We are reaching peak pollination time here in Trumansburg. When we think of pollination these days, we think of environmental threats to honeybees. It’s commonly said that commercial crops will fail if they don’t have honeybees to pollinate them. But then, that’s because commercial crops are grown in a monoculture, rather than in diverse intermixtures. Large areas with only one kind of plant growing don’t attract native pollinators, because they offer feast-or-famine nectar and few resources for raising young.
The problems conventional agriculture has with pollination offer just one more example of how systems that at first seem to be designed for peak efficiency actually end up creating a range of unanticipated problems that drain resources, resulting in an operation that’s far from optimized. We see another equivalent in new systems of automated marketing and automated market research, where efforts to scale end up alienating the very consumers that are supposedly being managed more efficiently. Programs that seek to atomize natural relationships have a history of causing their complex interactions to fall apart.
In my garden, I don’t plant in neat rows, and I don’t force plants to stay put in tidy arrangements. That means that some plants end up not working out, but failure is something every gardener, like every marketer, has learn to put in perspective. As a gardener, I recognize that the plants I introduce have their own ways of taking root and bearing fruit – most of which I will never understand. By taking a light hand with my garden, I end up with combinations of plants that accommodate each other, and give space to each other to effectively flower and reproduce.
The resulting garden supports more than just a biodiversity of plant life. A variety of native pollinators make their home in my garden as well. They were on clear display this afternoon’s warm sun, flying from blossom to blossom in dizzying loops and spirals.
As the following sample of slow motion videos of their flights shows, honeybees were just one part of this intricate dance. Our professional culture, like our horticulture, needs more than just worker bees.