By Mildred Thufvesson
We’ve all encountered those buzzing little creatures, and most of us have killed a few of them. As soon as a bee enters our peripheral, we tend to run or scream, when in fact, they are not as harmful as we think. Bees can sting but typically will not unless you bother them. You have most likely heard the phrase “save the bees” or that bees are essential pollinators, but what does that really entail? The fact of the matter is that bees are not the only insects that are vital when it comes to pollination.
The most significant pollinator orders are Diptera (flies), Hymenoptera (wasps, bees), and Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). Every pollinator fulfills a key role in the ecosystem. For example, bees prefer to pollinate bright flowers such as yellow or blue ones that are sweet-smelling and contain nectar guides. Many pollinators use nectar guides to find the nectar and they are only visible as UV light, which most insects can see. Certain moths pollinate flowers with a nocturnal anthesis, which is when the flower opens at night. Butterflies and moths also tend to pollinate pendant flowers with the help of their long proboscis, the equivalent of a human tongue, allowing them to reach the nectar. Flies do not pollinate as frequently as the others but tend to pollinate less showy flowers often with a malodorous smell. As you can see all insects are important for different purposes and without them, we would not be able to survive. So how does this connect to the LongHouse Reserve, and who am I?
My name is Mildred Thufvesson. I am a rising junior at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. This summer I took a course in entomology titled, Insects and Human Interactions, through Tulane University. Additionally, I had the honor to work under horticulturist Holger Winenga at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, Long Island as part of the service-learning component of the course. I was amazed to see that the 16-acre garden is managed by only five gardeners, and it was a truly honorable experience. When I came to LongHouse, Mr. Winenga told me that there was a high increase in insects since the pandemic due to the reduction of fertilizers at neighboring farms. During my week at LongHouse, I encountered multiple different insect species, such as bees, wasps, moths, and butterflies providing me with a new perspective of the amazing world of insects.
Mr. Winenga and I discussed different ways in which biodiversity could potentially be increased at Longhouse and we both agreed that beehives and insect hotels would be a good option. This would help compensate for the increasing loss of natural habitat that insects experience, enhance biodiversity and restore ecological balance in the garden, it would also allow for insects to protect their populations by having a place they can safely lay their eggs in. Another suggestion would be for Longhouse to add more native plants as it is important to keep the native species of insects in the area. Providing the area with native plants will not only help native insect species survive but also many other organisms needed for the ecosystem.
I hope that you think before you call them bugs because they are not bugging you, they are helping you, and everyone else survive. Let us save them so that they can save us.
Mildred Thufvesson, left, part of the LongHouse garden intern crew and author of today's blog entry.