Do you eat food? Do you want your local organic farmers to be successful? Okay, so you’ve got two big reasons to care about this pollinator problem you’ve been hearing so much about.
Here’s the thing: There’s a lot of research and many wonderful organizations out there supporting the establishment of pollinator habitats, but sometimes the message gets lost. We’re a selfish species, and a species inundated with environmental calls to action that might become so overwhelming or overly “science-y” that it’s easier to ignore than to learn and act.
Because the pollinator decline is too critical to ignore, I decided to round up a short list of facts that will help you understand what this whole that is about in less than 2 minutes:
- Pollination occurs when pollen grains are moved between two flowers of the same species, or within a single flower, by wind or pollinator animals. Successful pollination, which may require visits by multiple pollinators to a single flower, results in healthy fruit and fertile seeds, allowing plants to reproduce.1
- The plants that these pollinators reproduce:
- bring us countless fruits, vegetables, and nuts,
- bring us ½ of the world’s oils, fibers and raw materials;
- prevent soil erosion,
- and increase carbon sequestration 1
- Bees and monarchs are the most well-known pollinators, but there are actually over 100,000 invertebrates—including butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, and beetles—and over 1,000 mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, that act as pollinators. 2
- 75-80% of all flowering plant species are pollinated by animals. 3
- One out of every three bites on your plate was likely made possible by pollinators.
- Pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, increasing outputs of 87 leading food crops worldwide, as well as many plant-derived medicines.
- At least one-third of the world’s agricultural crops depends upon pollination provided by insects and other animals.
- Pollinators worldwide are in decline, due to habitat loss, invasive species, parasites, and pesticides.
- As we’ve mentioned in other posts, pollinators can’t reproduce just anywhere. For example, monarch butterflies require milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) as host plants for their caterpillars. No milkweed, no monarch.
Just as we have the power to destroy the very beings that actually support our life (and are doing that very thing), we have the power to reverse it. Across the country, people just like you are working to turn this ship around by giving up pesticides and replacing their boring Eurasian turf grass with gorgeous gardens that support pollinators and come alive with color year after year.
Find out what pollinator-friendly plants are native to your area and get busy planting this spring. If you find straight species rather than cultivars, even better. And keep in mind: Planning a garden in which something is always blooming means you’ll be providing food for pollinators from spring through fall. There are tons of resources out there, including this blog and the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife Program. (If you’re in Collingswood, join our Community Wildlife Habitat Project!)
You’ll find that gardening for wildlife really does have an “if you build it, they will come” effect, which is honestly very much a thrill to witness. When this crazy world gets to you, there’s nothing like taking a moment to sit outside and observe the many species of butterflies, moths, bees and other pollinators flocking with joy to the habitat you’ve created.
Oh, and hey! If you live in South Jersey, we’re making pollinator garden kits for shade and sun available in May. You can find more info here.
- National Wildlife Federation
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
- The Xerces Society’s Project Milkweed
- Photo of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail courtesy of Manjithkaini.