June 20-26 is the week set aside this year to celebrate pollinators and the important work they do.
EVERY week should be a week to celebrate pollinators and the important work they do.
Pollinators constitute the thread that holds together the world’s food web and native plants production. Upwards to 90% of native plants are pollinated by insects, birds, and bats; 1 out of every 3 bites of food humans partake of is pollinated by (primarily) bees–honeybees, and wild, or native bees. According to Pollinator Partnership, 1,000 different plants that humans use in a variety of ways are pollinated by pollinating animals,
…and in the U.S. alone, pollinators produce products worth $40 billion annually.
The bottom line is that pollination and pollinators are principal players in the good health of all eco-systems.
What is pollination? It’s the process whereby pollen is moved, usually either by pollinating animals or the wind, to other plants thus assuring reproduction of the plants with development of seeds and fruit–and the next generation of viable plants.
Pollination produces new plant life.
What are pollinating animals? Pollinators include, but are not limited to: birds, bats, moths and butterflies, flies, mosquitoes (Boo!), native/wild bees, and honeybees. There are many, many other insects that pollinate. Additionally, in parts of China where overuse of chemicals has killed all natural pollinators, people must hand pollinate some agricultural fields.
That frightening fact should scare all of us into taking care of the Earth’s pollinators.
We know that pollinators are declining throughout the world because of habitat destruction, over and mis-use of chemicals, certain big agriculture practices, the unfettered spread of invasive plant species and the decline of native-to-region plant species, as well as other reasons, like pollinator diseases.
The outlook for the health of pollinators and therefore, the rest of us, is tricky at best.
So, what can we do? The easiest thing is to plant for pollinators in our own home gardens, or neighborhood school gardens, or local parks–or all three, plus anywhere else you can think of.
It’s so simple!
Get rid of some (or all!) of the water-wasting turf so common in home and commercial landscapes. Mono-culture turf feeds nothing, except for problematic insects, and requires more irrigation, more chemicals, and more effort than planting native or well-adapted flowering perennials and annuals.
Once your garden bed is prepared and planted, sit back and watch the show. If you plant it, they will come.
Your garden doesn’t have to be huge, but do plant a variety of blooming plants for the whole of your growing season–the more, the merrier!
It’s always best to use native plants if you have access to a local seed source or a nursery that promotes native plants. But non-native, well-adapted blooming annuals and perennials will also do the pollinator trick. Ask the nursery or plant provider if any pesticides were used when growing the plants you want to buy. If so, don’t buy them and TELL the nursery why. Pesticides and insects are not a good combination–EVER.
Contact your County Extension Agent’s office for a list of good pollinator plants for your area. As well, locally owned nurseries are usually great sources of information on pollinator plants. The Pollinator Partnership, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, and National Wildlife Federation are all excellent on-line sources for learning about pollinators and how you can be a part of the solution to their problems.
Pollinators are beautiful.
Pollinators are vital links in the fitness of the Earth’s eco-systems.
Pollinators deserve to live and thrive.
Plant for pollinators in your garden. Encourage neighbors and community organizations to do the same. Lobby your local, state, and national representatives to set aside land so that these essential creatures can continue their work and contributions to the well-being of our world.
Happy National Pollinator Week!