Sometime in late June I stop mowing the small field behind the house and simply let nature take its course.
At first the grasses just grow high while the sedges surge even higher and tower like little skyscrapers over all else. Throughout July it ages and looks like a chaotic mess of weeds and bent over grasses, which would send most other people to the Home Depot for a cart full of tasty herbicides and a new riding mower. But I just let it go…
…and by September, as if it happened in a single moment, the field explodes in white with heath aster, a native, woody, wildflower. It grows not just in the field, but along the fence rows, the wood lines, and almost anywhere that isn’t kept mowed.
Its hard to track all the insects that I find on its flowers, or hiding in its canopy – grass hoppers, moths and butterflies, praying mantis, native bees including the mason and bumble bees, and its hugely popular with my honey bees. At times, the entire plant is softly shaking with the traffic of so many insects visiting it at one time. The other evening on one plant I stopped trying to count the honey bees that were flying from flower to flower as there were just too many.
As I had written last spring, I think that too many fields and wild areas are gone, cut down, or sprayed to death, and for those reasons there are not enough wild flowers to support healthy populations of honey bees, native pollinators, or the hundreds of other insect species that rely on pollen and/or nectar for food. I have to wonder where all these insects that are visiting these asters would go to feed or hunt if I had cut them all down to keep “appearances”. I think they just wouldn’t be, or at least, there wouldn’t be as many.
And then I wonder, how many more insects could be sustained if I had given my whole property over to nature? It comes down to the point that doing anything, even just a little, is better than doing nothing at all.