By: Deb Pavlosky
With all the talk about Imidacloprid and the decline of the bee population, why don’t we talk about something we can all do to positively impact the population of honeybees and other pollinators wherever we live.
It’s not hard to lend our pollinator friends a helping hand, even if it’s in a small way. All we need to do is create pollinator habitats in our slice of the pie. You don’t have to redo your whole garden to create a habitat to attract/help pollinators, you just need to add what pollinators need (see the list below). And, in this case, size doesn’t matter. Your pollinator habitat can be as small as a planter on your back patio or larger than 5 acres. There are no other obligations and you don’t have to belong to a specific group to register your habitat with www.share.pollinator.org .
If you aren’t sure what plants you need to have, you can get a list specific to your ecoregion at www.pollinator.org . There is even an app for that. Check out the BeeSmart App (it’s free) at Google Play for Androids or the App Store for iphones. It’s a good place to start searching for the right plants for a pollinator garden. It’s pretty user friendly. You just input your zip code and the app gives you your ecoregion. Once you do that, you then have the ability to search for plants based on your sun exposure, soil type, bloom color, pollinator of choice and plant type. It’s a fun app and it will help you get started, but the information provided is definitely not complete. There are so many host and nectar plants to choose from that didn’t make their list. So, for more information, ask us at the nursery or see Pat’s informative handout on host and nectar plants for butterflies in our area, there’s a lot of crossover between butterfly host/nectar plants and those for other pollinators.
So, what other pollinators are there besides bees and butterflies? There are wasps, moths, hummingbirds, bats and beetles. Though honeybees are in the forefront today, let’s not forget about the others. All of these pollinators are beneficial to you and me. Honeybees do account for the pollination of 1/3 of the world’s crops, but 85% of our crops rely on pollinators (in general) to exist. For a real wake-up call, visit http://media.wholefoodsmarket.com/news/bees, to view what a whole foods market would look like without honeybee pollinated crops. Almost all of my favorite and weekly produce purchases are on that list.
Why register with share.pollinator.org? Well, it’s a fun way to participate in and recognize the need for pollinators in our world. On the website, you can upload pictures and or videos of your habitat and view others around North America too. Spreading the word and becoming a part of the solution – it’s always good to be on the right side of history.
So, how do you go about creating a pollinator habitat? It’s fairly simple and the key components are as follows:
- Provide host and nectar plants needed by pollinators. Choose plants so that flowers bloom in stages throughout the year. Planting in clumps is better than planting singly, but it may be hard to do if your habitat is a single planter. Try to plant in fairly protected areas (protected from wind, rain, and other elements). Lastly, try to use native plants if possible.
- Provide nesting areas for pollinators – This could be as simple as leaving a bare spot in your garden where the water drains well (most bees nest in the ground or in wood) to planting trees nearby for hummingbirds to nest.
- Avoid or limit the use of insecticides – This seems like a no-brainer, but many people go for the chemical solution to pests before thinking about other means of getting rid of them. Often times, pests like caterpillars can be picked off plants by hand. But, you have to remember, many of these caterpillars are going to be pollinators themselves. I, myself, have planted sacrifice plants for caterpillars. When one shows up where it isn’t supposed to be, I just move it to my “Pillar Hotel” – it’s a win/win in my book.
- Provide shallow, clean water – This could be as simple as providing an area for water to puddle or as complex as installing a water garden. Just be sure to clean and refresh as often as you can.
You may find the following websites helpful in creating your pollinator habitat:
www.fws.gov/pollinators – US Fish and Wildlife Service
www.xerces.org/pollinator – Xerces Society
http://www.wildflower.org/conservation_pollinators/ – Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Even if you choose not to register your pollinator habitat with www.share.pollinator.org , please consider supporting our local or migratory pollinators by growing some of their favorite plants. It’s not difficult to help these animals that help us more than we ever know.