Do Fertilizers Interfere with Bees’ Ability to Pollinate?
If you didn’t already know, flowers are electric! Flowers can draw pollinators in by emitting a negative charge. Since insects carry positive charges, the opposing electric fields are naturally drawn together. This electric connection helps bees and other insects find flowers, along with visual and scent cues. Since bees create an electrical charge when they visit flowers, it triggers some flowers to release scents that, in turn, entice more pollinators. After a pollinator visits a flower, it loses its charge momentarily and sends a message to other bees to keep moving. The tragedy found in recent studies is that fertilizers that are synthetic send the same signal, preventing flowers that need pollination from getting what they need.
What Disrupts the Electric Field of Flowers?
There are several things that affect the flowers’ ability to release their charge to pollinators. Although this article is about fertilizer, air pollution has also been shown to disrupt the electric fields of flowers. However, recent studies have forced people to re-evaluate the use of fertilizers as it relates to protecting the ecosystem and the critical pollination process.
In gathering scientific data, when flowers were manipulated to give off the effects of fertilizers, the bees stayed away for significant amounts of time. The research shows that synthetic fertilizers interfere with the electric fields of flowers for almost thirty minutes after spraying. So, this means that insects and pollinators will pass up a flower that needs pollination.
Bees Can Still See and Smell Flowers Without Electrical Charges
There is a glimmer of hope as we move forward with this knowledge. During the research on fertilizers and how it affects pollinators, the bees displayed that they could still locate flowers using their visual and olfactory senses. Whew! However, the big surprise of this new research is that it is the first time. What has been surprising to scientists and bee enthusiasts about this new research is that it is the first time scientists have identified something that created enough disruption of “noise” that causes confusion, sends incorrect signals, and interrupts the electrical senses of pollinators.
Bee Friendly Fertilizers
As more research and data are done, and new details are revealed about human activity and how it impacts bee populations, those wanting to do the right thing and protect the bees and environment are asking which fertilizers are best to use that are bee friendly.
Epsom salt is non-toxic, so it is considered bee friendly. It is rich in magnesium, and this helps pepper and tomato plants. The bonus of using Epsom salt is that it is an excellent deterrent for snails and slugs, keeping them off your plants. Those interested in trying this can dissolve Epsom salt in water and use a spray gun to distribute the mixture evenly.
Helping Bees in Smart and Safe Ways That Also Helps Lawns
You would be hard-pressed to find someone that said they did not want to help bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Most people understand that pollination puts food on the table, and with declining bee populations worldwide, more and more are starting to take an interest in helping.
Diversifying flowering plants in your area can serve as excellent food for bees. However, turf alone does not provide food for bees unless there is some flowering or clover in the grass. If a weed-free, green lawn is the goal, it will likely be necessary to use insecticides and fertilizers to keep that look. So, if you need to use those products on your lawn, either mow down the lawn before applying or hold out until the weeds are not blooming.
Often, gardeners want to get rid of the grubs but need to realize the products they use for pest control can also get on flowering plants and be harmful to bees and other pollinators. Two types of grass that have less appeal to grubs are Kentucky Bluegrass and fine fescue grasses. An additional benefit to using these grasses when establishing a new lawn is that they are low maintenance!
So, Americans continue to quest to find the perfect balance of beautiful landscapes and bee-friendly products. Undoubtedly, many who design fertilizer are on a mission to find solutions for beekeepers, landscapers, and crop owners! Although organic solutions can often be more expensive, there are resources and homemade mixtures that many claim do the trick without harming bees and other pollinators.
It is important to remember that bees and their hives should be treated with care. If you have a hive that poses a potential danger to people or pets, please get in touch with a reputable and experienced beekeeper and have it relocated safely. In California, some bee species are protected, and thoughtlessly getting rid of a hive can end up in giant fines! Please don’t risk it and call a professional!