I like to eat – pure and simple! And I especially enjoy fruits and vegetables (except lima beans, which my Uncle Max unsuccessfully tried to get me to eat once … but that’s another story.).
But have you ever thought what it would be like to live in a world without apples, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate, almonds, melons, peaches, or pumpkins? Researchers have indicated that without animal pollinators, we would not have these foods and more. This is National Pollinators Week and as I read some of the information about how we depend on the work of these mighty little workers, I am truly amazed. I hope we will all take notice of these very important natural wonders and consider how we can make changes in our lives to encourage their increased populations.
Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators to reproduce. Most fruit, vegetable and seed crops—and other plants that provide fiber, medicines, and fuel—are pollinated by animals. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and beetles and other insects.
Pollinators visit flowers in their search for food (nectar and pollen).
During a flower visit, a pollinator may accidentally brush against the flower’s reproductive parts, unknowingly depositing pollen from a different flower.
The plant then uses the pollen to produce a fruit or seed. Many plants cannot reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging pollinators. Bees are the main pollinators for fruits and vegetables.
There are over 4,000 species of bees native to North America. They nest underground, in twigs and debris, or in dead trees. Nectar- seeking butterflies are daytime garden visitors, and moths are their nocturnal counterpart.
These popular creatures pollinate many plants. Hummingbirds are the most common avian pollinators in the continental United States. These tiny wonders prefer tubular flowers in bright, warm colors—especially red.
As you may have heard, pollinators are in trouble — bees are disappearing and bats are dying.
These and other animal pollinators face many challenges in our world. Habitat loss, disease, parasites, and environmental contaminants have all contributed to their decline.
You can help with this critical natural resource concern by providing food and habitat for pollinators around your home to help them thrive.
• Use pollinator-friendly plants in your landscape. Shrubs and trees such as dogwood, blueberry, cherry, plum, willow, and poplar provide pollen or nectar, or both, early in spring when food is scarce.
• Choose a mixture of plants for spring, summer, and fall. Different flower colors, shapes, and scents will attract a wide variety of pollinators.
• Reduce or eliminate pesticide use in your landscape, or incorporate plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control. If you use pesticides, use them sparingly and responsibly, by reading and following all label directions.
• Accept some plant damage on plants meant to provide habitat for butterfly and moth larvae.
• Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, bowl, or birdbath with half- submerged stones for perches.
• Leave dead tree trunks in your landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles.
• Support land conservation in your community by helping to create and maintain community gardens and green spaces to ensure that pollinators have appropriate habitat.
• Learn more online or contact your local Ohio State University Extension office (www.extension.osu.edu ) or U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service office (www.nrcs.usda.gov) for information about selecting plants for particular pollinators. You may also visit www.delawareswcd.org or call 740-368- 1921 for answers to your conservation needs.
Brad Ross is a Communications Specialist for Delaware SWCD.