Despite the bad reputation that bees and other pollinators sometimes have, they represent an exclusive club. One of a bee’s most important jobs is that of a pollinator. This is an exclusive club of animals that assists plants in their reproduction as pollinators, that includes species of ants, bats, bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, flies, moths and wasps. Wind and water also play a role in the pollination of many plants.
Honeybees and wild bees pollinate billions of dollars of crops in the United States each year. More than one-third of all plants or plant products consumed by humans are dependent in some way, shape or form on insects for pollination. Many plants such as almond, apple, blueberry, sunflower, clover, and canola cannot reproduce without their help.
Why are we talking about this? Bees and other pollinators are under attack from a variety of sources, ranging from habitat loss to pesticides to climate change. The Whitehouse released a fact sheet on the decline of pollinators in 2014 that stated that the number of managed honeybee colonies in the United States has declined steadily over the past 60 years, from six million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to four million in 1970, three million in 1990, and just 2.5 million in 2014. Today, pollinators are getting a lot of attention due to these alarming declines and the contribution pollinators have on our economy.
What can you do to help bring back our pollinators? You can choose to implement one or many of these practices that enhance the pollinator landscape.
- Create new habitat that supports a healthy and diverse population for insect pollinators.
- Choose plants that pollinators love such as wild geraniums, wild lupine, slender mountain mint, ironweed, oregano, sunflowers, New England aster and many more.
- Improve your existing landscape by leaving pollinator-attractive plants such as dandelions and clover in lawns for early-season blooms that are full of pollen and nectar. Accept some insect damage on plants and when choosing to use pesticide and insecticide, choose a product that won’t be harmful to bees.
- Create partnerships and spread the word. Educate children on the wonders of bees and how to respect their role in the growth cycle. By accentuating the positives, you can take the fear of bees and replace it with respect and understanding.