It’s an exceptional feeling to grow your own backyard Eden on the garden island of Kauai. Lush rain and warm sun encourage healthy plant production. But thats not all. Often times it is easy to miss the almost unseen, tireless work being done behind the scenes. There is an unnumbered grassroots army taking care to pollinate all the many plants that provide us with nourishment of many kinds. Do you know who they are? They are our Hawaiian Pollinators. I like to call them the Busy B’s…Birds, bats, bees, beetles, and butterflies are working full time in the sustainability and diversification department of the local agriculture. The greatest numbered group are the Bees.
The Buzz about Bees
Local Honey Bees have been busy in Hawaii since 1857. The German Dark Bees were the first species to thrive here in the islands. They were kept and cultivated in Nuuanu on Oahu. For a more detailed history check out the article A History of Honey Bees in the Hawaiian Islands.
The Varroa Mite
Now, over a 150 years later we are seeing these abundant colonies suddenly declining. Why? The Varroa Mite. Since its introduction into the islands in 2007 it has been wrecking havoc on the honeybees. The Varooa Mite is a parasitic mite that feeds on the blood of developing and adult bees. As a result the bees have a reduced life span and compromised immune systems. They have also introduced the Deformed Wing Virus, which results in catastrophic bee losses for the colony.
The sudden decline of honeybee populations in Hawaii has made the public
much more aware of the ecological impact of insect pollinators in general. As a result, there is much interest in how to modify gardens and farms to make them “pollinator friendly”.
Anyone and everyone can make a difference!
Here’s a few simple tips to help you contribute to the health of these important insects and in turn our own sustainability:
- Use a variety of plants so there is always something in bloom and you can attract a variety of pollinators.
- Plant in clumps. The bigger the display the more attractive the patch will be to the Busy B’s.
- Plant Sustainably. Eliminate or minimize the use and impact of pesticides.
- Provide a water source, and a wind break.
- Support pollinator friendly businesses.
- Use native Hawaiian plants that are pollen and nectar rich.
Pollinator Friendly Natives
There are a few Native Hawaiian Plants that will contribute greatly to the success of the pollinator rehabilitation process. But first lets consider why plant natives?
Native plants contribute to the native forests in Hawaii. By planting natives you are reestablishing the connection between the ‘Aina ( land) and people. The introduction of non-natives has had a detrimental effect on the native pollinators. The honeycreeper birds and the Kamehameha butterfly are primary examples. With limited access to their nectar of choice their population is suffering. With just a trip to your local nursery you can welcome them back home.
Here’s the juice on what Natives to plant:
Naupaka (Scaevola sencea) is one of Hawaii’s most common plants. There are nine different species of naupaka. These natives typically grow up to 10 feet tall and six to 15 feet wide. The plant has large leaves with flowers in small clusters. The flowers which are uniquely half a flower are white with purplish streaks. Bees, and Butterflies love to visit the Naupaka and its gentle little blooms.
Ohia Lehua is a stunning site decorating the landscapes and forests of Hawaii. Growing up to 40-60 ft tall at its prime, it is common to find native birds such as the ‘Apapane sipping necter from its flowers. The blooms are commonly red, but orange, and yellow also decorate this native tree.
All the Native Hibiscus Varieties attract a variety of local pollinators. Kauai Seascapes Nursery, Inc. carries at least 5 different varieties that will add pops of color to the landscape. Plant them in a cluster or as a hedge to really stand out to the Busy B’s.
Bee the Change
With our fragile ecosystem here on Kauai it is vital that we take to the gardens. Planting your own pollinator garden whether in your backyard, or on your back porch will make a difference! Planting with native Hawaiian plants takes the conscious effort you make to the next level. Native plants adapt better to our climate and will attract native pollinators back into the landscape. Now’s the time to help to bring back the balance and Bee the change!