How Colorful Stripes of Wildflowers Could Reduce the Need for Pesticides

David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

The UK is emerging as a global leader in the effort to reduce our dependency on pesticides. In November 2017, the nation moved to restrict a class of pesticide that’s deadly to bees, and now 15 farms across the country are testing a natural supplement to the chemicals. As The Guardian reports, colorful strips of wildflowers have been planted among crops as a way to combat pests.

The floral stripes add vibrant pops of color to the farmland, but they’re not there for show. By planting wildflowers in the fields, farmers hope to attract predatory insects like hoverflies, parasitic wasps, and ground beetles. These are exactly the type of bugs farmers want flocking to their property: They don’t eat crops and instead prey on the insects that do. With more natural predators to control pest populations, farmers may be able to reduce their use of harmful pesticides.

The wildflower strategy isn’t entirely new. Farmers already knew that planting borders of wildflowers around their fields is an effective way to lure in good insects, but this method still leaves the center of their farms vulnerable. By dispersing flowers throughout the area, they can broaden the predatory insects’ range.

The 15 farms planted with wildflowers last fall are part of a trial run put together by the Center for Ecology and Hydrology. The organization will monitor the farms for five years to see if the experiment really is a viable alternative to pesticides. In the meantime, farmers will have plenty of room to plant and harvest as usual, with the flower beds only taking up 2 percent of their land. The selected flowers include oxeye daisy, red clover, common knapweed, and wild carrot.

There's a long list of reasons for farmers to phase out chemical pesticides, from the damage they do to local wildlife to the threat they pose to our own health. As lawmakers around the world begin to crack down on them, you can expect to see more natural alternatives gain attention.

[h/t The Guardian]

Chernobyl Creator Craig Mazin Urges Visitors to Treat the Exclusion Zone With Respect

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Following the success of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, one tour company reported that bookings to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone located in Ukraine rose 35 percent. Now, series creator Craig Mazin is imploring the new wave of tourists to be respectful when snapping selfies at Chernobyl, Gizmodo reports.

A 2500-square-kilometer exclusion zone was established around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant shortly after its reactor exploded in 1986 and flooded the area with harmful radiation. The abandoned towns are still too radioactive for people to live there safely, but they have been deemed safe to visit temporarily with the supervision of a guide.

Chernobyl has supported a dark tourism industry for years, but thanks to the miniseries, photographs taken there are gaining new levels of attention online. News of influencers posing for irreverent selfies at the site of the nuclear disaster quickly went viral. Mazin tweeted:

Regardless of why people are visiting the site, being respectful in the presence of tragedy is always a good idea. It's also smart to resist leaving a tour group to snap the perfect selfie in some abandoned building: Tour companies warn that breaking rules and wandering off approved paths can lead to dangerous radiation exposure.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Minnesota Wants to Pay Homeowners to Create Bee-Friendly Lawns

iStock/GoodLifeStudio
iStock/GoodLifeStudio

Bees are an important part of our agriculture, helping to pollinate around 30 percent of all the world's crops. That means humans have a vested interest in protecting bees from insecticides, predation, habitat loss, and other factors that have caused populations to drop worldwide in recent years. In Minnesota, legislators are taking steps to help bees by incentivizing homeowners to plant food sources for the insects on their property, the Star Tribune reports.

The new bill, which was recently approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Tim Walz, sets aside a yearly budget of $900,000 to be used to help state residents convert their lawns into bee sanctuaries. The program specifically aims to boost the rusty patched bumblebee, a pollinator native to the Midwest whose population has declined by 87 percent in the past two decades.

When the law goes into effect, homeowners will be able to apply for financial assistance to plant their bee-friendly lawn, with 75 percent of the cost being covered for most projects and up to 90 percent being provided in areas especially suited to rusty patched bees. Approved properties will be planted with "native vegetation and pollinator-friendly forbs and legumes," according to the bill. Small common flowers that many homeowners try to eradicate, such as Dutch white clover and dandelions, are some of the most appealing sources of pollen to bees.

It’s still unclear when Minnesotans will be able to take advantage of the new law. The state's Board of Water and Soil Resources will give grants to local conservation groups, who will distribute funding to individual landowners. The state representative who introduced the bill, Kelly Morrison, has said she hopes the law goes into effect by next spring.

The bee-friendly lawn program is just one way people around the world are taking action to save struggling bee populations. In 2017, the UK announced it would ban pesticides that hurt bees, and in Amsterdam, bees can take refuge at strategically placed "insect hotels."

[h/t Star Tribune]

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