Pollinators are essential to the growth of fruits and vegetables. It is estimated that pollinators contribute almost $3 billion dollars to fruit and vegetable production, and anywhere from $1.6 billion to $8.3 billion for agricultural crops–not to mention their contributions to gardeners! The most common insect pollinators are bees, followed by wasps, moths, butterflies, and flies.
Pollinator populations have seen a drastic decrease in recent years, due in part to habitat loss, pesticide use, and introduced diseases. Some effort is being made to protect pollinators, increase their numbers, and come up with creative solutions to help pollination occur.
Researcher are learning more about how some birds and mammals can serve as pollinators, particularly hummingbirds and bats. Hummingbirds help to pollinate as they feed on nectar from flowers, but they are not native to the Llano Estacado region like some species of bats are. The one problem with these pollinators is that they are much less dependable than insects because of they quickly migrate to the most abundant sources of food.
The big question is what can be done to protect pollinator species so that they can thrive once again. Here are some things you can do to provide habitat for pollinators to your garden or backyard:
- Choose plants that attract pollinators: dogwoods, plum trees, willows, and poplars are known for attracting pollinators, particularly in the early months of Spring when flowers are scarce.
- Use a variety of plants throughout the seasons: by varying the types of flowering plants you choose in your garden and landscaping, you will be more likely to attract a wide variety of pollinators.
- Reduce your use of pesticides: Chemical pesticides don’t just eliminate the bugs that eat your garden; they also destroy the insects that help it to grow and thrive.
- Provide water to attract pollinators as well. You might be surprised to learn that insects that pollinate are attracted to clean water as well as to flowering plants. A bird bath, or even a bowl or dish with water in it, will help draw them to your garden.
- Leave some dead tree trunks in your landscaping. Wood-nesting bees will find these pieces as the perfect place to call home, and will help pollinate in your garden as a thank you.
- Support land conservation in your community. The recent rise of projects like community gardens and green spaces help to restore some of pollinating insects’ natural habitats.
What things do you incorporate into your garden or landscaping in hopes of attracting more pollinators? Share yours in the comments below!