The Orangeburg County Soil and Water Conservation District and Keep Orangeburg County Beautiful honored its business, educational and volunteer partners at the annual conservation banquet on Thursday.

The Times and Democrat was named Business Partner of the Year.

“The Times and Democrat does an outstanding job informing our clients of farm programs, potential problems, market trends and water use concerns. Many of our residents look forward to the Farm page on Mondays dedicated to their interests,” Louise Hughes of Keep Orangeburg County Beautiful said.

The T&D has published facts and figures, encouraging articles and information to educate citizens about problems associated with littering, Hughes said.

Other award recipients:

Gina Jameson, a seventh-grade science teacher at OCSD4’s Carver-Edisto Middle School, was honored as Conservation Teacher of the Year.

Dan, Martha and Harvey Garrett received the Conservation Producer of the Year award. The Garretts have a four-generation farm in Orangeburg County.

The Conservation Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Sonja Gleaton.

“Gleaton is town clerk of Neeses. She goes above and beyond in her job,” education coordinator Diane D. Curlee said. “She is always there for crime watch meetings, cleanups, etc.”

Keynote speaker Amanda McNulty of Clemson Extension, the host of “Making It Grow,” a live call-in program that focuses on gardening topics and highlights products and places of South Carolina, stressed the importance of pollinators and pollinator plants and their active roles in helping the environment.

She highlighted the colony collapse of bees and the decline of the songbird population.

“A great deal of it had to do with habitat destruction. We realize that we lose a million acres a year to suburbia. That makes fewer places where animals, wildlife and just the natural ecosystem can exist,” McNulty said.

She said she learned the honeybee is not native but rather a European bee that was brought over by the colonists.

“At one time, we had 6 million colonies in the United States. We’re down to about 2-1/2 (million) because of various factors — honeybees are the real backbones of agriculture,” McNulty said.

There are 4,000 species of native pollinators in the United States, she said. “They’re responsible for 80 percent of the pollination that goes on,” she said.

There is a difference between the bees that are transported for watermelons and almond groves and other bees, she said.

“There’s a huge amount of diversity. The diversity that goes on among the bees really requires that we have a lot of different flower types and sizes for them because some of the bees are very large,” McNulty said.

Bees are divided depending on the length of their tongues, she said.

“Bumblebees have a nice, long tongue. They can go to lots of flowers and get the nectar out. While they’re there, they’ll probably gather some pollen and pack it on their saddlebags,” McNulty said.

Vegetable farmers may be very familiar with tiny parasitoid bees that need small, tiny flowers to get their tongue inside to extract nectar, she said.

“These types of bees lay their eggs on caterpillars in the garden,” the speaker said.

McNulty noted that lots of these bees are beneficial insects.

“Many, many of them collect insects to lay their eggs on. They do a wonderful job for us collecting those insects and putting them in individual little holes in the ground,” she said.

“As that insect develops, it eats that living caterpillar or other insect that is harmful to us. So we get insect control from them.”

McNulty shared how bumblebees are great for tomato flowers, adding that there’s also a specific bee that is helpful to blueberries.

“When we think that there are 4,000 different species of native pollinators, almost every one of them has a flower that is specially adapted for it to come to,” she said.

McNulty urged the audience to stop killing pollinators.

“Most of the insects that are there are beneficial. Most of the native pollinators that you would attract to your yard are not going to be aggressive because they don’t have a colony to support,” she said.

“Don’t be afraid of insects. Learn to have tolerance for insects.”

McNulty said people should be cautious if using toxic pesticides.

“Use the (pesticides) that are the least toxic. Don’t go put it out in the middle of the day when the insects are active. Never use a powdered form of an insecticide,” she said.

McNulty said many pollinators like a little bit of bare ground.

“There’s nothing more joyful than going out in your yard and seeing who’s come to visit and who’s spending the night,” she said. “I encourage you to become a friend of the pollinators.”

Contact the writer: princess.williams@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5516.

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