We’re all looking forward to spring, a time of renewal and beauty, and the opportunity to get outside and improve our surroundings. Appealing landscape design often involves the artful arrangement of flowering plants, but imagine for a moment that 90% of flowers are no longer able to bloom. This could be our future reality with essential pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and bats, being decimated in alarming numbers.
So, why are pollinator numbers dropping so drastically? Pesticides, lack of food (nectar & pollen) & water, loss of nesting habitats from development, disease and the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder.
It’s not only flowering plants that are affected by a lack of pollinators, but also our very own food supply. According to the Pollinator Partnership, “one out of every three bites of food you eat is there because of pollinators.” Pollinators are responsible for the quality, quantity and size of our food crops. Even the economic value of pollinators is staggering, in the billions of dollars per year.
The good news is that we can all do some easy things to help pollinators (and ultimately ourselves):
- Add native flowering plants to your garden that are known to attract pollinators. Groupings, rather than single plants, are best. Use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring to late fall, and minimize double-flower varieties and cultivars. Be sure to include both larval host plants and nectar producing plants for butterflies (See my earlier post here). Pollinator.org provides a great planting guide for each region of the United States.
- Avoid using pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and synthetic fertilizers. Learn about the current legal case undertaken by Defenders of Wildlife to ban deadly “neonicotinoids” insecticides.
- Provide fresh water by placing layers of large pebbles just above the water line in a birdbath or shallow dish for honeybees. A sand-filled puddle works best for butterflies.
- Don’t let the weeds bug you. Dandelions, clover, plantains and other weeds provide important food for pollinators. Also, leave some areas of your yard as nature intended, not so manicured.
- Buy organic and local food (including honey) whenever possible, as these farmers support pollinators with their crops and cover plants. It’s especially important to buy organic, non-GMO corn and soy products as most corn and soy have been grown using pesticides that kill milkweed.
- Sign this petition and also this petition to help save bees.
- Start Beekeeping or attend a local workshop, like this one, to learn how to create a pollinator garden.
Our native iris versicolor shown in mass in the photo above