Healthy "U" March Newsletter
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
by Ron Albaugh M.S.'96, Biology/Environmental Science Instructor
Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing? Not every one picked by young girls but the majority reduced or displaced by invasive species, agriculture, development or other anthropogenic activities.
Flowering plants have been around since the Cretaceous period (about 130 million years ago), the majority of which depend on pollinators including some birds and mammals but mostly insects. These plants have coevolved with pollinators and in many cases are dependent on them to reproduce and complete their life cycle. It is estimated that 75 percent of all flowering plants are pollinated by animals. Pollination involves transferring pollen from the male part of a flower (the stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (the stigma) resulting in fertilization and the production of many fruits and vegetables. It is estimated that one in every three bites of food we eat, or about 35 percent of the world's food crops, depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. Almonds, apples, avocados, bananas, blueberries, cashews, coconuts, coffee, cranberries, figs, grapes, mangoes, melons, nutmeg, peaches, peppermint, pumpkins, strawberries, sugarcane, tea plants, tomatoes and vanilla are but a few examples of pollinated foods.
Alarmingly, our pollinators are in jeopardy. Honeybees, which are not native, as well as wild bees, are suffering from a variety of environmentally related issues. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a pathological condition affecting a large number of honeybee colonies in which various stresses may lead to the abrupt disappearance of worker bees from the hive, leaving only the queen and newly hatched bees behind; thus causing the colony to stop functioning. There are several possible causes including bee parasites, diseases, pesticides and other chemical toxins, poor hive management and poor nutrition. Malnutrition resulting from a lack of plant biodiversity causes stress to bees, possibly weakening their immune systems.
This is where I come in. My wife and I own and operate a 100-acre farm in northern Frederick County, Maryland. Our primary crops are soybeans, small grains and mixed hay. Beginning in April 2012, in an attempt to increase the pollen diversity for honeybees and native insects, with the help of Hood graduate student Lisa Kuder, who was working on her master's thesis project, we planted a half acre wildflower plot adjacent to a soybean field. We purchased and planted five pounds of Pollinator Mix, composed of 13 species of native wildflowers and grasses, specifically selected for our region.
Another reason we were interested in establishing the pollinator habitat resulted from a review of scientific literature. This information suggested that insect-mediated pollination of soybeans could actually increase yield. At the conclusion of her project in 2013, Lisa's results indicated that the insect pollinated plants near the wildflower border outperformed the caged, pollination restricted plants nearly twofold, with 24 percent more pods. Even though honey bees were notably scarce while the crop bloomed, it appeared that pollination services were performed primarily by wild bees. Some additional advantages to the establishment of a pollinator habitat includes the attraction of a large number of predatory insects, which serve as natural pest control. Additional data obtained suggest that a well-established canopy of flowering species can alter the hydrology of the surrounding soil, specifically increasing moisture levels and thereby promoting crop growth.
Following Lisa's research, we have increased the pollinator habitat surrounding additional crop fields to an additional two acres. Not only does this increase crop yield but improves insect diversity and hopefully continues to be a site for additional Hood College undergraduate and graduate research projects. Finally, we trust we have restored at least some of the many native flowers that have been missing. I would highly encourage anyone to plant at least a small pollinator garden on their property. Increasing the plant and animal diversity benefits our entire ecosystem and trust me, it will be a source of beauty and amazement for a long time to come.
Lisa Kuder M.S.'14, C'13 in the wildflower plot during her thesis research.
A tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) resting on a purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea).
Sources: University of Florida IFAS, The Pollinator Partnership, XERCES Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Ernst Seeds.
Interested in a Lunchtime Walking Group?
If you are interested in walking at lunchtime on Tuesdays, please email Nancy Kaufman by Tuesday, March 28. If there is enough interest and you can make the commitment, a walking group could begin in April!
Mindfulness Meditation and Relaxation
Mindfulness Meditation and Relaxation is held Monday and Thursday afternoons 12:30 pm-1:00 pm in the Meditation and Prayer Room, Chapel basement.
Weekly Chapel Services
All are welcome! Wednesdays 12:30 pm-12:55 pm, Coffman Chapel.
Sol Yoga is sponsoring yoga classed which are being held in the Dance Studio, Gambrill Gymnasium on Wednesdays, 5:15 pm-6:15 pm. Classes are underway and will continue through Wednesday, April 26. Class will not be held on Wednesday, March 15. Uncover, discover, tap into your power and just be. Yoga is what you make it. It can be your hour of peace in a hectic week, a workout, therapy for an ailing joint, or it can transform your life if you let it. The excellent, trained teachers of Sol Yoga will support you on your journey, whatever it may be. Make the commitment. The continuation of yoga sessions is contingent upon your ongoing interest and participation.