LET ME TELL YOU 'BOUT THE BIRDS AND THE BEES

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and [s]he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.
— Francis de Sales
 Photo Credit Ted/Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit Ted/Wikimedia Commons

It's time we had "the talk." You know, the one about the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees. It's probably going to make us both a bit uncomfortable, but you're old enough now, and it needs to happen.

You see, when two things fall in love, they make each other better. Bees and flowers, for example. Trees and birds too. Nature works best when in balance; when all the creatures and organisms are working in tandem.

Enter, the human.

For whatever reason, we are constantly interfering with this balance. We don't want certain flowers or plants growing in our yards and gardens, so we spray them with herbicides. The herbicides kill nearly everything in their path, including beneficial plants. We want spotless fruit, so we spray pesticides. They typically aren't designed to kill just one type of insect, so beneficial bugs and birds are casualties of this pointless war. We want to seem special, so we plant exotic plants that become invasive plants, that outgrow our beautiful native plants, leaving no room for them to thrive. Without these plants, our native birds are left without vital habitat and food they have co-evolved with.

What's wrong with us?

Some of it is because of ignorance. Whether it's willful ignorance, or influenced by corporate manipulation, many people don't realize how damaging we're being to our literal and figurative back yards.

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One organization working to help increase our understanding and preservation of the planet is the Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm in Dayton, Ohio. Through education, research, and recreation, they're making it easy to have a conversion about the birds and bees.

We were lucky enough to spend a Saturday helping out with their plant and tree sale. Focusing on selling only native species, the sale was both a fundraiser and a chance to educate the public.

It was also a chance to showcase The Year of the Bird initiative, which is a partnership between the National Audubon Society, National Geographic, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The plan is to recognize and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Act, the importance of birds, and the conservation actions needed to preserve these amazing creatures. Each month we're all invited to take a simple, yet important action to help birds. One of the best ways you can directly impact birds near you is, you guessed it, to plant a variety of native plants at your home.

Other ideas for helping out are:

  • Reduce or eliminate toxic chemical use
  • Keep cats inside
  • Create or protect water sources
  • Create shelters by making brush piles or letting dead trees stand
  • Reduce light pollution by closing blinds or turning off excess lights to prevent window collisions

When you help birds, you are also providing healthy habitats for other pollinators (like bees) and people too.

If you're in the Dayton area, go to the Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm to learn more. It's fun, informative, and beautiful.

For those of you that can't get there, I'm going to spell this out more bluntly and it won't be nearly as fun.

Stop spraying toxic chemicals on your gardens and yards. You're going to eat the food you grow. You and your families are going to walk, sit, and play on those lawns. Do you really want to be doing that in poison?

Stop worrying about a hole in your lettuce or a spot on your plums. It's fine. It's nature. It's good for you. You know what isn't? Pesticides. They are toxins designed to kill animals. Do you think that's a good thing for you to ingest?

Stop buying foods from corporations and farmers that use these dangerous things. They're harming you. They're harming the environment. Perversely, they're even harming themselves.

Stop planting non-native plant species. Bradford pears stink. Plant a dogwood. English ivy is annoying. Plant native ferns instead. You use a landscaper you say. Fine. Demand that they only plant natives.

This spring has been painfully late in arriving in many parts of the Midwest and Eastern United States. It's been an underlying theme of our daily small talk. When are the flowers and trees going to bloom? When will the fields be green and the forests shrouded in verdure? This year, it's simply a cold start to the spring that's to blame. Eventually, it will warm up. Spring will finally come. Let's enjoy all the gifts that it brings. But let's do so responsibly, mindfully, and with an eye to the future. Let's work to preserve what we have. Otherwise, one day the trees and flowers will no longer bloom, we'll end up living in a leafless and lifeless canopy that will remain as a stark reminder of our negligence, before fading and rotting into nothing but distant memories.

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