Why Should We Care About Pollinators?

— Written By and last updated by

Pollination is required for most of the fruits and vegetables we eat. Pollinators including bees, wasps, bats, flies, birds, and butterflies are essential to the majority of the flowering plants in our environment. Pollinators are needed in the production of over 130 different food crops. It is estimated that pollinators are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food that we eat.

Pollinators visit flowers in their search for nectar and pollen. During a flower visit a pollinator often accidentally brush against the flowers reproductive parts, depositing pollen from a different flower. The plant then uses the pollen to produce a fruit or seed. Over $15 billion annually is attributed to the value of pollination of food crops, especially fruits, vegetables and nuts

Insects are the most common and abundant pollinators. Among the pollinating insects, the honey bee is relied on to perform most of the commercial pollination. Other pollinators needed include:  native bees, ants, beetles, wasps and lizards.

Native pollinators commonly live in fencerows and natural areas. Pollinators are attracted to a variety of blooming flowers on crops, trees, shrubs, weeds and native vegetation. They will visit multiple plant species seeking nectar and pollen throughout the growing season. These native pollinators assist in the production of fruits and seeds that are essential to the diets of wildlife such as small and large mammals and especially migratory birds. It is estimated that there are more than 4,000 native bee species and many other pollinators in North America.

A decline in pollinator populations has been studied and attributed to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats. Also, contributing to shrinking populations is pollution, misuse of chemicals, disease and climatic changes.

What can we do? Pollinators are highly sensitive to many pesticides, especially insecticides, and some combinations of pesticides. Try to minimize pesticide use. Apply pesticides only when needed and carefully read and follow all label information. Some labels limit at-bloom applications to times when bees are NOT ACTIVELY VISITING, such as late evening. “Do not apply to blooming crops or weeds if bees are VISITING in the treatment area.”

Invite pollinators to your property. Add plants to your landscape that are specifically for pollinators. You can find the Selecting Plants for Pollinators guide that fits the region by going to the Pollinator Partnership website: www.pollinator.org and click on Planting Guides.

Visit the Extension Master Gardener Plant Sale on April 21 at 1791 Hwy 11 & 55 and ask a Master Gardener what plants are available for pollinators.

The actions of pollinators are responsible for our food supply and surrounding landscapes. Let’s do our part to restore the balance.

Click here to Reply, Reply to all, or Forward