Scientific American had an article on “Solving the Mystery of the Vanishing Bees” which follows the pathways of bee demise and the various theories surrounding why the bees and their colonies collapse wholesale.
At the end is this statement:
simple changes in agricultural practices such as breaking up monocultures with hedgerows could help restore balance in honeybees’ diets, while providing nourishment to wild pollinators as well.
As part of the theory based upon a nutritional disruption:
We and other experts also suspected that the bees‘ natural defenses might be undermined by poor nutrition. Honeybees and wild pollinators, too no longer have the same number or variety of flowers available to them because we humans have tried to “neaten” our environments. We have, for example, planted huge expanses of crops without weedy, flower-filled borders or fence rows. We maintain large green lawns free of any “weeds” such as clover or dandelions. Even our roadsides and parks reflect our desire to keep things neat and weed-free. But to bees and other pollinators, green lawns look like deserts. The diets of honeybees that pollinate large acreages of one crop may lack important nutrients, compared with those of pollinators that feed from multiple sources, as would be typical of the natural environment.
When reading this I realized I had moved my property into a more bee-healthy environment, without knowing it. Frustrated with the former farmer neighbor making inroads of deep plowing along my border which made mowing impossible (yeah, you try to maneuver a Woods mowing deck with one tire deep in a rut!) I simply let a hedgerow grow. It is probably a consternation to the tidy Amish and Mennonite farmers around here- it is a bit weedy looking. My “lawn” is replete with clovers (and unfortunately dandelion), the benefit for me being a green looking sward when the late summer heat and drought turns real lawns into greige. The bees give me affirmation that my lazy and mussy ways might be an environmental asset.
Bird, butterfly, and bee friendly gardening eschews pesticides and encourages myriad plantings of herbs, bright flowers, and fruiting plants. My yard is by no means balanced and I have had nasty infestation of insects at times (read all about the Japanese Beetle invasions), but am affirmed in my mix it up style and laissez faire gardening. Now I will never have a manicured estate garden. I am almost laughing out loud at the very idea that anyone would think me capable of such a fine manicure in my gardens, tolerant of mess and disarray as I am. But the world was made to be a verdant and diverse place at its best, I do believe. Our big ideas have more of a tendency to mess things up, not because of human error and incompetence so much as for lack of concern and carefulness. We can do better. Our machines gave us power to transform our landscapes on a mass scale… we tripped up by informing ourselves badly and accepting broadscale prejudices in how that should look: bland monoculture and mass production.
Sounds rather like our social engineering, as well. Garden or social commentary? You pick, either are right (how new millennium of me 😉