It’s Pollinator Week! In 2018, the annual celebration of pollinators and their contributions to sustaining biodiversity, habitat and agriculture is observed June 18-24. Since 2010, this week has been a time to celebrate the contributions pollinators make to our nation, supported by official proclamations from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, U.S. Dept. of Interior, and governors of many states.
Around the world, pollinators are declining due to factors that threaten all biodiversity. Loss of habitat is the principal reason, followed by improper use of pesticides, pollution, and invasive species.
Policymakers, natural resource managers, private landowners, and others want to make informed decisions that consider the needs of pollinators. Consumers can choose products that have been produced in a pollinator-friendly manner. Educators can emphasize the importance of pollinators; teach about their life histories; and instill an appreciation for the essential role played by pollinators in living systems.
Everyone’s future flies on the wings of our pollinators.
What is Pollination?
Pollination allows for plants to reproduce. Much like the animal kingdom, plants have male and female parts and need to transfer genes from one to the other to create seeds for the next generation of plants. The only way this can happen is when pollen grains from the anther (male) of the flower are transferred to a stigma (female).
Some plants are able to self-pollinate—meaning that they don’t need any help from an animal pollinator to reproduce. Others can be pollinated by wind that carries pollen grains from flower to flower. About 80 percent of all flowering plants, and three-quarters of the staple crops that are grown for human consumption rely on animal pollinators.
There are a number of animal pollinators. The most recognizable pollinators are probably bees, but everything from ants and beetles to bats and birds can help pollinate.
- All about bees: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/bees.shtml
- Gardening for pollinators: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/gardening.shtml
- Pollinators and wildflowers: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/
- The simple truth? We can’t live without them (booklet): https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/simpletruthbrochure.pdf
Did you know?
- 1 out of 3 bites of food we eat are thanks to animal pollinators.
- Almost 90% of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators for fertilization.
- About 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. Of those, 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats, and small mammals such as mice. The rest are insects like beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies and moths.
- National forests and grasslands provide valuable migration habitat for the pollinators that allow everything from wildflowers to agricultural crops to thrive.
- The USDA supports programs that help find homes for pollinators.
- Honeybees are the most prolific animal pollinator—but pollinators range from insects like butterflies, wasps and ants, to mammals like bats, and even birds.
- Pollinator populations, especially honeybees, have seen sharp declines in recent decades—there were about 6 million honeybee hives in the U.S. in 1940; that has declined to about 2.5 million today. Now more than ever, pollinators need habitat to keep our ecosystems and agricultural economy strong.
- Pollinators play a key role in feeding American families and supporting the American economy. Pollinators contribute $15 billion annually to farm income in the U.S.
- Worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend. Crops like almonds, apples, blueberries, melons, squash, even oranges and avocados are heavily reliant upon pollinators to reproduce and thrive.
- The USDA Forest Service is a key agency in restoring degraded lands for pollinators and other wildlife, through the planting of native wildflowers that help connect birds, bees and other pollinating insects across the American landscape.
- Plant a pollinator garden. Check out:
http://www.kidsgardening.com/growingideas/projects/jan03/pg1.html. for gardening instructions, and for educational and curriculum
- Reduce chemical misuse. Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to reduce
damage to your plants and to protect pollinators by using less chemicals. You could
intersperse food plants, like tomatoes, with inedible plants like marigolds. Marigolds are known to attract pest insects away from food plants. Learn more about IPM and gardening at: http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/homegarden/garden.html.
- Limit lawn grass. Grass lawns offer little food or shelter for most
wildlife, including pollinators. You can replace grass with a wild meadow or prairie
plants. For a neater look, make a perennial border with native plants. Plants native
to your area are adapted to your soil type, climate, precipitation, and local pollinators! You can get a list of plants native to your area at: http://www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat/nativeplants.cfm
- Provide water. All wildlife, including pollinators, need water. Some butterfly species sip water from muddy puddles to quench their thirst and get important minerals. You can provide water in a birdbath or even a shallow dish placed on the ground. Pile small stones or glass florist beads in the water so the pollinators can crouch low and sip from the surface of the water without falling into the water.