10. PLANT AND ANIMAL EXTINCTION

THE LOSS OF BIRDS IN VERMONT, THE INSECT APOCOLYPSE,
THE LOSS OF BEES – NEONICS AND ROUNDUP

Despite an alarming UN report that warns one million plant and animal species face extinction due to human activity. The UN’s landmark 1,500-page study, announced this week, warns that if we continue to destroy natural landscapes at rates “unprecedented in human history,” massive biodiversity loss will undermine food security, access to clean water, and sources of modern medicine by 2050.

A third of all marine mammals’ face extinction from habitat loss and unsustainable fishing, according to the UN report.
“The UN report shows that if we’re serious about protecting species not just for their own worth, but in order to save ourselves, we need to increase protections rather than decrease them,” says Drew Caputo, Earthjustice Vice President of Litigation for Lands, Wildlife, and Oceans. “The administration’s attempt to gut the Endangered Species Act is, as this report shows, a full-speed-ahead course of action in exactly the wrong direction. It’s also totally illegal. If they finalize those rollbacks, we’ll see them in court.”

The Endangered Species Act does more than ensure a legally binding safety net for animals and plants facing extinction. It enshrines in law the principle that economic prosperity cannot come at the cost of conserving our native species and the habitats they depend on.

Since its passage in 1973, 99 percent of the animals protected under the Act have not perished. Those species include the American bald eagle, gray wolf, and humpback whales. The Act is also crucial for restoring essential ecosystems: to date, more than 250 million acres of habitat are protected from harm under the law.

Lawyers use the Endangered Species Act as the legal ground for countless cases to defend wildlife and wildlands, and to work toward securing a healthy environment for all species. Recent examples of how we’ve used the Endangered Species Act include:
Stopping a trophy hunt and restoring federal protections for Yellowstone’s grizzly bears;

May 22 in 2019 is the International Day for Biodiversity, when we celebrate life on this planet and the places that are home to millions of plants and animals -- places like the Canadian boreal forest.

Extinction is Forever, But Endangered Means We Still Have Time
Endangered Species Day is a nationwide effort to bring awareness to endangered species and the national conservation efforts to protect them. This year, less than two weeks before Endangered Species Day on May 17th, the U.N. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a sobering report concluding that about 1 million species worldwide are at risk of extinction. This number is alarming, and this unprecedented report shows that we must act together to save both our wildlife and us.

For over 70 years, Defenders of Wildlife has led efforts to protect and restore imperiled wildlife across North America and though this report is staggering, we have hope that strengthening conservation laws like the Endangered Species Act, mitigating climate change, and defending critical habitats will protect our endangered species from vanishing.

THE LOSS OF BIRDS AND INSECTS IN VERMONT - SUMMER 2018
One of my favorite activities is to go on bird watching trips and hang out with knowledgeable folks who can identify birds before seeing them – simply by their songs and calls. I recently took a trip to Little River State Park in Waterbury where we were looking for warblers. Richard Foye, mentioned earlier, is a long-time birder from South Newfane said he has hasn’t seen as many warblers in the past few years plus he believes songbirds aren’t singing as much because there are fewer insects. In part this is because of habitat loss and the use of insecticides in Central and South America where the birds migrate to in summer and fall.

In Vermont, there’s no shortage of trees, with three out of every four acres composed of picturesque forests. Yet some Vermonters fear there is too much forest fragmentation. Scientists note that while invasive species, acid rain, and climate change are well documented threats to the health of mature forests, habitat fragmentation is probably the biggest driver.

Fragmentation occurs when tracts of woods are bought up, parceled out, and cleared. And according to a recent report from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies this may be the leading cause behind the decline of Vermont forest-bird species such as the Canada Warbler and the Winter Wren.

The study found a 14 percent decline in total birds across 31 unmanaged forests around the state, including the Green Mountain Audubon Center, between 1989 and 2013. And of the 34 most abundant species at the sites, 13 showed significant declines. Insect-eating birds like Chimney Swifts, Tree Swallows, and Eastern Phoebes were the hardest hit, experiencing an overall population loss of 45 percent over the 25-year period.

Vermont’s state bird, the Hermit Thrush, has been stable over the 25-year span, likely because it’s less sensitive to habitat fragmentation and other pressures. Meanwhile, the number of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers actually grew over the study period - a trend the researchers attribute to an increase of dead trees for the woodpeckers to forage on.

Whether our yards include just one tree or masses of flora, switching from lawns to native plants can build up birds’ defenses and increase their resilience to a wide range of environmental threats. Not only do native plants offset rising greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, but they also provide beauty, support pollinators, encourage biodiversity and save us time, water, gasoline and more. But perhaps best of all, native plants help the birds, and in today’s world, the birds need all the help we can give them.

THE INSECT APOCALYPSE
Even though native plants can help in mitigating the loss of birds and contribute to biodiversity, there is some very disturbing news. Overall, forty percent of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. I’ve noticed how there are fewer insects splattered on my windshield in summer.

In the United States, scientists found the population of monarch butterflies fell by 90 percent in the last 20 years; the rusty-patched bumblebee, which once lived in 28 states, dropped by 87 percent over the same period. A German study found that the overall abundance of flying insects in German nature reserves decreased by 75 percent in just 27 years.
People who studied fish found that the fish had fewer mayflies to eat and therefore were smaller. Ornithologists found that birds that rely on insects for food were in trouble: eight in 10 partridges gone from French farmlands; 50 and 80 percent drops, respectively, for nightingales and turtledoves. Half of all farmland birds in Europe disappeared in just three decades. At first, many scientists assumed the familiar culprit of habitat destruction was at work, but then they began to wonder if the birds might simply be starving.

Entomologists know that climate change and the overall degradation of global habitat are bad news for biodiversity and that insects are dealing with the particular challenges posed by herbicides and pesticides, along with the effects of losing meadows, forests, and even weedy patches to the relentless expansion of human spaces. Insects are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, as food for other creatures, pollinators, and recyclers of nutrients.

University of Vermont bee researchers are buzzing after an anonymous $500,000 gift to support threatened pollinators. The Apis Fund is named after the scientific name for honeybees. The gift support projects supporting vital bee pollinators. Bees are essential for the world’s food supply – including Vermont agriculture – but are experiencing steep declines from climate change, disease, pesticides, and habitat loss including meadows, forests, and even weedy patches.

The gift was made to UVM’s Gund Institute for Environment, which has led internationally recognized research on bees and other pollinators, including: the first map of U.S. bee declines, how bees improve crop yields, the effects of climate change on bees, projected losses in coffee-growing regions, and the extinction of four Vermont bumblebee species.

Scientists are anxious about the species that still exist, but are a shadow of what they once were. What we’re losing is not just the diversity part of biodiversity, but the bio part: life in sheer quantity. Scientists have begun to speak of functional extinction as opposed to numerical extinction.

The current worldwide loss of biodiversity is popularly known as the sixth extinction: the sixth time in world history that a large number of species have disappeared in unusually rapid succession, caused this time not by asteroids or ice ages but by humans. When we think about losing biodiversity, we tend to think of the last northern white rhinos protected by armed guards, of polar bears on dwindling ice floes. Tigers still exist but that doesn’t change the fact that 93 percent of the land where they used to live is now tigerless.

Native plants tend to grow vigorously without requiring much fussing. They generally take climatic extremes in stride. Most are major attractions for butterflies, birds, bees, and other pollinators because they provide food and/or shelter for these beneficial garden visitors. Pollinating insects, birds, and other creatures are essential not just for our flower gardens, but also the food we eat.

THE LOSS OF BIRDS and BEES 2019
This summer has been the first summer that the diminished bird population in our area has been so obvious…

Over the last 50 years, North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds representing hundreds of species. A key contributing factor is the massive increase in the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

These toxic pesticides -- the most widely used insecticides in the world -- are lethal to bees. Even at doses that don’t kill bees outright, neonics weaken bees' immune systems and impair their critical brain functions, making it hard for them to find their food sources and leaving them vulnerable to diseases and pests.
Migratory birds are often exposed to neonics while traveling north in the spring -- when industrial farms treat their crops. Even small exposures are linked to weight loss and migration delays. This can reduce their chance of survival and make it harder for them to nest and reproduce. In fact, 75% of songbird species are in decline.

The EPA released assessments in 2017 concluding that neonics pose far-reaching risks to birds and aquatic invertebrates. But under Trump, the agency has refused to ban these bee-killing pesticides.
Even the producers of neonics, companies like Bayer-Monsanto and Syngenta, have conducted studies -- obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request -- showing that neonics cause significant harm to bees and other pollinators.

And we know that reducing neonic use is correlated with bees recovering. Italy experienced a clear and dramatic improvement in bee populations after restricting neonics.

But the EPA is dragging its feet, allowing these toxic pesticides to remain in our food system. So we’re turning to supermarkets to pick up the slack. This industry could play a key role in phasing out neonics -- after all, neonics are widely used in agriculture.

THE LOSS OF BEES - NEONICS AND ROUNDUP
The 2019 – Save America’s Pollinators Act will soon be reintroduced in Congress. Bees of all kinds, managed and wild, have suffered huge losses in recent years. In 2017-18, beekeepers in the U.S. lost an estimated 40.1 percent of their managed honeybee colonies. In the U.S., native bee species provide $3 billion in fruit-pollination services each year. But nearly 1 in 4 of these pollinators are imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction.

The crisis, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), has been traced back to the use of neonicotinoid insecticides. The link between CCD and neonics has been confirmed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which plans to cancel the registration of two neonics. (Unfortunately, the EPA plans to continue allowing the use of imidacloprid, the world’s largest-selling insecticide and second-largest selling pesticide, after glyphosate, Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide).

Neonic insecticides were developed by Bayer in the 1990s. Their use skyrocketed when Monsanto started using them to coat their genetically modified seeds. Now, nearly 100 percent of U.S. corn seed is treated with neonics. The use of neonics is so pervasive that they are now found in drinking water and fields—even unplanted fields that haven’t been treated with neonics.

Neonic pollution is so pervasive that “pollinator strips” planted to provide refuge for bees are contaminated. A 2018 study showed that neonic contamination of honey has persisted since the EU moratorium went into effect in 2013. Neonics don’t just harm pollinators. Birds are dying from ingesting neonic-treated seeds. When insect populations collapse, insect-eating birds can’t survive. And neither can other insectivorous such as shrews, lizards and frogs.

“If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse,” warns Dr. David Goulson of Sussex University, UK, one of the scientists behind a study showing a “horrific decline” in the flying insect populations of Germany’s nature reserves. Seventy-five percent of the insects in those areas have disappeared in the past 25 years.

Ultimately, the collapse of insect populations foretells what Goulson described as “ecological Armageddon.” Farmers aren’t to blame. The neonic coatings aren’t a huge selling point for farmers buying seeds. Many corn farmers don’t even know that the seeds they buy have been treated. Only a tiny fraction of the corn crop is subject to the pests neonics target. Even for farmers who do see pests that neonics could attack, cost-benefit analyses reveal that few get what they pay for from treated seeds.

By all accounts, neonic seed treatments are an expensive failure—but that hasn’t hurt sales because farmers don’t really have a choice. Monsanto decides what seeds the company will offer, and Monsanto has gone all-in on neonics. Now that Bayer and Monsanto have merged, the situation can only get worse.

We need a ban on Bayer’s neonics before Monsanto starts coating 100 percent of the seeds it sells.

The Dangers of Roundup - The herbicide, Roundup, is used to kill the leaves of Bishop’s weed. The chemical travels to the root and kills the plant, however, reapplications may be necessary. Make sure and read the directions as this is a dangerous chemical. You must take care to keep Roundup off of desirable plants. Use a brush type application in order to treat Bishops Weed. I would never use this herbicide in my garden.

There is a lawsuit working its way through the courts that may change your attitude about this powerful weed killer that you can purchase at the local hardware store. Last summer, Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, made history when he sued the agrochemical corporation, Monsanto, for causing his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and won. The jury ruled that Monsanto's weed killer, Roundup, had caused his terminal cancer. Johnson’s lawyers proved beyond doubt that the company knew full well about Roundup’s deadly effects and did nothing to warn the public.
But to avoid paying millions of dollars in damages, and to discourage more claimants, parent company Bayer is appealing the case. If Bayer accepts the Johnson verdict, it will have to deal with suits from more cancer patients – perhaps thousands – so it’s fighting hard against what would otherwise be just pennies to this billionaire agri-business. And just as they have for mesothelioma, injury lawyers are now advertising their services for claims related to Roundup on television.

Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world. Gardeners, landscapers, and farmers use it in both home and commercial settings. You can purchase it at your local hardware store. This broad-spectrum herbicide targets broadleaf weeds, grasses including corn, and woody plants. According to Cary Giguere of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, it’s commonly used in Vermont on no-till, reduced tillage acreage plus on cover crops and corn plantings on dairy farms.

In 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a warning that glysophate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is "probably carcinogenic" to humans. Some studies now link it to lymphoma, leukemia, and other forms of cancer.

Recent tests have found Roundup in kids’ breakfast cereal including Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Quaker Oats and those chewy oat bars. It's also linked to an alarming increase in the deaths of bees and monarch butterflies, meaning our whole food system is at risk. The latest “natural” product to test positive for Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer is Florida’s Natural orange juice. All of this is downright scary! We should be spooked by these toxic pesticides lurking in food on our grocer’s shelves.
I’m a lifelong organic gardener who decided long ago not to use toxic chemicals. So if Mr. Johnson is willing to spend the last few months of his life continuing his legal battle with a mega corporation instead of at home with his wife and young children, I think we’ll all owe him a debt of gratitude - especially if it turns out that there was indeed a known risk and the company failed to warn the public.

*Roundup is used extensively with genetically modified (GM) crops of corn and soybeans. This herbicide kills weeds but does not destroy the corn or soybeans. Roundup is used in over 90 percent of commercial cow corn and 80 percent of soybeans grown in the U.S. *In Jane Goodall's great book, "Seeds of Hope," she describes the dangers of using Roundup/glyphosate.

A quarter of bee species have disappeared in the last 30 years.
Bayer and Syngenta's deadly pesticides are catapulting bees to extinction.

Bee numbers are plummeting, and it's about to get worse. Bayer and Syngenta are using the pandemic as cover for dismantling the progress made on banning bee-killing pesticides. These poisons have proven to be a leading cause of death of entire bee colonies. And research shows that bees exposed to these pesticides fly only a third of the distance that unexposed bees can.

More information:
We haven’t seen a quarter of known bee species since the 1990s, National Geographic, 22 Jan 2021
The Pesticide Industry's Playbook for Poisoning the Earth, The Intercept, 18 Jan 2020
Bees aren't getting enough sleep, thanks to some common pesticides, CNN, 21 Jan 2021

THE LOSS OF HONEYBEES AND INSECTS
The Save America’s Pollinators Act was reintroduced in Congress in 2019. Bees of all kinds, managed and wild, have suffered huge losses in recent years. In 2017-18, beekeepers in the U.S. lost an estimated 40.1 percent of their managed honeybee colonies. In the U.S., native bee species provide $3 billion in fruit-pollination services each year. But nearly 1 in 4 of these pollinators are imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction.

The crisis, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), has been traced back to the use of neonicotinoid insecticides. The link between CCD and neonics has been confirmed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which plans to cancel the registration of two neonics. (Unfortunately, the EPA plans to continue allowing the use of imidacloprid, the world’s largest-selling insecticide and second-largest selling pesticide, after glyphosate, Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide).

Neonic insecticides were developed by Bayer in the 1990s. Their use skyrocketed when Monsanto started using them to coat genetically modified seeds. Now, nearly 100 percent of U.S. corn seed is treated with neonic. The use of neonic is so pervasive that they are now found in drinking water and fields—even unplanted fields that haven’t been treated with neonic.

Neonic pollution is so pervasive that “pollinator strips” planted to provide refuge for bees are contaminated. A 2018 study showed that neonic contamination of honeybees has persisted since the EU moratorium went into effect in 2013.

Neonics don’t just harm pollinators. Birds are dying from ingesting neonic-treated seeds along with Monarch butterflies. When insect populations collapse, insect-eating birds can’t survive. And neither can other insectivorous such as shrews, lizards and frogs.

“If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse,” warns Dr. David Goulson of Sussex University, UK, one of the scientists behind a study showing a “horrific decline” in the flying insect populations in Germany’s nature reserves. Seventy-five percent of the insects in those areas have disappeared in the past 25 years.

Ultimately, the collapse of insect populations foretells what Goulson described as “Ecological Armageddon.” Farmers aren’t to blame. The neonic coatings aren’t a huge selling point for farmers buying seeds. Many corn farmers don’t even know that the seeds they buy have been treated. Only a tiny fraction of the corn crop is subject to the pests neonics target.

By all accounts, neonic seed treatments are an expensive failure—but that hasn’t hurt sales because farmers don’t really have a choice. Monsanto decides what seeds the company will offer, and Monsanto has gone all-in on neonics. Now that Bayer and Monsanto have merged, the situation can only get worse. We need a ban on Bayer’s neonics before Monsanto starts coating 100 percent of the seeds it sells.

THR LOSS OF BEE HABITAT
There are many species of bees in the U.S. Each basically overwinters in a different life stage than another. This makes it challenging in our gardens if we’re trying to supply supplemental nesting sites. It depends on the kind of bee. Of 3,700 species, about 90 percent have a solitary lifestyle. There is a narrow window of time during the growing season that they’re active as adults. We have bees that are the first bees to come out in the spring and are active for four weeks in April or May, depending on where you live. On the other hand, we have social bees, such as our native bumblebees. They are active throughout the growing season and have very different strategies for overwintering.

The flowers, particularly for bumblebees, the fall-blooming plants are critical because what’s happening in the fall is that the new queens produced in a bumblebee colony are coming out, and they’re practicing forging. And while they’re visiting flowers to consume nectar, they’re building up fat stores, which will help them for their winter hibernation.

Most people are unaware that bumblebees are annual colonies. And unlike the European honeybee, which can survive the winter and the colony can be perennial, at the end of the growing season, no matter where you live, all the bumblebees will perish, except for those new queens that are preparing to hibernate. They’re hibernating as adults, and they go off and disperse from where they grew up in the nest, where their mothers raised them, and they’re looking for an insulated place to spend the winter.

That can be a number of different situations in a garden. It could be that they tuck themselves into an abandoned rodent hole. They may find a mouse nest; often they’re attracted to mouse nests. They’re really looking for an insulated place. Some hibernating queens, people will find in their compost piles. The key is a place that’s providing some insulation.

The native queens have a full metamorphosis – egg larvae, pupa to adults. New queens are called gynes and are produced at the end of the growing season. They overwinter as adults and as just said, they are the new queens of next year’s colonies. Bumblebee queens lived the longest of any of our native bees because they are alive for 12 months.

They’re doing that initial winter hibernation as an adult, and then the following spring, depending on light and other phenological cues, they emerge from their hibernation site and then establish their own colony. But they will perish at the end of that growing season, but produce new queens. It’s a pretty precarious lifestyle, even though it’s social. They have to survive the winter; they have to build up enough energy and fat stores to do so.

They may be impacted by certain practices that we’re doing in our garden. We may be raking up a queen bumblebee tucked away for the winter and putting it in leaf bags. That’s sort of the precarious part. And the other piece is having adequate food supplies, especially in early spring when they emerge, because their energies are depleted. They need calories in order to start that nest initiation process.

It’s critical to have an adequate supply of pollen-producing plants because she’s going to create a large pollen ball, where she’ll lay multiple eggs. Plants such as willow and early spring blooming plants are critical for bumblebees because they need that pollen supply. Nectar is their carbohydrate source, their fuel. You combine a little bit of nectar in with the pollen stores, but pollen’s the critical piece for raising offspring.

And native bees, the males have a much shorter lifespan than females. Basically their sole purpose in the bee life cycle is to mate with a female, but the females live a little bit longer because they’re doing that nest provisioning.

If we take that back to our gardens and maintenance, the ones that typically can be impacted by our maintenance practices are the 30 percent of native bees that nest above-ground. And they would be building nests in cavities such as holes in wood, plant stems, supplemental nests that some folks will put out. If we’re doing any clearing, or cutting down, or removal of materials that could be cavity-nesting sites, then they would be directly impacted.

Bees come with different needs. Some are cavity nesters, some under some insulation on the ground or in the ground. Some nest in stems above the ground like the small carpenter bee.

Stems can mean a number of different things. Some of our smaller cavity-nesting bees like pith-filled flower stalks. Plants in the Aster family, for example, are ideal nesting sites for those smaller stem-nesting bees. Similarly, some of our woody plants at with softer wood like elderberry and sumac have pith-filled centers or hollow centers The bees will mine out that styrofoam-like pith in the center in order to excavate a nesting cavity.

It depends on the bee and where they preferentially nest, because you can imagine it nesting in an old flower stalk, and the orientation of those stalks is near-vertical the way the flower bloomed on top of those stalks. Whereas if they are nesting in a hole in a standing tree, those bees would preferentially like more horizontal nesting orientation.

And then the other key thing is the size of the opening. Small bees will seek out very small-diameter cavities, depending on it’s in a hole in wood or a plant stem. And then the larger bees will be looking for a larger cavities.

For those stem nesters, in particular, the ones that are in flower stalks, don’t do any really fall maintenance or cleanup. And then in the spring to cut down the flower stalks, and leave the flower-stalk stubble, and that is what the bees would occupy for that nesting season.

Part of the messaging is we need to get beyond this cleanup mentality. Let the leaf litter fall. Leave everything up for the winter and in early spring, cut back old flower stalks to provide new nesting opportunities and let all that plant debris just fall to the ground. And the leaf litter combined with plant debris is the weed barrier or mulch alternative.

This has a couple of advantages for bees It’s looser material and the bees that are ground-nesting can easily crawl underneath it to excavate their nest below ground, and you don’t have to purchase mulch. And mulch now is becoming a vector for things such as jumping worms, so people are thinking a little bit differently about using a lot of mulch in their gardens.

If you have too much leaf litter for your more formalized or structured gardens, you can always transfer that to your more naturalized gardens.

Generally, bees have predators, like most other natural organisms. The first three or four larvae developing inside of that cavity could be predated upon by woodpeckers or parasitoids or you name it. So that that’s not a great situation if the design is poor. You want to have longer cavities, so that they can ensure that the ones at least at the back of the cavity will survive to adulthood.

Rather than putting up supplemental bee nests, people need to use the natural ways that of above ground bees nest? Putting logs in your garden, if you’re able to, if you live in suburbia or somewhere where that’s appropriate, that’s a great way to provide nesting habitat. Leaving a standing dead tree, if you have a larger property, or having the tree-removal company leave 10 feet of the trunk as a snag. That’s great habitat for a number of things besides bees and birds, for example.

You just have to think a little bit about the natural ways, and the easy one is the stem stubble. That’s something any gardener can do and that provides a nice array of nesting opportunities.

And the difference between that and the supplemental bee hotels is the bee hotels are tightly aggregated nests, one next to the other. And that’s not how these solitary bees nest, they nest in a cavity here, a cavity there. They’re not nesting right next to another species. What happens with the bee hotels is there’s a higher propensity for disease transmission, too.

Now, there are folks that do a really great job of maintenance and cleaning and stem replacement and so on, and that’s great. They’re also a very useful tool for teaching people about native bees at nature centers or something like that. But for the general homeowner, it’s not a great idea because of all the work involved.

The same could be said for bird houses. Yes, it turns out they are pretty cute with fancy designs, but they weren’t really designed with the species in mind.

A couple more points. When you’re out there in spring, you want to be careful not to tromp around in any of your gardens too early in the spring, for all those other insects overwintering under the leaf litter. Just have a place to stand and cut the plant stems from a sidewalk or a lawn. You can start with those fairly early. Cut down the old flower stalks, and the length that you want to leave is anywhere between 8 and 20 inches.

Bees will nest in a variety of cavity lengths. Using a garden scissors, chop and try and eyeball at least more than 12, usually 15, inches of stubble. And you don’t have to do it for all plants, but this is a great opportunity for a gardener to take a look at the stem. Is it hollow? Is it sturdy?

The Aster family including goldenrods, asters, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers tends to have very fibrous, sturdy stems. It will last for another 12 months as a nesting cavity. Something like a daylily would be too soft and wouldn’t be appropriate. Concentrate on what you think are more fibrous and sturdy stalks; take a look if the stalks are hollow or have a pith-filled center, both are fine.

Native bees aren’t that big, even those larger ones may nest in larger diameters stems. You don’t want to leave any hollow stems any bigger than a half-inch diameter. The mason bees and leafcutter bees like three-eighths of an inch diameter. If you go to those really big, tall plants, such as Joe pye weed, they have hollow stems.

You don’t want to leave it if the stems edging on to three-quarters of an inch in diameter, that’s not going to help native bees. Discerning by looking while you’re cutting—what would be an experiment.