Bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, flies, wasps and even non-insect animals such as birds, bats, and some small mammals are pollinators. They visit flowers to drink nectar or feed on pollen and then transport the pollen grains as they move from plant to plant.
Why are pollinators important?
The majority of all flowering plants on the earth need help with pollination, including many of the crops that provide our food. In addition to the food that we eat, pollinators also sustain our ecosystems by helping plants reproduce and provide food and habitat for wildlife. Unfortunately some species of pollinators have seen a 90% decline in their populations over the last decade. In many places, the essential service of pollination is at risk from habitat loss, pesticide use, and diseases. However the growing concern for pollinators is a positive sign for progress.
How can you help?
Pollinator conservation has become an important environmental and economic issue. The attached links below lead to information that provide easy access to fact sheets, booklets, and other publications written about protecting, enhancing or creating habitat for pollinator insects.
The Pollinator Partnership has a website http://www.pollinator.org with resources and lists of events around the country. Pollinator friendly plant guides are also located on the website. There are at least three guides that apply to geographic regions in Mississippi. They are the "Lower Mississippi Riverine Forest Province" for the Delta area, the "Outer Coastal Plain Mixed Province" for South Mississippi and the "Southeaster Mixed Forest Province" for most of the rest of the state. If you're not sure which guide applies to your area, you can put in your zip code and the site tells you which guide to use. As with all regional guides for large areas, the lists are not comprehensive but have some great information in them.
The "Farming for Bees" booklet is located on the Xerces website and the Agroforestry notes also located on the Xerces website. Xerces has put a lot of the information in one easy place on their publications page: http://www.xerces.org.
A handbook for beekeepers and conservationists titled "Managing Alternative Pollinators" is available for free download at the following : http://www.sare.org/publications/pollinators/pollinators.pdf. This handbook is an excellent resource, not only providing useful information about habitat requirements and management of 'alternative pollinators" e.g., bumble bees, mason bees and leafcutter bees), but also well-presented information about pollination phenomenon, honeybees, and pollination history.
There are many other sources of good information out there to read. Information on honeybees can be found at other sites. Mississippi has a beekeepers association which has links to other sites with honeybee information:http://www.mshoneybee.org.
The MS Chapter SWCS(Soil and Water Conservation) has started a program to encourage the planting of Pollinator Gardens. The Chapter has a Mississippi Pollinator Handbook on its website: http://sites.google.comsite/mississippiswcs/Home.
Technical and Financial Assistance to Producers to Create Pollinator Habitat
NRCS Conservation Practices commonly used in Mississippi that directly address pollinator habitat management include:
Field Borders (PC# 386)
Conservation Cover (PC# 327)
Early Successional Habitat Development/Management (PC# 647)
Hedgerow Planting (PC#422)
Restoration and Management of Rare and Declining Habitat (PC# 643)