Q. I heard you were offering a pollinator program in November. Could you tell me more about what the different classes will cover? Also, the dates, times and cost how to register?
A. The cost is $90, and the easiest way to register is to call our office (573-634-2824 or email firstname.lastname@example.org). It starts Nov. 4 and is held Mondays and Thursdays for three weeks. Classes are 4:30-7:30 p.m. at our extension center (Mondays) or Runge Nature Center (Thursdays). For the classes, I'll present that below as a series of Q&As that may catch the interest of more readers.
Q. First class is on insects in general. If we have a cold winter, does it help to kill off typical garden insect pests?
A. No, that is an old-time misconception. There are many ways insects are adapted to survive the winter, and snow cover makes a difference of exposure. Also, some insects may be more vulnerable in the spring when they come out of dormancy and a cold snap follows. It's too tricky to predict in general.
Q. Second class is on the plant pollinator relationship. There are still a number of plants blooming, and I see insects on them. It doesn't seem to make sense it's getting too cold for both.
A. Fall flowers have an advantage that there aren't a lot of competing flowers. So when they flower, they often get the pollinator's attention, thus the results are good. This contrasts to late spring and summer flowers when there may be many, and a flower may get ignored. The downside is an early cold spell could shut down either the flower function or the pollinator, thus less seeds produced. Most fall flowers can tolerate temperatures into the 20s, so manage to squeak by and produce some seeds, if pollinated.
Q. Third class is on honeybees. Do honeybees do the majority of insect pollination in a typical garden?
A. No, honeybees do about 10-25 percent of the pollination. Flies, other bees and other insects (beetles, butterflies) do the rest. That said, they are the single most important pollinator species.
Q. The fourth class focuses on native pollinators. I know carpenter bees are pollinators, but also a pest if in my deck. How does one deal with that situation?
A. Carpenter bees should be off in the woods or tunneling in wood structures no one cares about. They can be deterred from wood by painting it, with latex paint working better than oil based paint or stains. If tunneling is already occurring, those need to be killed, before filling the holes and painting. If you want to be really nice, fill the holes and paint in mid-spring after they have hatched out.
Q. The fifth class focuses on pollinator conservation. How can I help pollinators without growing plants for them? I just don't have much of a yard.
A. Consider a citizen science project. We need data collected on pollinators to better understand their heath and population in Missouri. An example is the Great Sunflower Project where one monitors flowers and documents the pollinators that visit. This data is logged onto a website. It doesn't take long to do but does require some training and follow-through. It is a good way to involve youth.
Q. The last class focuses on what kind of plants to grow for pollinators and ways to plant them. I know native plants are all the rage; are they really better for pollinators? And are perennials better than annual flowers?
A. The big benefit native plants have is they generally are better as a food source for caterpillars, which grow into pretty butterflies but are also important as food for birds. Perennials generally outperform annuals as pollen and nectar sources (floral resources) but they typically flower a shorter time. Thus, a number of perennials are needed for longer supply. A number of annuals have been evaluated for their benefit to pollinators (see photo).