“Insects are pests that harm plants and need to be controlled.”
Most people were raised to think that any insect landing on a plant would hurt it. For those who loved their gardens, that meant spraying all kinds of pesticides to try to keep their blooms “perfect.” In truth, though, insects are designed to eat plants – they have evolved to support each other in a beautiful, symbiotic relationship. Those insects in their native habitat are not “pests,” they are helpers enjoying their home and dinner.
Two of the most common pesticides are neonicotinoids, which are frequently used in commercial plant nurseries, and glyphosate, which is still commonly used on lawns. If you still think pesticides are absolutely essential to your landscaping, consider how these pesticides are playing out in the larger arena:
- Neonicotinoids likely provide $0 in benefits to soybean growers yet up to half of soybean crops are still treated with them. These insecticides are widely sprayed on roots and seeds and persist years after the initial application, despite their toxicity.
- Europe banned neonics years ago. This was due to the enormous threat they pose to honeybee populations.
- Glyphosate – commonly known as Round-Up – is used so extensively on corn and soybean crops that they have lost 99% of their milkweed since 1999. Milkweed is the only host for Monarch caterpillars, so it is no surprise that Monarch populations have declined over 80% in the last two decades.
“Birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators can eat and breed on any plant they find.”
To make a garden appeal to humans, all it takes is a few plants and an eye for design. That’s not the case with pollinators, though. Local pollinators have evolved over millennia with the plants native to their region, and their needs cannot be met by non-native plants. In many cases, an adult pollinator can feed on several plants but can only lay its eggs on one species. The classic example of this is the Monarch butterfly whose caterpillars can only survive on milkweed. In addition, non-native plants may not provide pollinators with enough nectar or pollen.
“A healthy green lawn is full of life.”
Actually, turf grass lawns do not provide a home for much life, at all. In fact they are creating homogenized monocultures in which only a few species can survive. They are also soaked with fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides that enter groundwater and runoff. Native plant landscapes, on the other hand, provide a diverse ecosystem in which many species of plants and pollinators can thrive.
“‘Native plants’ is a fancy term for weeds.”
There’s a lot of truth to the saying that a weed is just a plant growing where you don’t want it. In other words, weeds – like beauty – lie in the eye of the beholder. And that eye may just not be used to the wild abundance of native landscapes. Yet native species offer as much splendor and variation as the non-native species people have gotten used to.
Talk to Your Town
Most town leaders are simply unaware of the issues affecting pollinators. Share this information with them so they can start creating laws to support native habitats.
Photo by Olli Kilpi on Unsplash.