Promoting Pollinators on the Farm
by Michael Cruciotti
Erica Zorilla of Charmed Life Farm makes a conscious effort to care for the pollinators that, in turn, take care of us.
Pollinators-inspects, birds and even some small mammals-are responsible for one out of every three bits of food that we humans eat... including favorites like fruit, almonds, avocados, coconuts, coffee and chocolate.
Without pollinators, we wouldn't be able to have avocado toast and an iced mocha cold brew with coconut mild before heading to the barn!
Pollinators also support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soil, and support other wildlife. Since my horses live outside, I'm dedicated to creating an environment where they can breathe clean air and graze on grass from healthy soil. But pollinators as a whole, not just honeybees, are declining in population due to loss of habitat, pollution, the use of chemical pesticides, disease and climate change.
I limit pesticide use. This is tough for us equestrians as we're always battling flies, mosquitos and other insects. Thankfully, some companies are making natural fly sprays that are super effective against pests yet safe for beneficial insects. My current go-to is Equiderma Neem and Aloe Herbal Horse Spray.
What I learned by accident: Lemongrass is used by beekeepers to attract bees, so fly sprays containing lemongrass essential oil will absolutely lure foraging bees over to the cross ties. Beware!
I landscape with pollinator-friendly plants. plants. The Palm Beach County Extension Office (most counties have one of these) helped me determine what native plants would work well on my farm. I planted diverse species—banana trees, porterweed, passion vine, and firebush—that will flower at different times through the year so food is always available. I don’t use any pesticides on these plants; it’s better to allow a bit of pest activity than to douse them with toxic chemicals that will kill every insect that comes near.
I enlisted a local beekeeper to put some hives at my farm. This can work if you have plenty of space
and can keep the horses a good distance from the hives! Here in Palm Beach County, professional
beekeeper Sierra Malnove maintains clients’ hives everywhere from country clubs to apartment rooftops.
She has been a wonderful resource both with hive placement and in helping me choose gentle breeds of
bees that will not go out of their way to be aggressive.
I support farmers and beekeepers by buying local, organic produce and honey. Local green markets are a great place to find a supplier, and you’ll know that the farm you’re supporting with your purchase is encouraging an environment that is healthy for pollinators and other wildlife.
I share what I've learned. As equestrians, we practically live outside amidst nature, and this puts us at
the forefront of the sustainability movement. We need to tell our friends, barn buddies, trainers, grooms,
and whomever else will listen how important pollinators are, and inspire them to reduce pesticide use and
provide habitats for pollinators.
After all, our coffee and guacamole habits depend on it!