Pollinators are one of the main reasons we can provide fresh, local produce to the Indianapolis Community, which is why we at Growing Places Indy are proud to celebrate Pollinator Week! Pollinator Week is a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what we can do to protect them. In this blog post, we’ll provide some facts about pollinators as well as some activities you can do to support pollinator populations.
What is pollination?
Pollination is an essential stage of the plant life cycle that allows them to become fertilized. Pollen transfer is necessary for sustaining healthy and productive native & agricultural ecosystems. We’re able to eat our favorite fruits and vegetables, thanks to pollination!
Who are pollinators?
Contrary to popular belief, there are many kinds of pollinators—not just bees! They visit flowers to drink nectar or feed off of pollen and transport pollen grains as they move from spot to spot. Check out our infographic to learn about types of pollinators!
Why are pollinators important?
Pollinators are responsible for ensuring successful crop production and healthy plants in a variety of ecosystems. In fact, about 75% of all flowering plant species require help from pollinators for fertilization. Here are some even more impressive figures:
- An estimated 1/3 of all foods and beverages are delivered by pollinators.
- In the U.S., pollination produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually.
So, it’s pretty clear: pollinators are essential. But what’s happening to pollinators?
Pollinator Population Problems
Many essential pollinator populations are declining due to the loss of food and habitat. Pollution, the misuse of chemicals, disease, and changes in climatic patterns are all contributing to shrinking and shifting pollinator populations. It can be challenging for scientists even to gauge how to respond to these issues. But there’s still hope.
How You Can Help
According to the Pollinator Partnership, there are many ways we can help pollinators! Here are just a few:
- Reduce your impact. Reduce or eliminate your pesticide use, increase green spaces, and minimize urbanization. Pollution and climate change affect pollinators, too!
- Plant for pollinators. Create a pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes. For information on what to plant in your area, download a free eco-regional guide online at www.pollinator.org.
- Tell a friend. Educate your neighbors, schools, and community groups about the importance of pollinators.
How Farmers Can Help
- Increase the numbers of pollinators on your agricultural lands. This will support other wildlife such as birds and game animals, improve the quality of water runoff, decrease your soil loss, and reduce your need for expensive pesticides.
- Learn how to reduce the direct exposure of pollinators to pesticides and how to protect critical nesting sites and food sources for beneficial insects & pollinators.
- Restore pollinator-friendly practices at your farm. Study the habitat on your land: look for areas that can support all kinds of pollinators and other wildlife.
- Renew forage and nesting habitats by adding flowering plants, hedgerows, butterfly way stations, and other shrubs.
- Expand your efforts. Use reduced-tillage practices (many native bees live in the soil). Start to develop riparian (streamside) zones for wildlife habitats and corridors. Allow crops to bolt to give these pollinators additional food sources and to encourage them to stay around for when you have need them.
How Gardeners Can Help
- Design your garden so that there is a continuous succession of plants flowering from spring through fall.
- Plant native to your region using plants that provide nectar for adults plus food for insect larvae, such as milkweed for monarchs.
- Select old-fashioned varieties of flowers whenever possible because breeding has caused some modern blooms to lose their fragrance and/or the nectar/pollen needed to attract and feed pollinators.
- Install ‘houses’ for bats and native bees. For example, use wood blocks with holes or small open patches of mud. As little as 12” across is sufficient for some bees.
- Avoid pesticides, even so-called “natural” ones such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). If you must use them, use the most selective and least toxic ones and apply them at night when most pollinators aren’t active.
- Supply water for all wildlife. Some need a dripping faucet while others just need a container.
- Provide water for butterflies without letting it become a mosquito breeding area. Refill containers daily or bury a shallow plant saucer to its rim in a sunny area, fill it with coarse pine bark or stones and fill to overflowing with water.
All information in this blog post is from the Pollinator Partnership.