Today begins National Pollinator Week, a week devoted to celebrating and promoting pollinators of all sorts. And boy oh boy, do our pollinators need help! The honeybees have suffered what is estimated to be at least a 50% reduction in their numbers due to a syndrome called colony collapse disorder.
Our bats have been decimated by something called white nose fungus. Bats in 19 states as far west as Oklahoma are now affected. It is estimated that as much as 95% of the population of some states have died off.
Many other pollinators–insects in particular–suffer from a combination of habitat loss and chemical attack. Many folks do not realize the important role that insects–beetles, flies, ants, and some of the other “less desirable” types of pollinators play in our ecosystems.
Several great resources exist for learning about the different types of pollinators and how to garden for them. The Xerxes Society has a great web site and many on-line resources, as well as many resources that can be purchased. They deal primarily with invertebrates.
The North American Butterfly Association is devoted, as its name implies, specifically, to butterflies. It has specifics on butterfly gardening and regional butterfly gardening guides.
The Pollinator Project is the most broadly based of the resources out there. It is responsible for National Pollinator Week. It includes lists of plants for different pollinators, and regional gardening guides for selecting plants for all sorts of pollinators.
Finally, for resources on the ruby throated hummingbird (the only hummingbird that is resident East of the Mississippi) the US Fish and Wildlife Service is the place to go (strangely enough). It has great resources, including a downloadable guide about attracting pollinators using native plants.
But a few simple things to remember, no matter which pollinators you are trying to attract: limit or completely avoid pesticide use since most are very sensitive to pesticide–even organic pesticides.
Create habitat, which is defined as food, water, shelter (or cover) and places to raise young. Now this will be different for the different types of pollinators. Places to raise young for hummingbirds might be trees and shrubs.
For butterflies, it’s going to be larval food–in other words, stuff for the caterpillars to eat. And shelter or cover for butterflies is a wind break, because they are very susceptible to wind!
For bees, again, slightly different. Bees see in the same color family as butterflies–blues and purples and yellows and oranges and whites. So those flowers are good for bees (and bad to wear to picnics!). Most bees are ground nesting so you’ll want to take pains to disturb your ground very little, obviously to try to observe where the bees are nesting to avoid harm (to you and them) and to avoid chemicals in the ground–and that might include lawn chemicals as well.
The references have lots more great suggestions. But this week–during pollinator week–why not decide to take one step to save the pollinators?