Eric Douglas: Plant for pollinators -- for your own good

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There is a lot of gloom and doom in the news right now. The stock market is going crazy, international supply chains are faltering and there is this little virus thing in the air — you might’ve heard about it.

The worst part of all of that is there isn’t much any of us can do about it. I think that explains the panic buying of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. It may not accomplish much, but at least it feels like you are doing “something.”

What if I told you there was something you could do for the health of the world and you might even get a little exercise along the way?

More than three-fourths of the world’s food supply relies on pollinators — at least in part. To help out, all you have to do is plant some flowers. And not use as much insecticide. That’s not that hard.

Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and hummingbirds, among other things. They eat the nectar produced by flowering plants and pick up pollen when they do. They end up rubbing some of that pollen off at the next plant they visit and the fertilization process continues.

And it doesn’t take a large farm to make a difference. By providing food sources for pollinators, you can help them out with a small garden or even window boxes of flowers.

This is a general list of plants that work just about anywhere. You should plant a variety of flowers that bloom throughout the growing season as well. You want blooms in the spring, summer and fall.

Lavandula spp. (Lavender)

Rosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary)

Salvia spp. (Sage)

Echinacea spp. (Coneflower)

Helianthus spp. (Sunflower)

Cercis spp. (Redbud)

Nepeta spp. (Catnip)

Penstemon spp. (Penstemon)

Stachys spp. (Lamb’s ears)

Verbena spp. (Verbena)

Phacelia spp. (Bells or Phacelia)

Aster spp. (Aster)

Rudbeckia spp. (Black-eyed Susan)

Origanum spp. (Oregano)

Achilliea millefolium (Yarrow).

There are also lists online that can help you fine-tune what to plant for your specific region. The Cooperative Extension Service has guidance and so does the U.S. Forest Service.

If you’re tight on space, but still want to do something productive, here’s something that helps bees and veterans at the same time. The Boots to Bees program bills itself as helping two major epidemics: the loss of bees and suicide by veterans.

They build and sell bee boxes for solitary mason and leaf cutter bees. This isn’t about making honey but giving these bees a place to live and reproduce so they can carry on. (Check them out at bootstobees.org). Money raised from these projects goes to help veterans learn beekeeping.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything going on in the world, take care of things close to home. I’ve already got an area in my back yard picked out. Just a bit more cleaning up and then I am heading to the local greenhouse for some tips and supplies.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com

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