Precious Pollinators

Bees & butterflies are attracted to Milkweed's blossoms in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Bees & butterflies are attracted to Milkweed’s blossoms (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Many of us are hearing about efforts to save our pollinators; primarily bees, but also including butterflies, moths, even bats and hummingbirds. So, what’s all the hubbub about and why does it matter anyway? For starters, without pollinators most of our flowering plants could not reproduce, and since over one third of our fruit and vegetable crops depend on pollinators for production, it’s easy to see how important their services are to our livelihood. Consider that honey bees pollinate approximately $15 billion worth of U.S. crops each year (in addition to what other native bees and critters do), and that 75% of ALL flowers are pollinated by insects and birds, and you’ll have an idea of just how valuable pollinators are to our existence.

Bumblebees adore native Bugbane in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Bumblebees adore native Boneset (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

What is pollination and how does it work? Pollination occurs when pollen from the male part of a plant (stamen) is introduced to the female part of a plant (stigma, which sits at the top of the pistil), thus enabling fertilization and reproduction. The stamen produces a sticky powder called pollen and when this reaches the stigma, it easily adheres to the surface. When pollen is transferred from within the plant, it is called self-pollination.  When pollen from one plant’s stamen is introduced to a different plant’s stigma (of the same species), it is called cross-pollination.  Depending on the situation, cross pollination is often necessary for optimum fruit and vegetable production.  To see pollinators in action, visit The Great Pollinator Project’s website: www.greatpollinatorproject.org (*sorry, this one I could not get a direct link to).

A bumblebee rests on Geranium's purple petals in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

A bumblebee rests on a geranium’s purple petals (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Now that we understand how valuable our precious pollinators are, how can we help them to thrive again? Many of our bees and other pollinators have been challenged with loss of habitat, invasive species and diseases, pollution and pesticides, even climate change. While we may have limited control over the surrounding environment, we can certainly limit our use of chemicals and pesticides (think organic), and allow areas of our property to remain natural with native flowers and shrubs that will not only sustain, but promote, a bio-diverse habitat for all the local fauna and invertebrates. For more detailed info, visit: www.xerces.org/bringbackthepollinators/

Assorted bees flock to Mountain Mint in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Assorted bees flock to Mountain Mint (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

In cities across the country, people are embracing their native insect populations by creating community gardens and parks, while allowing sections of urban areas to naturalize. Because most of our beneficial insects are tiny, we don’t need to have acres of land (although if you have it, all the better), instead, a small plot can reap enormous rewards. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, at least 80% of the world’s food supply is pollinated by wild bees and other wildlife; encompassing over 100,000 different animal species. Bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, beetles and flies are the most common pollinators, but almost 1,500 other species of birds and mammals play a role in plant pollination as well. Now is the time for each of us to stake our claim in the efforts to protect and promote these most relevant creatures.

Bees love the nectar of a Buttonbush flower in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Bees love the nectar of a Buttonbush flower (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

For a detailed list of plants, shrubs and trees that will welcome pollinators to anywhere in the U.S., please visit The Xerces Society Resource Center at the link above, but here are a few of the plants and shrubs (from early to late season bloom) for the New England area, including many that I have grown for years and have been featured in previous posts; plants include: Wild Geranium: Geranium maculatum, Swamp Milkweed: Asclepias incarnata, Mountain Mint: Pycnanthemum tenuifolium & muticum, Blue Vervain: Verbena hostata, Boneset: Eupatorium perfoliatum, Cardinal Flower: Lobelia cardinalis, Golden Rod: Solidago nemoralis & rugosa, New England Aster: Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, and Ironweed: Vernonia noveboracensis. For shrubs, try: Pussy Willow: Salix discolor, Highbush Blueberry: Vaccinium corymbosum, Ninebark: Physocarpus opulifolius, and Buttonbush: Cephalanthus occidentalis.  Here’s to getting the hum back in your yard this summer~♥

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