My daily walks have taken me to places that are full of blooms this week. There are multitudes of tame and lovely roses and hydrangeas, lilies and geraniums alongside homes and businesses. Some gardens are so full and lush I have to stop and see how many flowers I can name, just to have an excuse to linger a bit longer. My own gardens are full of blossoms and my vegetable garden is bursting with things getting ready to ripen. I’ve been feeling grateful to be surrounded by so much beauty, freely given.
Over the years, birds have brought me many plants, many of which are invasive so I’m not always a fan. At some point, however, they brought me raspberries, both the red and black kind. Every afternoon I sneak out to pick the ripe and delicious red ones and check on the progress of the others. I know the birds and I compete for these but there seem to be plenty to share.
The real joy of this season, for me, is the spectacle of the wildflowers that willingly grow and bloom almost everywhere and anywhere they are planted. Seeds are distributed in different ways. Some blow in the wind while others simply drop to the ground. Some hitch rides on animal fur and some, such as berries and fruits, are eaten. Those pits, hips and seeds get planted when an animal or bird does its business. They say you can tell where old fences stood by the straight lines of trees planted by birds that stopped to rest on those fences.
Wildflowers, for the most part, are tough. They must be to survive. The next time you are out for a walk or drive, take note of the chicory and Queen Anne’s lace that flourish between the cracks in roads and sidewalks. Butter ‘n eggs will sneak in everywhere it can and wild daisies and black eyed Susans will too. Milkweed, which was everywhere when I was a child, is having a bit of a comeback as people become aware of the plight of monarch butterflies. People are deliberately planting it now and it seems to be booming and blooming in many conservation areas right now.
But where are the butterflies? Where are the bees? My yard is almost all clover and I have enough flowers, both wild and cultivated, to keep a throng of these guys busy for the whole summer. It used to be alive with several species of butterflies and a good variety of bees and pollinating flies. This summer? Very, very few. I’m home and outside every day and so far I’ve seen two Monarchs, one swallowtail, a red admiral and two cabbage whites. Maybe a dozen bees that aren’t bumblebees.
Out in the wild it isn’t that different. I spent hours in a big open meadow this week. The weather was gorgeous, the fields were full of blooming flowers and again, not much flying insect activity. A few monarchs and a small number of other species. Bumblebees, yes. I could also hear grasshoppers and crickets.
There is some thought that the monarch migration was affected by terrible and unseasonably cold weather in early spring. That’s not their only obstacle, however.
Although many people are trying to control unwanted pests in less harmful ways, many are still spraying Round Up and other pesticides around like water. With the increased vigilance against ticks and mosquitoes due to diseases, many homeowners are having their yards sprayed. Add the sprays for wasps, hornets, ants that are often used with abandon. Municipalities are spraying from planes to keep down the numbers of mosquitoes. You may have guessed this, but those sprays don’t just kill mosquitoes, any more than the supposedly organic compounds used to get rid of winter moth and gypsy moth larvae differentiate between them and monarch larvae.
We are killing off our pollinators at an alarming pace. At home you might be able to pollinate your small vegetable garden by hand, but larger farms won’t be able to do that. They need help from nature, help that has always been freely given.
It’s not just the insects that are suffering. Bird parents scoop up bugs that have been sprayed and feed them to their little ones. They can’t imagine they’re really saying, here, kiddo, have a little poison for breakfast.
The natural world is under attack. Every day people ask about the birds. They are seeing far fewer than they did just a few years ago. It’s true. Bird populations are suffering huge losses all over the world. Some are being poisoned but many are losing their habitats and can’t adjust.
Interrupting the balance of nature is happening on a huge scale. If you think you’ve been inconvenienced by COVID-19, just wait. Massive disruptions and interruptions in the food chain and life as we think we know it may occur more frequently. Will we act in time to save the balance in nature?