Feature Story Pollinators Make Good Things In Life Possible!
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with private landowners to support pollinators and the habitat they need to thrive. To celebrate here in Illinois, here’s a crash course’ with facts that confirm pollinators support life as we know it.
Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on the help of pollinators to reproduce. Some scientists say one out of three bites of food can be attributed to animal pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, beetles and other insects. Pollinators provide crucial assistance to fruit, vegetable and seed crops as well as other plants that produce fiber, medicine and fuel. Unfortunately, pollinators are in trouble worldwide. Habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants pose many challenges for pollinators. But we can all help – by providing pollinators with habitat. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Plant pollinator-friendly yard plants. Trees and shrubs like dogwood, blueberry, cherry, plum, willow and poplar produce ample pollen or nectar in early spring when food is scarce.
For summertime plantings, use a variety of flowers--mix colors, shapes and scents. With a diverse array of different plants, you’ll attract a variety of pollinators.
Reduce or stop spraying pesticide in your landscape. Try to use plants that attract other insects to control pests.
While butterfly and moth larvae can damage plants, don’t poison all those hungry caterpillars because one day they will become beautiful butterflies and moths.
Provide shallow water sources for pollinators--toss a few rocks into a bird bath.
Leave a dead tree trunk or two on your landscape, if possible. Bees and beetles prefer wood nesting and aging trunks are perfect.
Insects often get a bad reputation as ï¿½pests.’ Remember, they play an integral role in sustaining our Earth. Honey bees are single-handedly responsible for billions of dollars worth of American crops each year. When honey bees visit flowers in search for food (nectar or pollen), they brush up against flower reproductive parts, depositing pollen from different flowers. The plant then uses that pollen to produce a fruit or seed. For many plants, without help of pollinators, they are unable to reproduce.
Bees are our main pollinators. North America is home to more than 4,000 bee species that nest underground, in twigs, debris or dead trees. Butterflies seek nectar during the day time; their nocturnal counterparts, moths, seek it at night. The most common avian pollinator is the hummingbird, which prefers brightly colored tubular flowers.
Thousands of beetles play an important role in the pollination process. Beetles compose 40% of the world’s insect population. Other insects, like flies, also pollinate plants. Small, flying flies, Midges, are the only known pollinators of cacao trees, which are used to produce chocolate. Translation? Pollinators Support Chocolate.
Newsflash for all you coffee drinkers. Research confirms pollinators increase coffee production by at least 50%. Although some coffee self-pollinates, ï¿½shade grown’ coffees and those grown close to forests are pollinated by local native bees. Conclusion: Pollinators support coffee production and help make your caffeine ï¿½fix’ possible every morning.
With all this information, can you imagine your life WITHOUT pollinators, chocolate, or coffee? Don’t even think about it! Click here for more information about pollinators.
NRCS - Helping People Help the Land
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For more information, contact:
Paige Mitchell-Buck, IL NRCS State Public Information Officer
IL NRCS State Office
2118 W. Park Court
Champaign, IL 61821