Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Highlighting the Importance of Pollinators

Logo of the United States Fish and Wildlife Se...
Logo of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A pollinator can be a bee, beetle, ant, wasp, butterfly, moth, hummingbird, bat or even a small mammal. These creatures all assist a vital life stage for all flowering plants - something essential for healthy ecosystems.

What’s the problem?

Pollinator populations have been declining, and that’s bad news for us and the ecosystem. Without pollinators, many of the foods, beverages, fibers, spices and medicines we use daily wouldn’t be possible. You can help by reducing your impact, planting for pollinators, and spreading the word!

Reducing your impact

The most immediate way to help pollinators is to reduce your impact. Pesticides can be deadly to pollinators of all kinds. Think twice before using pesticides - are the pests you’re trying to remove worth removing the essential pollinators as well? If you must use a pesticide, consider an organic alternative or apply the treatment when pollinators are less active.
Another way to reduce your impact to pollinators is to increase your green space. More plants and less pavement means pollinators will have more habitat. If you can have less grass and more garden, that’s even better!

Planting for pollinators

An ongoing way to enjoy pollinators and all the work they do is to plant a pollinator-friendly garden. Just like everything else, pollinators need food, water and shelter to survive. You can help provide these essentials by planting a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall. Be thoughtful when planting and remember that clumps of plants will be easier for pollinators to find than single plants.
Focus your plant choice on native and non-invasive species. Hybrid species should be avoided because they are often lacking the nectar, pollen and fragrance that a natural flower would have. If a plant claims doubled flowers, it’s a hybrid.
If you like seeing beautiful butterflies, consider adding the plants that caterpillars need as well. Remember that providing a home for caterpillars means having plants that will be eaten, and place them accordingly so they aren’t too prominent. While some of these plants are less beautiful than nectar plants, they will provide essential habitat and allow you to watch the butterfly lifecycle right in your own yard!

Spreading the word

Now that you know how to help pollinators, help others by spreading the word! Together we can improve pollinator habitat, rebuild populations, and raise awareness for these essential species. Talk to your friends, neighbors and family and share online with your friends around the globe!

Quick Facts

Without pollinators we wouldn’t have many of the foods, beverages, fibers, spices and medicines we use daily.
Bumblebee pollinating an apple tree courtesy of Šarūnas Burdulis/Creative Commons. Bumblebee pollinating an apple tree courtesy of Šarūnas Burdulis/Creative Commons.
Want to help pollinators? Plant a garden providing flowers from spring to fall and avoid pesticide use or explore organic alternatives.
Hummingbird moth on bee balm by Rick Hansen/USFWS. Hummingbird moth on bee balm by Rick Hansen/USFWS.

 

In tropical and desert climates, bats are important pollinators. More than 300 species of fruit need bats!
Mexican long-tongued bat in Arizona courtesy of Ken Bosma/Creative commons. Mexican long-tongued bat in Arizona courtesy of Ken Bosma/Creative commons.
Butterflies and moths can help spread pollen, but they don’t have any specialized structures for collecting pollen.
Monarch butterfly courtesy of Sarah Richter/Creative Commons. Monarch butterfly courtesy of Sarah Richter/Creative Commons.
Hummingbirds are key in wildlife pollination. Flower with tubular shapes, bright colors and deep nectar are ideal!
Ruby-throated hummingbird at cardinal flower by Bill Buchanan/USFWS. Ruby-throated hummingbird at cardinal flower by Bill Buchanan/USFWS.
 

Beetles pollinate more than 80% of all flowers! Clusters of flowers are ideal because beetles are clumsy fliers.
Soldier beetles on goldenrod courtesy of Shihmei Barger/Creative Commons. Soldier beetles on goldenrod courtesy of Shihmei Barger/Creative Commons.

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