love the resolutions.

  2. Fabulous list! Even those of us doing these already can always bee better.

  3. Thanks Ellen! My pollinator garden was recently issued a citation, I think I'll forward this to the City!

  4. So very well thought out and written. I value all your comments and suggestions. Gail Farley of St Marys, GA