Last week was National Pollinator Week and we had fun posting lots of links and information all over our Facebook page. As much as we love butterflies and bees, even we were surprised at just how important pollinators are to the natural growth cycle. We were also surprised by some of the critters that serve as pollinators. Pollinator Week may be past, but supporting our pollinators should be a year-round prospect.
Why are pollinators so important? Pollinators ensure better crops and harvests, and healthier plants everywhere. That means healthier food supply, as well as fiber crops, and healthier plants in areas sensitive to erosion. Between 75% and 95% of all flowering plants rely on pollinators to survive; many of those are plants we use for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines. Our lives and our world would be very different without these guys.
Say “pollinators” and most people automatically think of bees, and they are the biggest group of pollinators, but there are also butterflies, and the list is much longer than that. There are about 200,000 invertebrates (like bees, butterflies, and other insects) and over 1,000 vertebrates (like hummingbirds, bats and other birds, mammals and reptiles). Yes, we said bats.
So, what can we do to encourage pollinators?
- Start by going green in your garden – eliminate pesticides and other chemicals that will be harmful to beneficial species.
- Find out what native plants to grow in your area to attract pollinators. You’ll find lots of guides, and even an app, at Pollinator.Org. Plant different varieties to have blooms spring through fall.
- Provide a water supply for wildlife. It could be as simple as a small container of water, or a drip feature installed on a faucet. Take steps to avoid mosquitos by keeping the water moving, or fresh.
- Provide pollinator habitats like shrubs, tall grasses and low growing plants as well as patches of fallen branches.
- Hang hummingbird feeders to attract hummingbirds to your yard.
Want to have some fun with it all? Try hosting a pollinator party with a menu full of locally-grown foods that all require pollinators. Still in doubt? If you drink coffee or eat chocolate, you shouldn’t be. Both require active pollinators to thrive. Take a look at this list of foods pollinated by bees (and other pollinators), and imagine what your grocery store or farmer’s market shelves would look like without them.
Whole Foods Market recently partnered with the Xerces Society to illustrate what grocery shelves would look like without bees. The result? Over 52 percent of the produce department disappeared, from apples to zucchini, they all relied on bees.
National Pollinator Week? Great! Now let’s live it all year long!