By Brian Barth
There are insects that feed on plants and those that feed on other insects. In your garden, you want as many of the carnivores as possible so that the herbivores won't devour your crops. Unfortunately, the predators don't always show up in time to save your broccoli seedlings from those little white bugs sucking the life out of them. But if you create the right habitat, you'll increase the chances that the good bugs will be on hand when the bad bugs show up to feast.
1. Yarrow<p>This perennial flower attracts a wide array of predatory bugs, along with butterflies who delight in the large nectar-rich blossoms. The flowers, which come in a range of red and yellow shades and white, rise from a spreading mat of lacy foliage that has a pleasing herbal fragrance when crushed.</p>
2. Marigold<p>A petite annual, this orange- and yellow-flowering species is easily mixed in with vegetable beds to add color and pest control services. In addition to helping with aboveground pests, marigold roots are toxic to root-knot nematodes, a common pest that attacks vegetables from below.</p>
3. Sweet Alyssum<p>Honey-scented white flowers completely cover this ground-hugging annual for months on end during the growing season. Because it is small and low-growing, some gardeners plant it as a groundcover around taller vegetables, such as kale and chard. Sweet alyssum often seeds itself — plant it once and it will sprout again year after year.</p>
4. Coneflower<p>Also known as echinacea, these two-foot-tall flower stalks are best positioned in a perennial border adjacent to a vegetable garden. You'll likely see butterflies touching down for a sip of nectar, but the elegant purple blossoms also attract a range of smaller, beneficial insects that quietly go about their work.</p>
5. Goldenrod<p>The flowers above bloom mainly in spring and summer, while goldenrod starts blooming in late summer and continues into fall. This is crucial, as beneficial insects are likely to move on if the habitat is no longer optimal. Its loose yellow blossoms are a striking late-season addition to a cottage-garden-style flower border.</p><a target="_blank" href="https://www.facebook.com/share.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fmodernfarmer.com%2F2019%2F04%2F5-flowers-to-attract-beneficial-insects-to-your-beds%2F"><span></span></a>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Kara Wada
Blooming spring flowers signal the beginning of spring, but for millions of people, they also signal the onset of the misery: allergy and asthma season. Itchy, watery eyes; sneezing, runny nose; cough and wheezing are triggered by an overreaction of the body to pollen.
Older Than the Dinosaurs, as Wide as the World<p>Fossilized specimens of pollen granules have been found predating dinosaurs and alongside <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5098096/" target="_blank">Neanderthals</a>.</p><p>And, sinus and asthma symptoms and treatments are documented throughout history and across the globe. People just didn't know exactly how to treat the symptoms, or exactly what was causing them.</p><p>For example, more than 5,000 years ago, the Chinese used the berries of the horse tail plant, ma huang (<em>Ephedra distachya</em>), to relieve congestion and decrease mucous production associated with "<a href="http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000240" target="_blank">plant fever</a>" — a condition affecting people during the fall.</p><p>In Egypt, the "<a href="https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924073200077;view=1up;seq=11" target="_blank">Papyrus Ebers</a>," written around 1650 B.C., recommended more than 20 treatments for cough or difficulty breathing, including honey, dates, juniper and beer.</p><p>Although <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6757243" target="_blank">Homer's "Iliad"</a> describes the loud noise of breathing in battle as "asthma," <a href="https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/full/10.1164/ajrccm.184.12.1420b" target="_blank">Aretaeus of Cappadocia</a> of the second century A.D. is credited with the first clinical description more consistent with modern understanding of this condition. He wrote of those who suffered that:</p><blockquote>"They open the mouth since no house is sufficient for their respiration, they breathily standing, as if desiring to draw in all the air which they possibly can inhale… the neck swells with the inflation of the breath, the precordia (chest wall) retracted, the pulse becomes small and dense," and if the symptoms persist, the patient "may produce suffocation after the form of epilepsy."<br></blockquote><p>By the time Columbus landed, indigenous populations in Central and South American were utilizing <a href="https://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TONPJ/TONPJ-4-8.pdf" target="_blank">ipecacuanha</a>, a root found in Brazil with expectorant and emetic properties and <a href="https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/balsam" target="_blank">balsam</a>, which is still used in some cold remedies today. <a href="https://www.hindawi.com/journals/emi/2016/4048764/" target="_blank">Coca</a> and tobacco leaves, used medicinally by the Incas, were later exported to Europe for additional experimentation for the treatment of rhinitis and asthma.</p><p>Aside from the "plant fever" described in China, the first written description of seasonal respiratory symptoms is credited to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27840475" target="_blank">Rhazes</a>, a Persian scholar, around 900 A.D. He described the nasal congestion that coincided with the blooming of roses, termed "rose fever."</p>
Symptoms Noticed, but No Cause Identified<p>As scientific advancement was stifled during the Middle Ages, in large part due to the plague, it wasn't until 900 years later, in 1819, that <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28038630" target="_blank">Dr. John Bostock</a> published a description of his own seasonal allergies. But he didn't know what was causing them.</p><p>Having suffered from "<a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(01)99507-8/fulltext" target="_blank">summer catarrh</a>" since childhood, Bostock persisted in his study of the condition, despite an initial lackluster response from the medical community.</p><p>In the nine years between his first and second publications, he found only <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110966/" target="_blank">28 additional cases</a> consistent with his own seasonal allergy symptoms, which perhaps demonstrates the lower prevalence of the condition at the time. He noted that nobility and the privileged classes were more often afflicted by seasonal allergies. This was thought to be the consequence of wealth, culture and an indoor life.</p><p>Societal changes with their roots in the Industrial Revolution, including increased exposure to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4829390/" target="_blank">air pollution, less time spent outdoors, increased pollen counts and improved hygiene</a>, all likely contributed to the increased prevalence of allergies that we continue to see today. They also helped form the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841828/" target="_blank">hygiene hypothesis</a>, which states that in part decreased exposure to particular bacteria and infections could be leading to the increase in allergic and autoimmune diseases.</p><p>The source of seasonal symptoms at the time was also thought to be caused by the smell of new hay. This led to the coining of the term "<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110966/" target="_blank">hay fever</a>."</p><p>Bostock instead suspected the recurring symptoms were triggered by the summer heat, since his symptoms improved when he spent the summer on the coast. It would later became common for nobility and aristocrats to spend allergy season in coastal or mountain resorts to avoid bothersome symptoms.</p>
Identifying the True Culprit<p>Through methodical study and self-experimentation, <a href="https://hekint.org/2017/01/28/charles-harrison-blackley-the-man-who-put-the-hay-in-hay-fever/" target="_blank">Dr. Charles Blackley</a> identified that pollen was to blame for allergy symptoms. He collected, identified, and described various pollens and then determined their allergic properties by rubbing them into his eyes or scratching them on his skin. He then noted which ones resulted in redness and itching. This same technique is used in skin prick testing by allergists today.</p><p>Inspired by discoveries related to vaccination, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3651049/" target="_blank">Dr. Leonard Noon</a> and John Freeman prepared doses of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3651049/" target="_blank">pollen extracts for injection</a> in an effort to desensitize patients with allergic rhinitis in the early 1900s. This effective treatment, called <a href="https://acaai.org/allergies/allergy-treatment/allergy-immunotherapy" target="_blank">allergy immunotherapy</a>, also known as allergy shots, is still used today.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667286/" target="_blank">Antihistamines</a> first became available in the 1940s, but they caused significant sedation. The formulations with fewer side effects that are used today have only been available since the 1980s.</p>
Pollen Counts Likely to Grow<p>Though recognized by ancient civilizations, seasonal allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma have only increased in prevalence in recent history and are on the rise, now affecting <a href="https://www.aaaai.org/about-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics" target="_blank">10 to 30 percent of the world's population</a>.</p><p>Fueled by warmer temperatures and increased carbon dioxide levels, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4829390/" target="_blank">pollen seasons are longer, and pollen counts are higher</a>. Many experts believe this will <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4829390/" target="_blank">worsen</a> in the coming years due in large part to climate change.</p>
By Kim Knowlton
A new paper just out in The Lancet Planetary Health provides the first global indication that recent temperature increases, propelled by climate change, are in fact contributing significantly to longer and more intense pollen seasons.
After the mass poisoning of more than 50,000 bumblebees last week in Wilsonville, OR, and other incidents now being reported in neighboring Washington County, scientists are calling on local officials to ban the cosmetic use of insecticides on city- and county-owned lands. The mass poisoning is the largest event of its kind ever documented, with an estimated impact on more than 300 wild bumblebee colonies.
According to Oregon Department of Agriculture, the poisoning occurred after an insecticide was sprayed on linden trees to control aphids, which secrete a sticky residue while feeding, making them a nuisance to parked cars. The pesticide, dinotefuran (also known as Safari), belongs to a relatively new and controversial group of chemicals called neonicotinoids. Because neonicotinoids are long-lasting in plant tissues and can be found in flower nectar and pollen, and because they have been implicated in the global decline of honey bees, there have been growing concerns about their safety for pollinators.
“The cost of losing pollinators far outweighs any value of controlling aphids on ornamental plants,” said Mace Vaughan, pollinator conservation director at the Xerces Society. “After the events of last week, and based on the overwhelming science demonstrating the harm that these products can cause, we are calling on city and county governments to immediately stop the damage.”
The University of Minnesota’s Dr. Marla Spivak, a leading global authority on bee health, echoed Vaughan’s sentiment. “The Oregon bee poisoning is a clear warning. We have to stop pesticide use in cases where human health or food security is not at risk.”
Spivak points out that neonicotinoids are now the most widely used insecticides in urban and agricultural areas. “They are long-lasting in soil and they readily move into water. If the Oregon event is an indication of what is happening more widely, we will begin to see catastrophic threats to food security and the pollination of wild plants.”
In response to these concerns, several local governments are taking action to prevent further bee deaths. One of the most startling of these efforts was the City of Wilsonville’s leadership in wrapping the insecticide-laden trees with netting last week to keep any more bees from dying. The City of Eugene had previously publicly stated that they are no longer using neonicotinoids on city properties. In May, Commissioners from Thurston County, Washington unsuccessfully petitioned their state department of agriculture (WDA) to restrict some uses of these chemicals in their county. It is unclear whether WDA is now reconsidering their earlier rejection of the Thurston County petition, which was initiated out of concerns for pollinators such as honey bees and bumble bees.
The Xerces Society applauds the actions on the part of Wilsonville and Eugene to protect bees, but says more needs to be done.
“It is time to take a stronger stance on pollinator protection. The European Union has put restrictions in place on several neonicotinoids, and Ontario, Canada has gone further and banned all pesticides for cosmetic use,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. “We need a similar response here.”
Neonicotinoid insecticides, with active ingredients like imidacloprid, dinotefuran, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, can be purchased in most hardware stores and nurseries under various trade names. As scientists like Vaughan and Spivak point out, most have no warning labels to alert consumers about the potential hazard to bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects.
To help prevent future bee poisonings, the Xerces Society is calling for changes to both regulations and consumer behavior.
“In terms of what we would like to see, legislators, regulators and municipal leaders across the country should ban the use of neonicotinoids and other insecticides for cosmetic purposes,” said Black. “At a broader level, it is time for the Environmental Protection Agency to re-assess the ecological safety of neonicotinoids and immediately suspend any product registrations that were made with incomplete data.”
Jennifer Hopwood, the lead author of the Xerces Society’s report on the risks of neonicotinoids to bees says that there are also steps that individuals can take to avoid harming pollinators, like checking to see if they have neonicotinoid products in their garage or garden shed.
“Consumers should know that they can return pesticides to the store where they purchased them for safe disposal. Beyond that, when buying garden plants, people should ask the store if insecticides have been used on them," she says. "If staff can’t tell you, I would shop somewhere else.”
The Xerces Society will be following up with mayors, city councils and county commissions across the U.S. with formal letters asking them to take action.
The Xerces Society recommendations include:
- Municipalities should stop using all neonicotinoid insecticides on city- and county-owned property, including schools, parks and gardens.
- City and county governments should require that warnings be posted alongside displays of these chemicals at hardware stores and nurseries.
- Legislators, regulators and municipal leaders across the country should ban the use of neonicotinoids and other insecticides for cosmetic purposes on ornamental and landscape plants, like the ban now in force in Ontario, Canada.
- Do not buy products that contain neonicotinoids.
- Check to see if you have these products in your garage or garden shed. If so, do not use them. Make sure you dispose of them properly or take them back to the store where you bought them.
- When buying plants for your yard, ask if neonicotinoids have been used on them. If staff cannot tell you, shop somewhere else.
For Nursery and Hardware Stores
- Stores should proactively take action by pulling these toxic and poorly labeled products from their shelves.
- At a minimum, display materials should be placed at point of sale so that consumers know that these products kill bees and other beneficial insects, and that they can cause plants to produce toxic nectar and pollen months after treatment.
- Nurseries should list plants that have been treated with these chemicals.
For the Federal Government
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should work with pesticide companies to add clear warnings to homeowners that ornamental neonicotinoid insecticides are toxic to bees and other pollinators.
For Insecticide Companies
- Companies that make homeowner pesticide products that contain neonicotinoids should add clear language to product labels highlighting that these products are highly toxic to bees and other pollinators, and that treatment to plants may result in nectar and pollen that are contaminated with the insecticide and may kill bees and other pollinators.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.