Most of us carry on with our days without too much thought or consideration as to what is going on around us. But can you imagine what life would be like without your morning coffee? To no longer have the opportunity to smell a fresh flower? Or to never again enjoy the rich taste of pumpkin or the sweet taste of a watermelon?
Whether we acknowledge it or not, pollination, the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, is critical to fruit and seed production and is often provided by pollinators such as bees, beetles, birds, bats and butterflies.
“It is pretty incredible to wrap your head around the idea that nature invented pollination to survive.” Macon County Conservation District Program Services Manager Jeff Tish said. “Their existence is to keep life moving forward.”
Pollinators play a key part in our quality of life and the stability of our ecosystem. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss, disease, environmental changes and excessive and misuse of pesticides the population of pollinators is declining.
American honeybees alone, which pollinate more than 90 commercial crops in the United States, have dropped by more than 30 percent in the last 20 years. The decline is so significant that some scientists believe it is the biggest crisis we face today.
Pollination plays a key part to life on Earth but often goes unseen by the human eye. While the majority of us can appreciate the beauty of nature, many of us have no idea how much a part of it we really are.
Over 75% of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, beetles and butterflies to reproduce. These plant species account for one third of our diets in addition to medicine, fabric, even chocolate and coffee.
Many of these plants are crucial to world agriculture. Pollinators increase the quality and quantity of over 90 crops including apples, blueberries and cucumbers by up to 30%. Without the existence of these pollinators fruits and vegetables would become scarce, prohibitively expensive or in some cases even extinct.
“Pollination is remarkable in demonstrating exactly how connected we are to the world around us.” Macon County Conservation District Executive Director Kathy Merner said. “The extinction of pollinators would not just cause the human race to suffer but birds and small mammals who survive on berries and seeds would starve along with the omnivores and carnivores that continue up the food chain.”
“Nothing lasts forever.” Merner said. “We encourage people to stop and notice the wonder of nature, learn about the world around them, create a butterfly garden, start recycling, and support and treasure your natural areas.”
Attract Pollinators to Your Garden
One easy and effective way to protect pollinators in your area is to provide the habitat and nutrition they need to survive in your backyard, school or workplace. Check out these suggestions on how to create a pollinator garden.
- Aim to create a habitat for pollinators that provides adequate food, shelter and water sources
- Choose a variety of plants that will provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season
- Incorporate a variety of colors, sizes and smells to attract different pollinators
- Choose native plants to support the needs of specific native pollinators while also protecting and conserving your natural areas
- Resist the urge to have an overly manicured lawn and garden. Bare ground is great nesting for bees while leaves and dead wood provide shelter for a variety of insects
- Strive to eliminate all pesticides
Butterflies are attracted to bright flowers, including reds and purples with a wide landing platform. They need water sources, open areas exposed to full sun and moist soil to get needed minerals. incorporate eastern redbud and sumac trees, wild columbine, common and prairie milkweed, tickseed, purple coneflowers, boneset, sunflowers, blazing stars, cardinal flowers, gray-headed coneflowers and aster.
Hummingbirds play the primary role of pollination for birds in North America. They enjoy warmer climates and are attracted to bright colored tubular flowers with shades of scarlet, orange, red or white. Trumpet vine or creeper, phlox, evening primrose, horsemint, lupine, Michigan lily,butterfly weed and wild columbine all can attract hummingbirds to your garden.
In general, bees are typically attracted to bright white, yellow or blue colors. They need flowers that are shallow, have a landing platform and are tubular. They are often attracted to fresh, mild and pleasant odors. Try incorporating maple and willow trees, wild roses, blackberry and raspberries, thimbleweed, swamp milkweed, prairie clover, purple coneflowers, gentians, sunflowers, blazing star, cardinal flowers, goldenrod and violets.