Wherein is discussed the season's paucity of pollinators, the curiously prolific presence of hornets, and possible causes thereof.
With the coming and the going of this year's autumnal equinox, it's time to look back on a long summer and ask, "What happened?" Or, more precisely, "What happened to the happening that didn't happen?"
There's lots of talk about how insects are in decline and that we need to plant more wildflowers to support them. A local ecologist and avid birder, David Wilcove, co-wrote an oped in the Washington Post about the danger posed by insect decline, and the need to better monitor populations, as is done with birds.
In past years, a summer's climactic buzzfest on the boneset
This year, there was a steep decline in pollinator numbers in Princeton. Each year I grow a banquet of wildflowers in my backyard for all manner of insects to feast upon. In past years, they'd come from near and far, their numbers building through summer, climaxing in late August in a buzzfest on the boneset. Though mountain mint is another great draw for insects, in my yard it was boneset in particular, clustered here and there in the garden, that in past years drew the multitudinous shapes and sizes of the insect world. Its broad disks of tiny white flowers seemed like a Serengeti in miniature, an open plain perched conveniently four feet above the ground, teaming with life. It was a chance to see the insects close up, they being so focused on the nectar or each other that they took little notice of me.
Then, two years ago, and again last year, the numbers of insects were down--still numerous but not enough to stir that late-summer's jazzy feeling of frenzied activity.