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Around the Sun(flower)

Two honeybees circumnavigate

the center of a sunflower as they collect pollen in October 2015 on Racine’s north side.

RACINE — The importance of bees, and learning what to plant to benefit pollinators, will be the main topics addressed at a community program on March 16.

Local experts Peter Poli and Patti Nagai will present “Honeybees and the Environment” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on March 16 at the SC Johnson Golden Rondelle Theater, 1525 Howe St.

Both speakers say that the choices we make as gardeners and how we treat our yards have an effect on the native bee and pollinating population. And it’s not just honeybees — in Wisconsin alone, there are more than an estimated 400 species of native bees.

“Understanding how we choose to live our lives affects how things are done around us,” said Poli, a beekeeper since 2010 and president of the Racine-Kenosha Beekeepers Association. “For example, there is diet and where we buy our food. Sacrifices have to be made to get it to the price point we seek. We make living choices on what we think our yards and open spaces should look like.”

Plants

People can also help not only the environment but local pollinators, which includes bees, butterflies and other species, by what they plant. And if there are concerns about plant size or planting space, Nagai said that certain beneficial native flowering plants like coneflowers, for example, can now be found in varieties that have been bred for color, height, blooms and other variations.

“We also need to think about our environment when choosing these plants,” said Nagai, a horticulturist of Menominee Falls and professor emeritus at the UW Extension. “Having people get a better understanding of their yard and their gardening practices can have a huge impact on our environment. For people in urban environments, I’ll talk about different natives that might work well.”

This also includes changing our view toward early growth plants like dandelions that we mostly consider as “weeds,” but actually benefit bees and other pollinators, she added.

“They are one of the earliest flowering species we have,” she said. “In the spring, they’re an important source of nectar for them.”

Aiding pollinators

Poli said he hopes to help give people a different view of their environment, and what they can do to make improvements, like reducing use of pesticides on our lawns and gardens.

“I want to focus on the things people can do to benefit all pollinators, the environment and to improve surface water run-off,” he said. “We are polluting surface water at an alarming rate. We can improve the quality.”

“Bees are such a necessity for our lives,” agreed Nagai. “They definitely have a place in our world. There would be a lot of fruit and vegetable crops that wouldn’t survive (without them).”

The SC Johnson Community Program is put on in association with the Eco-Justice Center, Greening Greater Racine and Gateway Technical College.

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