Aaaah, summer…what can be better than summer’s many pleasures, like hearing birds singing, and watching bees and butterflies flit from flower to flower? Most of us enjoy the sight of these small creatures, but did you know we also need them to survive? From pollinating our crops, to spreading nutrients and seeds, to building up soil, to cleaning up what has died, birds, butterflies, and bees are a critical part of the ecosystem we rely on. One out of three bites of food we eat is dependent on pollinators.
Yet these same birds, bees, and butterflies are in decline, from habitat loss and chemical exposure. To raise awareness of how individual homeowners can protect the health of insects, wildlife, and humans through natural lawn care practices, members of Sierra Club in Grand Rapids formed a sub-committee called Growing Green. Founded in 2016, Growing Green’s mission is to promote safe and sustainable earth friendly practices, that eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides. Growing Green advocates for creating organic, biodiverse green spaces that are healthy for people, pets, pollinators, and the planet.
One of the founding members, Dawn Wigert, describes why she took initiative to form Growing Green: “My passion on this topic began when I heard of “Colony Collapse Disorder” nearly 10 years ago after seeing a movie called “Vanishing of the Bees”. Knowing that the honeybees are struggling to survive due mainly to habitat loss and pesticides, and now the threat of climate change, it became very alarming- realizing that the honeybee pollinates about 80% of around 100 crops!” Dawn adds, “The problem with chemical herbicides or insecticides are that they are designed to kill or cause harm, and they also can affect “non-target species” such as soil organisms, beneficial bugs, wildlife, pets, and even humans. You perhaps think because these products are so common, that they are safe, but that is not necessarily the case.”
One example is a commonly used product for grub control called imidacloprid, from the neonicotinoid class of insecticides. Imidacloprid and other neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees and are a contributing factor to bee decline. Homeowners can eliminate the need to use this chemical through practices that make their lawns resistant to grubs, such as mowing high, returning mulched clippings to the lawn, and watering deeply and infrequently. These practices, along with using organic fertilizer instead of synthetic, increase the fertility of the soil, resulting in thick, healthy grass that is resistant to pests.
Every homeowner can really make a difference in helping the birds, bees, and butterflies…by adding native plants to your back yard and switching to organic practices instead of using chemicals. Once you learn organic practices, it’s easy, and it benefits the health of the community as well.
For more information on how you can protect pollinators, google Growing Green Grand Rapids.