Ruth Bass: On Preserving Flowers and Insects | Columnists

Butterfly and bee on flower

A butterfly and a bee nest on a flower in Richmond. Insects, especially buzzing ones, may seem like a nuisance, but they serve an essential function in the overall environment.

RICHMOND – We’re into that season of chicory and Queen Anne lace again, with many Berkshire roadsides delightfully decorated in one of nature’s true blue flowers and the delicate white doily that is named after her. an English queen.

Legend has it that the Queen, an excellent lacemaker, pricked her finger with a needle and only one drop of blood fell on the piece of lace she was creating, which anyone who embroiders can understand (and hope to remove the stain). Supposedly, this is why a tiny dark purple floret sits in the center of the flower.

Chicory and Queen Anne’s lace are considered invasive, obviously able to grow almost anywhere. They walk in serried ranks just off the asphalt, often in stony ground where most things cannot take root. Chicory flowers close at night, turning the plants into greyish-green rods.

If community roadside mowing is blocked until the end of August, the beauty remains. But in many cities, the mowers are there more than once a year, and the display is destroyed in the middle of summer. For lovers of insects, birds and flowers, this is a disappointment.

It may be hard to believe, but roadside mowing is controversial, with some wanting everything to be ‘clean’ and others believing it’s eco-friendly to save gas expenses and keep it looking great. natural. Between the two, scientists claim that mowing, perhaps once a year, strengthens the plants. Neatniks claim mowed roadsides are safer because you can see an animal before it starts crossing the road. It seems like overkill – it doesn’t matter if a vole runs in front of your car, and deer, coyotes, bears and foxes are a bit taller than roadside plants.

Above all, birds, animals and insects eat and pollinate on unmown roadsides, a menu that mowing eliminates, in addition to killing dozens of insects. It’s easy to applaud the disappearance of these creatures that sting, buzz or bite us. But the thing is, we need those guys, including some of the pesky ones. The venerable Old Farmer’s Almanac points out that insects are part of the food chain of fish (ask a fly fisherman), birds, snakes, frogs, salamanders and mammals (think anteater).

Some insects control others, the way hunting season is supposed to provide food for the family and keep the deer population at a livable level, although many gardeners would say hunting deer doesn’t work. We all know that ladybugs gobble up aphids, an insect requiring around a thousand aphids in its larval stage.

In this house where hordes of ladybugs on a sunny window in March are not welcome, it is good to settle down and live on wood sorrel, eating something almost microscopic. The beautiful dragonflies, orange and teal and striped, feed on mosquitoes, and the almanac says they have contributed to drone technology as well.

Insects, including bees, pollinate wild plants and agricultural plants. Without their work, the gardens do not function. And the almanac says they’re cleaning up. As nature’s dining room busboys, they decompose dead creatures, dead plants, and turn waste into nutrient-rich soil.

All this good work is the reason why, in the scientific world, there is growing alarm about the drop in insect populations, and their decline is visible even to us non-scientists. A friend recently pointed out that fewer bugs seem to be squashed on car windshields these days, which made me realize that I haven’t cleaned a single one.

Many insects fall victim to pesticides, some die by the lawn mower, some die at the hands of a human with a spray gun. A reading of the label on a spray that is guaranteed to kill ants, bees, wasps, etc., should make anyone reluctant to press the button – unless the insect has built a nest in raspberry bushes. or in the shade of an outside light.

Most of us hate insects, especially if they bite. We think we can’t live with them, because they poke holes in our plants and buzz around in the dark room. But, apparently, we cannot live without them. You have to respect the residents who were here before the dinosaurs.