A wild pollinator feeding on a fall raspberry flower. Photo by J. Carroll
More and more homeowners and small-gardeners are choosing to reduce or end their use of pesticides. Not just for the health of their family and pets, but to reduce the risk of harming pollinators. Growers and farmers have multiple reasons to reduce pesticide use: reduced cost, reduced health risk to their families and employees, lost revenues in an ever-growing marketplace asking for ‘organic’ produce, and reducing pesticide resistance in pests. Yet high pest pressure in commercial operations, even organic growers, is the reality.
For those responsible for growing our food, chemical effects on pollinators have been a concern for many years. Loss of honeybee populations have been tied to multiple sources which, when put together, have a multiplied effect: colony die off. And we all know that loss of pollinators has a significant effect on food production.
Growers and farmers must examine many integrated pest management options–that’s why we’ve been examining and sharing science-based research for over thirty years!
Recently, Dr. Juliet Carroll provided some great pollinator photos on her SWD (that’s Spotted Wing Drosophila) blog and she suggested we share her list of pollinator resources for fruit growers.
A carpenter bee zooms in on a blueberry flower, anxious to drink its delicious nectar. Another pollinator is working flowers in the upper right. Photo: J. Carroll
Here’s Julie’s bulleted list of pollinator resources she’s shared in the Lake Ontario Fruit Program’s Fruit Notes newsletter:
Protect pollinators! Help them out by avoiding use of harsh insecticides through petal fall. Help your crop out by mowing flowering weeds during bloom time so pollinators focus on your crop.
Girl scouts troop 40001 in Trumansburg, NY is working on their Bronze Award, which involves planning and establishing a pollinator-friendly community garden for raising awareness about the importance of pollinators in agriculture, our landscape, and community. The girls have spent nearly 20 hours preparing for their garden, including researching the best flowers to grow, planning the layout of the garden, learning about the more than 500 species of pollinators in NY, planting seeds of many perennial flowers that benefit pollinators, and writing letters to community leaders requesting a site for the garden to raise awareness in the community.
On Earth Day, Dr. Betsy Lamb of the NYS Integrated Pest Management Program was invited to share her horticultural expertise and passion for pollinators with the girl scouts. Dr. Lamb shared examples of the many bees, flies, butterflies, moths, bats and hummingbirds who pollinate our native, ornamental and agricultural crops in NY. The girls learned how bees see in the ultraviolet spectrum and that many flowers are specifically designed with their particular pollinators in mind to maximize reproduction. Dr. Lamb provided many samples of fresh flowers for the girls to dissect and to learn about flower anatomy and biology as it pertains to the various methods of pollination, which was a big hit with the girls! She also gave some tips on garden establishment to ensure success.
The girls shared their plans for the garden with Dr. Lamb, who was impressed by the knowledge of the girls and the wide range of beneficial blooms they had selected to plant. The garden will include 13 different types of flowers, selected with different bloom types and flowering times to feed and support pollinators from spring to fall, along with an informational sign on the benefits of pollinators and beneficial insects to our community. The garden will be established this summer for the Trumansburg community to enjoy for years to come. This sort of hands-on learning, fostered by Dr. Lamb, will not soon be forgotten by these girl scouts!
Post provided by Jaime Cummings NYSIPM Field Crops and Livestock IPM Coordinator and Girl Scout Leader.
Have you ever wondered what pollinator-supporting plants you can add to your property ?
Here’s an excellent and enjoyable way to find out. Funded by one of our Community IPM Grants, Cooperative Extension of Putnam County created the perfect example. While you can certainly stop in to visit, (Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam County, 1 Geneva Road, Brewster NY.), here’s the next best thing. Or maybe it’s better because you can visit any time regardless of weather and distance!
Visit a real pollinator gardenwith this virtual 360 degree tour. In this curated experience, suitable for youth and adults, go on a pollinator insect hunt, or learn about the threats to native and non-native pollinators. Master Gardener Volunteers will help you make decisions about plant and landscape choices that support pollinator abundance and diversity.
This is just one of the resources we are pleased to provide to help you help pollinators.
It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ahhh, the weed. Despised by many, almost to the point of violence. Once, while waiting for my older child to get out of preschool, I sat in the lawn and blew dandelion heads to the delight of my infant. I’ve never forgotten the sudden manifestation of a red-faced man screaming at me about terrorizing the neighborhood. (I like to think my son was unaffected.)
The first step in IPM is determining if you have a problem. All those years ago, a large, angry man was a problem, but I contend to this day that the dandelions were not. An unknown author penned that weeds are people’s idea, not nature’s. And many through the years have found inspiration from weeds. While researching this post, I had the option of strictly sticking to quotes about weeds (don’t worry, I didn’t), but I will add a few. There are quotes about their survivability:
You can’t help but admire a plant that has adapted to lawn mowers.
A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. – Doug Larson
A fresh and vigorous weed, always renewed and renewing, it will cut its wondrous way through rubbish and rubble. – William Jay Smith
Quotes about weeding:
Plant and your spouse plants with you; weed and you weed alone. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
And many waxed poetic about their hidden value:
What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
When life is not coming up roses, Look to the weeds and find the beauty hidden within them. – F. Young
But beyond their value as a philosophical aid, can weeds be beneficial?
In fact, what weeds you find can tell you something about the soil. Is it wet or dry? Lean or fertile? Compacted? Acidic, alkaline, or neutral? Check out the short overview from the University of Vermont, What Weeds Can Tell You. Then act accordingly.
Often, weeds we find troublesome are plants we once valued. Dandelions, garlic mustard, plantain, and burdock are examples of plants brought over and cultivated by settlers to North America for food and medicine. And there are efforts to regain that value. One doesn’t need to spend too much time on the internet to find many resources on edible weeds. Take a look at this short video, Edible Weeds | From the Ground Up, developed by the University of Wyoming Extension (which includes some precautions you should take if you want to try eating your problems away). The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education recently funded a project looking at bringing edible weeds from the farm to the market.
These trichogramma wasp parasitized European corn borer eggs aren’t going to hatch.
There is research looking at the ecosystem services provided by weeds in agricultural settings. In their project, Integrating Insect, Resistance, and Floral Resource Management in Weed Control Decision-Making, Cornell researchers make the argument that while weeds can compete with crops, they can also benefit the entire system. They use milkweed along a field of corn as a case study. There are aphids that feed on the milkweed and produce honeydew, which benefits beneficial insects such as wasps that lay their eggs in the eggs of insect pests such as European corn borer. And that’s before they discuss the benefit to monarch butterflies.
Early flowering weeds, such as this purple deadnettle, provide an early spring food source for pollinators.
And speaking of butterflies… and bees… and other pollinators, in the write-up of a study looking at the capacity of untreated home lawns to provide pollination opportunities, they reclassified weeds as “spontaneous lawn flowers”. So much friendlier! By the way, they found 63 plant species in those lawns. In a parallel study looking at mowing and pollinators, they found that lazy lawn mowing led to more spontaneous lawn flowers leading to more pollinators. So now I have also given you an excuse to mow less. You’re welcome.
Some of our beneficial insect habitat plots looked really beautiful this fall! Others are still works in progress.
Today’s post is from our Biocontrol Specialist, Amara Dunn
Have seed and plant catalogs started arriving in your mailbox, yet? This is the time of year I start thinking wistfully about the arrival of spring. If your spring daydreams include planting habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects, keep reading for the latest on NYS IPM’s beneficial insect habitat establishment project!
Back in October I described the purpose and design of this project. So what have we learned after the first year? First, here’s a reminder of the different treatments we were comparing. Each treatment involved either direct seeding or transplanting habitat plants, in the spring or the fall, utilizing a different method for weed control.
Replace dead plants
Till, transplant, mulch
Replace dead plants
Till, direct seed
Till, plant buckwheat
Mow 1x, till, plant buckwheat
Mow 1x, transplant
E – control
Till, lay plastic
Remove plastic, direct seed
Herbicide 2x, till 1x
Till 1x, direct seed
And here’s how much time and money we spent on each method during our first year. Each treatment was applied to a total area of 460 ft2 (0.01 A).
A – Spring transplant
B – Spring transplant and mulch
C – Spring seeding
D – Buckwheat & fall seeding
E – Control
F – Solarize & fall seeding
G – Herbicide/tillage & fall seeding
What did we get for the time and money we invested? Well, the only two treatments that looked anything like habitat for beneficial insects by October were the ones we transplanted in the spring (A and B). And of the two, treatment B looked a lot better because of the mulch we spread around the plants after transplanting to help suppress weeds. Even so, we still hand weeded this treatment (and treatment A) twice during the year. But we got much better weed control in treatment B.
Four and a half months after transplanting, the beneficial habitat plants in treatments A (left) and B (right) were mostly growing well. But there was a big difference in weed control, in spite of similar amounts of time spent weeding each treatment
Direct-seeding in the spring resulted in a few blackeyed Susans by October (and a few partridge peas slightly earlier in the year), but did not look very impressive and had a lot of weeds.
After direct-seeding in the spring and mowing four times during the summer and fall, there were a few blackeyed Susans blooming in treatment C plots.
Of the three methods we used to manage weeds during the season, alternating herbicide applications and tillage resulted in the cleanest-looking plot by October.
A few weeds were present a week after the last time the herbicide/tillage treatment (G) was rototilled. We broadcast, raked, and pressed beneficial habitat seed into these plots.
Solarizing the soil was low-maintenance once the plastic was laid in the spring. We did learn that solarization is not a good strategy if you’re trying to control purselane. It grew just fine under our clear plastic, while most other weeds didn’t. In some places, it probably reduced the efficacy of solarization because it pushed the plastic away from the soil and allowed other weeds to germinate and grow.
In some solarized plots, purslane grew happily under the plastic. Purslane was not a common weed anywhere else in the field during the season.
The two crops of buckwheat we grew in treatment D not only suppressed weeds, but also attracted lots of pollinators and natural enemies to its blossoms before we mowed the crop down to keep it from going to seed.
The buckwheat established quickly and crowded out many weeds. We mowed the first crop in July and re-planted. We had to mow the second crop about 3 weeks before we transplanted (not ideal).
In summary, if one of your 2019 resolutions is to plant habitat for beneficial insects, I have two pieces of advice:
Spend 2019 controlling weeds. Even where we transplanted, weed pressure was a challenge, and investing in weed control before you plant is worth it!
If you have sufficient funds and need or want to establish habitat quickly, transplants are the way to go. Mulch will help you with your battle against weeds.
In 2019, we’re planning to keep monitoring these plots. Check back to see how the fall-planted and direct-seeded treatments look in their second year. Most of these methods are expected to take several years to reach their full potential. We will also start counting the insects (and insect-like creatures, like spiders) we find in these plots. During 2018, we already started seeing some beneficial insects showing up in these plots, so I’m looking forward to counting them once spring finally gets here!
Here are just a few of the beneficial insects we spotted in these plots during 2018. Soldier beetles, many hover flies, and lacewing larvae are all natural enemies of pests. We also saw lots of lady beetles and several other types of bees.
Thanks to Betsy Lamb and Brian Eshenaur who are working on this project with me, and to Bryan Brown for doing a weed assessment for us. You can read more about this project and see more pictures from 2018 at Biocontrol Bytes. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss future updates!
While visiting our blog, you have also been checking out older posts. Our second most popular post viewed in 2018 was a 2014 post, Identifying Your Pest – with Poop?. There are a lot of budding scatologists out there.
Other IPM Blogs – Besides ThinkIPM, we have more dedicated blogs, and you don’t need to be a specialist to subscribe to them. Here are some of the more popular posts:
Our new Spotted Lanternfly video, Have YOU Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses was just posted, but it has already reached the number two spot. This invasive insect is getting a lot of attention and we need your help to keep track of it in New York.
Educator bee-guiles audiences with enthusiasm and results, earns Excellence in IPM award
A 13 year veteran of Putnam County, Lerner’s work as an invasive species educator, native plant and pollinator advocate, and turfgrass researcher has demonstrated her commitment, enthusiasm and mastery of IPM tools and tactics. Promoting IPM through education, demonstrations, and inclusive programs, Lerner has empowered her community with effective, science-based techniques.
“Jennifer Lerner’s willingness and enthusiasm for extending information to her region is legendary,” says Elizabeth Lamb, IPM Ornamentals coordinator. “She’s a gem.”
As a coordinator and collaborator for the Hudson Valley portion of the multi-year, multi-state project on keeping weeds out of sports fields on a budget, Lerner and her Turfgrass Team volunteers used “repetitive seeding” on high-use sports areas. The result? Safe playing surfaces that filled back in game after game. Why does it matter? Because we’d rather use seed than herbicides—and weeds make for slick footing and, too often, expensive falls.
Lerner also made Putnam County a leader in lily leaf beetle research. Notorious for decimating lilies, this pest is a pain for nurseries and householders alike. Enter an IPM management option: the release of a parasitoid wasp that feeds on the beetle larvae. Lerner secured a plot of land for the project, trained volunteers on the life cycle and proper handling of the wasps, and organized their successful release. Lerner’s most crucial contribution? Her outreach and clear communication skills, says project manager Brian Eshenaur.
A stalwart champion of bees and the native plants they depend on, Lerner so inspired the students from her advanced pollinators classes that they took what they learned and passed it on to over 530 community members at farmer’s markets and county fairs. And she created a special section—“Beauty and the Bees”—at the Master Gardeners’ annual plant sale. This section, now three years old, dwarfs the inventory of non-natives plants offered for sale.
There’s more, of course. Lerner also managed a demonstration pollinator garden located beside the Putnam County Department of Motor Vehicles, which attracts hundreds of patrons day in and out.
“Jen has been an important influence in promoting native plants,” says Master Gardener Janis Butler. “Whether it’s through engaging lectures, newsletter articles or in-person demonstrations, she illustrates the importance of planting natives wherever possible.”
Lerner received her award on November 14 at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s yearly in-service training in Ithaca, NY.
Press Release written by NYS IPM Science Writer Mary Woodsen