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Planning Commission

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Aug 06

Helping Out Our Hard Working Pollinators

Posted on August 6, 2015 at 11:52 AM by Michael Stokes

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One of every three bites of food that we eat depends upon pollinators, particularly the busy bee.  Keeping that in mind, consider that we are now losing pollinators at a rapid pace.   The number of native bumble bees in the United States has declined by 96%.  The colorful Monarch Butterfly, another important pollinator has declined by 90%.   Though there may be many reasons for these dramatic declines in our pollinator population, it would be safe to say that loss of habitat, climate change, parasites and pesticides are all high on the list of fatal elements. 

The goal of every living organism, including plants, is to create offspring for the next generation.  One of the ways that plants can produce offspring is by making seeds which contain the genetic information to produce a new plant.  Enter our friends the pollinators.  Busily visiting flowers throughout the day to sip nectar and collect pollen for its protein and other nutritional qualities, they also carry along pollen from one plant to another, thereby adding in the production of seeds and future plants.  This service provided by bees and other pollinators results in larger, more flavorful fruits and higher crop yields.   In the United States alone, pollination of agricultural crops is valued at 10 billion dollars annually.  Globally, pollination services may be worth more than 3 trillion dollars.

Maintaining our pollinator work force is one of those environmental issues that we all can do something about.  With a little effort, we can do our part to recruit and nurture the next generation of pollinators that will keep the food on our tables. 

Here are things to consider in helping out pollinators:

Food

Set out a garden full of plants for your hard working pollinators to enjoy, including high-value native plants which have flower shapes that are accessible to the pollinators that you would like to attract. Keep a continuous bloom of flowers in your garden to ensure food supply throughout the summer.

Reproduction

Reproduction considerations depend on the needs of the pollinating species you are attracting.  For specific butterfly and moth species, appropriate larval host plants should be provided.  For native bees, sufficient ground nesting areas should be available. For hummingbirds and doves sufficient nesting habitat should be present, whereas bats will require sufficient roosting cavities.

Habitat

Habitat connectivity also should be considered, due to high fragmentation in many regions. For a bee, both nesting and foraging habitat should be close together to benefit the most species and provide optimum conditions.

Shelter

Provide shelter in the form of windbreaks, specific plantings  and overwintering areas.  Certain species may have specialized shelter needs that should be provided or enhanced. For example, exposure to sun at appropriate times of day ensures the success of bee nesting sites.

Chemical Use

Use Integrated Pest Management and think before you spray. Pesticides should not be used, if possible; but if you do have to spray, use the right product in limited amounts.

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