June 18 to 24 is National Pollinators Week – time to think about the important role pollinators play in our environment and how we can help protect these valuable species. As we all learned in elementary school, plants are fertilized through pollination. Pollination either occurs via wind or various types of animal vectors, like butterflies, bees, flies, and even bats. Pollinators are important to the natural ecosystem, as well as to our tables and our economy. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, bees pollinate more than $15 billion per year in U.S. crops, including apples, almonds, berries, cantaloupes, and cucumbers. They also estimate that honeybees produce over $150 million in honey each year. A recent United Nations Report recently stated that, of the 100 plant species that provide 90% of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees!
- Plant a butterfly or pollinator garden! It’s easy and relatively low maintenance. We have butterfly gardens all around our yard, and as you can see from the photo at left, they don’t get in the way of other backyard uses, including laser tag parties! For more info on planting a butterfly garden see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s instructions. Maybe visit a local FWS pollinator garden, just to see what it will look like in your yard.
- Avoid or limit pesticide use. Remember, most pesticides kill lots of insects (even the beneficial ones), not just the ones that are bugging you.
- Work to change your community to more sustainable energy sources. Climate change can have severe impacts on pollinators, since it affects both the pollinators and the plants with which they’ve evolved.
- Join the Xerces Society, an international non-profit working to protect pollinators and other invertebrate species.