Pollinators in Peril

by Alan E. Rudd

Photos by Michelle Lopez and Carolyn Henderson

The Rockdale Rotary Club was treated to an excellent presentation on Thursday, April 20 in celebration of the upcoming Earth Day. 

The science lesson started off with Keegan Nichols, a PhD candidate in the Entomology Dept at Texas A&M University. Mr. Nichols works and teaches at the Rangel Bee Lab on the A&M campus and his dissertation research concerns the ecology and genetics of honeybees in Saudi Arabia. Keegan presented the big picture of just how many native bee species there are in Texas and how European honeybees have integrated into the North American insect world since they were brought over by colonists in the 1600’s. I am not even going to try to convey the depth of knowledge that this future professor displayed in a 20-minute slot, but our Chapter President astutely asked him to come to Cameron and teach for the entire El Camino Real crew in the near future.

Keegan Nichols, from Texas &M, talks about bees

Carolyn Henderson took over the show where Mr. Nichols left off and utilized a question-and-answer format that queried the audience with “did you know this about bees?”  She started off with easy questions then (as a former Jr High teacher is wont to do) moved onto the harder trivia to make us think. The group ended off this segment considering the factoid that “garlic planted in a garden repels bees.”  Surely not even Italian bees?

El Camino Real Texas Master Naturalists and attendees

Donna Lewis was the next El Camino Real Master Naturalist to take the stage and presented a Master Gardener’s view of how to garden for the benefit of pollinators. The photos and information slides flowed seamlessly the entire day as Michele Lopez ran the PowerPoint for Donna and Keegan Nichols.  Donna’s well-polished speaking skills and screen graphics showed the use of native plants in a yard environment and how we can create an oasis for insects and birds.

Donna Lewis discusses her information

Batting clean-up for the El Camino Real Team was switch-hitter Jackie Thornton. She presented “show and tell” items for bee watering stations and masonry bee nesting habitats that can be made by hand. I never fail to be impressed with every one of our ECRMN members that have worked as professional educators. Jackie was in full “Principal Mode,” demonstrating these things to get young people involved and excited about science and the natural world.  She also showed her love of education by encouraging the adults in the audience to read several authors whose books she had on display.

Attendees enjoy the door prizes

I got to attend this event because work was delayed due to rain, but Catherine Johnson, Sandy Dworaczyk, and Don Travis also showed up to support the speakers and represent our chapter.  The Rockdale Rotary Club was welcoming and the hospitality at the Patterson Community Center is representative of what makes Milam County such a special place. The Bird and Bee farm donated jars of Honey that were the prime door prizes, and with their usual good luck Catherine and Sandy won flowers and artwork in the drawing.

It was a fun day!

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