With the arrival of May flowers, I would like to send a special thank you to pollinators. A pollinator travels from plant to plant, transferring pollen and seeds with every stop along their way. They come in all shapes and sizes, but without them, glorious flora and fauna would not be possible. Whether they are buzzing bumble bees, delicate hummingbirds, or fluttering butterflies, these little creatures make a big impact on our everyday lives. As a follow up to my previous blog post about native plant gardening, I’d like to shine a light on the importance of pollinators and 5 simple ways to protect their future.
Why are pollinators so important?
Imagine laying in a field on a warm sunny day and taking notice of the soft hum of a bee as it searches for colorful flowers to land on. This gentle act of collecting nectar and pollen is not just a simple technique to provide us with a spoonful of honey in our afternoon tea. These busy bees are an integral part of the delicate food chain that all living terrestrial beings on the plant rely on.
A world without bees would have a domino effect in food chains and ecosystems that depend on bees to perform their part in the natural order of life on Earth. If we didn’t have these tiny travelers there would be less seeds and plants, since a bee’s daily travels are one of the important aspects to plant fertilization and seed spreading. Although Bees may be the most efficient and recognizable pollinator, they are not the only creature that impact pollination.
Butterflies, bats, beetles, birds, flies, moths, wind and bees are the VIP contributors of pollination. Over time, evolution developed a successful symbiotic relationship between pollinators and the plants that produce their favorite nectar. This fascinating connection can be described as Pollinator Syndrome Traits which are determined by plant color, nectar, scent, and flower shape. Because of this co-dependency, if the balance was disrupted between pollinators and their respective plants, their future could be in danger of extinction. This adaptation has provided these ecosystems with stability and in turn provide us with food and successful agriculture.
Without further ado,
here are 5 simple ways that you can support pollinators:
1. Grow a native plant garden:
In my previous blog I wrote about growing a native plant garden and the benefits that it has to wildlife and sustainability. Planting native species that would normally exist and thrive in your area is a simple way to incorporate the fauna and flora that bring pollinators into your yard. For example, if you are hoping to attract butterflies, consider including wildflowers. Planting a variety of wildflowers would ensure for a flower to be in bloom from early spring through late fall, which would provide shelter and nourishment for pollinators throughout the changing seasons. There are also night blooming flowers that would support nocturnal creatures as well. This article describes how to create your very own butterfly garden.
2. Stop using pesticides:
Chemicals, pesticides, and insecticides for lawn and garden care are typically used to reduce or eliminate unwanted pests and weeds. Honeybees are particularly affected by insecticides, which are one of the main contributing factors for their decline in local environments. Pesticides can not only instantly kill the bees that are foraging for food, but if they do return to the hive, they can spread their contaminated pollen or nectar that is collected on its body and infect the whole colony. For more information about preventing pollinators from pesticide exposure, click here.
3. Build a native bee house:
Unlike honeybees, native solitary bees build holes in the ground or nest in wood holes. This type of bee does not produce honey, but they are extremely effective pollinators. A native bee house can be purchased online, or hand crafted like a bird house. It could even be as simple as leaving a brush pile of old wood, a dead tree or a tree limb in a designated area that would provide a safe nesting site for bees. Click here to read this article that explains what a bee house is and how to build one for your backyard.
4. Provide homemade nectar:
You could pick up a hummingbird feeder from any home and garden supplier, but making homemade nectar ensures that there are no harmful ingredients added, which could potentially harm these quick and tiny creatures. These feeders would also attract other nectar lovers such as Chickadees (pictured below), Goldfinches, House Finches, Orioles, Verdins, Warblers, Woodpeckers and other curious wildlife. The best part is that it is only two ingredients: water and sugar. If you place your hummingbird feeder in an area that gets a mix of sun and shade, it will protect the nectar from going bad too quickly. For this simple recipe and to answer any additional questions, click here.
5. Create a water source for pollinators:
As the spring warmth begins, even the smallest creatures need fresh water. Creating a water source can be a simple and creative addition to your yard or garden, with the added benefit of attracting ladybugs and beetles that love to feed on aphids and other plant-eating insects! You can make these out of anything from a bowl or bird bath, then adding a few rocks or recycled wine corks to the bottom, which allows for bees and smaller pollinators to stand on to safely reach the water. This article provides easy directions to making a budget friendly water source.
There are so many more ways that you can support pollinators in addition to this simple list. Here are some published studies and scientific evidence for further reading that proves pollinators need our help more than ever if they are to rebuild their populations. With education and personal action, there is hope on the horizon for their future.
Do you have any additional tips for creating a pollinator friendly environment? Comment below with any suggestions or personal stories about your experiences! Also be sure to mark your calendars for pollinator week which is from June 21st through June 27th.
Thanks for reading,