One of the great benefits to growing your own food is getting to see all those little moments. Those little moments that you never consider when you’re just browsing through the selection at the market. Those little moments from seed to harvest and everything in between, where so many interesting-and-often-surprising things unfold in the process that brings our food from the farm to the table. And so many of those little moments that make our food possible are brought to you by pollinators, those faithful workers whose daily bread is earned by making their way from flower to flower, and whose busy efforts have the welcome side-effect of turning flowers into abundant fruits and veggies!
From the farm to the table…Brought to you by pollinators! 🐝🦋🐦🍎🍇🍅🌽🥕🌶🌻 Be fruitful…and multiply! (genesis 1:28)Tweet
Probably the most familiar of all pollinators is the faithful honeybee, and we are as delighted with them as anyone. We are in our second year of bee-keeping, and hope to continue making honeybees a valued partner in our homestead efforts.
Our native Maine bumblebees are great pollinators, but they don’t make a store of honey because they just don’t overwinter. At the end of the season, they produce a number of young queens who mate and then find a place to hibernate. The original colony dies in the winter, and the new queens emerge in the spring to build an entirely new colony, every season a fresh start. (Read more about the wide variety of native bees from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.)
So our honeybees are Italians, apis mellifera ligustica, from a local beekeeper who has acclimated his hives by over-wintering them in Maine instead of transporting them to the south to pollinate crops there during the cold winter months.
Keeping honeybees increases pollination on the farm, and also provides the added benefit of honey and beeswax which are both so useful in homestead life.
But our sweet little honeybees are far from the only ones on the job! In fact, it’s hard to contemplate all the variety of food that grows on a family farm, with all the variety of blossoms, without remembering to give God thanks for the pollinators!
…and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.(Genesis 8:17, KJV)
These are a few of my favorites. Pollinators have a fascinating relationship with plants, so many different species arriving at just the right time for so many different blossoms. Some of them I can never even identify, yet here they are, like clockwork, furiously at work, some of them for only a few days of bloom-time for some one particular plant and then vanishing into thin air until next year! Oh how high are God’s ways, how entirely beyond our ability to comprehend all the intricate details by which He sustains our world and delivers our food.
Butterflies are a delight of the summer season, prompting oohs and aahs whenever they flutter their way into sight. Of course, they begin as plump little caterpillars, voraciously munching their way through every green leaf in their often-very-specific diets, so there is a balance. Happily, many munch leaves that are wild and plentiful without harming our farm-grown produce, and we can enjoy all their beauty without cringing over their big appetites!
all kinds of crazy bugs
Oh, so many bugs! On any summer blossom, a close look will reveal a swarm of activity from all kinds of bugs you’ve probably never even noticed before. Some are pollinators, busy about their beneficial-plant-partner responsibilities. Some are pests, nibbling away at leaves and stems. Some are on the clock, having arrived to find a mate. And some are hunters, ambushing all comers.
So many tiny dramas of so many tiny lives unfolding within the petals of a flower!
and even birds!
Though many birds grace the treetops in search of seeds or bugs, the ruby-throated hummingbird is a pollinator.
A bit shy, sometimes difficult to spot, this female visited the wildflower garden, and then I began to get glimpses of her, busy all around the farm. From the wildflowers, she made her way through the towering forest of sunflower stalks to visit our lettuce blossoms. Later, she investigated the nasturtiums and the tea garden where wild bergamot is in bloom. I caught a flash of her working amongst the scarlet runner beans. The kids saw her in the corn tassels.
And if she weren’t delightful enough, there is a moth that is so very like this lovely little hummingbird that it is named the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth.
It is not much smaller than a hummingbird. Its wings sound exactly like the familiar hum of a hummingbird. It even mimics the green back and tiny tail of our ruby-throated hummingbirds! And it is an equally-diligent pollinator. Having begun its efforts early in the apple blossoms, we have enjoyed seeing the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth at work all throughout the summer flowers.
Some pollinators make the news in a big way, as we hear calls to save the bees or plant gardens to attract the butterflies. But this is only a scratch on the surface of the incredible world of pollinators, countless varieties of them, living out their lives oblivious to the fact that their labors play such an essential role in our ability to enjoy the fruits-and-vegetables of their labors.
🐝🦋🐦From the farm to the table…Brought to you by pollinators!🐦🦋🐝
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by Sydney Michalski