Editorial: Birds, bees and baby steps

We have two choices in the face of the earth’s environmental degradation. The first is to feel like we humans are all hospice patients just waiting for the inevitable, apocalyptic end. The other is to take action – countermeasures, albeit small but still meaningful, to try to combat the planet’s ecological destruction largely caused by our own suicidal actions.

In that latter spirit of taking action, Gov. Bob McDonnell has declared June 18-24 as “Virginia Pollinator Week,” and the Shenandoah National Park Trust is inviting volunteers to help weed out invasive species.  

“We are losing bees at an alarming rate,” says Keith Tignor, state apiarist at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). Other pollinators include birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. Here are some small steps you can take to help pollinators:

• Plant a variety of flowers that bloom at different times of the year.

• Plant flowers in clumps rather than singly or in rows.

• Select native plants that are known to attract pollinators in your area. (Enter your zip code at pollinator.org/guides.htm to determine best plants for your area.)

• Choose flowers with a variety of colors and shapes.

• Plant non-hybrid flowers.

• Provide or build nesting structures for pollinators.  (Plans and tips available through Virginia Cooperative Extension at www.ext.vt.edu.)

• Never use pesticides or herbicides when pollinators are present or around a pollinator garden.

Additional information is available by calling 804-786-3515 or emailing keith.tignor@vdacs.virginia.gov.

In the Shenandoah National Park, more than 300 nonnative plant species have invaded and spread quickly, competing with native species for sunlight and soil nutrients. They degrade the integrity of native landscapes, alter wildlife habitat and food sources and, by taking over an area, can mark the end for rare or endangered native plants.

Thus the Shenandoah National Park Trust is helping to fund the Forest Health Initiative, the National Park’s efforts to control nonnative invasive plants and reestablish native species in key areas. You can make a donation to the Trust to help fund these efforts and/or volunteer to uproot invasive plants yourself.  

Work days are scheduled 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Big Meadows on June 30, July 14 and Aug. 18 and at Dickey Ridge on July 21 and Sept. 15. RSVP to Cindy Bluegerman at 540-999-3500 ext. 3437 or cindy_blugerman@nps.gov. The park will provide equipment; please bring your own water, food, sunscreen and bug spray.

Walter Nicklin