What’s All the Buzz about Pollinators?

It seems that everywhere I go, the word pollinator comes up. So I was surprised when I recently inquired about speaking at a group in our community about Bee City USA and the importance of pollinators – and I was politely told that it isn’t a topic that will generate much of an audience. “They need to have something that will be of interest to them,” he replied. I can’t think of anything more interesting or important for that matter, can you?

Why are pollinators important?

First, lets include 7 groups of pollinators in our discussion: the 5 “B’s”: Butterflies, Bees, Birds, Beetles, Bats and then add Moths and Flies. Can we live without them? Pollinators are often referred to as a “keystone” species group. What that means is that pollinators play a crucial and unique role in the existence of other species – including us! John Muir once said: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Left: Your produce choices with bees. Right: Your produce choices without bees. (Photo via Whole Foods Market)

A Golden Digger Wasp that preys on caterpillars stops to fill up on nectar while sharing this swamp milkweed flower with a bee friend. Photo by Ann Barklow.

If you look at what your typical produce section would look like without pollinators (remember: the 5-B’s plus flies and moths), our selection would be very limited. This would effect our health. As humans, we are dependent on pollinators for a healthy food plan that includes minerals and vitamins. 75-80% of our crops rely on pollinators for seed and fruit set, and 90% of our flowers require pollinators to reproduce. Our world would be a dismal place without these small but essential creatures. According to the Xerces Society’s book Attracting Native Pollinators: “Pollinators are essential to the reproductive cycles of most flowering plants, supporting plant populations that animals and birds rely on for food and shelter.”

  1. E.O Wilson states that we would lose our pollinators.
  2. We would then lose most of our flowering plants and much of our food.
  3. Food webs (what eats what) would unravel.
  4. We would lose mammals including humans, and birds, reptiles, amphibians, and                         freshwater fish.
  5. Earth would start to rot because the insect de-composers have died.
  6. This would result in an ecological disaster of a massive size.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Bumble Bees enjoying nectar from ‘Feeling Pink’ Echinacea (Photo by Ann Barklow).

I suppose, if the group I was going to speak to knew all of this, they might have found my offer to speak more interesting.

We need pollinators to feed us and they can’t provide their own garden.  We have gradually taken their habitat away by development, agriculture, landscape practices, and pesticides, Doug Tallamy, who wrote Bringing Nature Home said: ‘If you own a piece of property, it is your responsibility to maintain the life there.” It is a good time to pay it forward and give these small creatures back their nectar and pollen. We can retire the Buzz of our hedge trimmer for the Buzz of bees. Let’s grow pollinators and then let them grow our food and flowers and manage our pests.

Start your Pollinator Garden here.

 

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About Ann Barklow

Ann is a Certified Horticulturist, Master Gardener and Arborist with 35 years in the Horticultural and Landscaping Field. In her community, she serves on the Piedmont Tech Horticultural Advisory committee along with Bee City USA, America in Bloom, Lakeland's Master Gardener Board of Directors, and the Festival of Flowers Committee. She is a Strategic Partner with Park Seed, Wayside Gardens and Jackson and Perkins - educating on pollinators and wildlife.

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