June 17th to June 23rd is National Pollinator Week.
Bumble bee on Rudbekia ‘Indian Summer’
Pollinator Week was initiated and is managed by the Pollinator Partnership.
Six years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. The growing concern for pollinators is a sign of progress, but it is vital that we continue to maximize our collective effort.
The above is from the Pollinator Partnership National Pollinator Week website. And I guess the question we can ask ourselves is…. why? Why is this important? Why should we care?
It’s a simple answer really. Pollinators are important. Like, *really* important. As in, the human race would not be able to survive without them. Does that seem a little dramatic? Well, perhaps it is. Pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds, bats, beetles and even some types of flies are vital to every terrestrial ecosystem on the planet earth. They transfer pollen from plant to plant, allowing so much of our flora to cross breed and create fruit and seeds. While there are plenty of plants that rely on the wind to pollinate their flowers, 75% of plants rely on these wide and varied pollinators to get the job done.
And I don’t just mean wild plants here. I also mean our food. In the US alone, the produce that comes from pollinator dependent crops was estimated at over 20 billion dollars worth of product. That’s a lot of bees working really hard. Without pollinators, we can say good bye to things like apples, strawberries, blueberries, chocolate, melons, vanilla, peaches, figs, tomatoes, pumpkins and almonds.
Without pollinators, these flowers would never turn in to strawberries.
I don’t know about you, but the idea of a world without chocolate is one I’m not sure I can handle. I think I have to sit down for a minute.
With pesticides, loss of habitat, and diseases, the pollinator population in the United States and around the world is in serious jeopardy. And the impact isn’t just on our fruits and veggies. The impact would be devastating to every ecosystem.
Nope, no blueberries either. Try again.
So what can we do? Pollinator partnership has a bunch of recommendations and some are as simple as taking a walk…..
- Watch for pollinators Get connected with nature. Take a walk, experience the landscape and look for pollinators midday in sunny, planted areas.
• Reduce your impact. Reduce or eliminate your pesticide use, increase green spaces, and minimize urbanization. Pollution and climate change affect pollinators, too!
• Plant for pollinators. Create pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes. For information on what to plant in your area, download a free ecoregional guide online at www.pollinator.org.
Painted Lady Butterfly on Scabiosa
• Tell a friend. Educate your neighbors, schools, and community groups about the importance of pollinators. Host a dinner, a pollinated food cook-off or other event and invite your friends.
• Join the Pollinator Partnership Go to www.pollinator.org and click on “Get Involved.” Be part of a growing community of pollinator supporters.
We as gardeners need to be especially mindful of the pollinators that live in the shared outdoors spaces we love to work in. Here are some things we can specifically do to help.
• Create a pollinator-friendly garden habitat in just a few simple steps:
• Design your garden so that there is a continuous succession of plants flowering from spring through fall. Check for the species or cultivars best suited to your area and gradually replace lawn grass with flower beds. Plant native to your region using plants that provide nectar for adults plus food for insect larvae, such as milkweed for monarchs. If you do use non-native plants, choose ones that don’t spread easily, since these could become invasive.
Select old-fashioned varieties of flowers whenever possible because breeding has caused some modern blooms to lose their fragrance and/or the nectar/pollen needed to attract and feed pollinators.
Install ‘houses’ for bats and native bees. For example, use wood blocks with holes or small open patches of mud. As little as 12″ across is sufficient for some bees.
Avoid pesticides, even so-called “natural” ones such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). If you must use them, use the most selective and least toxic ones and apply them at night when most pollinators aren’t active.
Provide water for butterflies without letting it become a mosquito breeding area. Refill containers daily or bury a shallow plant saucer to its rim in a sunny area, fill it with coarse pine bark or stones and fill to overflowing with water.
• Supply water for all wildlife. A dripping faucet or a suspended milk carton with a pinhole in the bottom is sufficient for some insects. Other wildlife need a small container of water. Keeping water moving with a pump or small pond is a great way to supply for pollinators, without encouraging mosquitos to breed in your yard.
Want to do more?
The bees will thank you for it.
Every action, every person, every word out there is one more step in the right direction.