This week we celebrate the pollinators that are vital to our ecosystems. June 15-21 is National Pollinator Week. The celebration is part of a larger effort by the Pollinator Partnership to protect pollinators and their habitat across North America and globally.
“About a third of our crops depend on pollinators,” said Evan Sugden of Entomo-Logic at the Green Gardening Workshop. “This is worth tens of billions of dollars in the USA. Most plants depend on pollinators. We wouldn’t survive without them.”
We have seen a huge decline in pollinators over the last several years. Sugden listed several reasons for the decline:
- Climate change
- Habitat loss from development
- Toxins, including pesticides, herbicides and fungicides
- Exotic pests and diseases, such as mites
- Loss of forage (food plants and flowers)
Bees are the most important pollinators. There are over 20,000 species of bees.
Solitary bees. Most (90%) of bees are solitary. A lone female makes a burrow and raises offspring alone. Males are present only to mate. Among these are the orchard mason bee and west coast green berry bee.
Social bees live in colonies. These include the familiar honey bee and bumble bee. There is one queen bee and many worker bees. They are especially valuable as pollinators because they occur in large numbers and they visit many species of flowers.
You can help keep our pollinators by making your landscape an attractive refuge for them. Bees and other pollinators have three needs in the landscape:
1. Food sources
Flowers are most important. They provide both pollen (protein and lipids) and nectar (carbohydrate). Plant a range of flowers in your yard. Here is a list of Seattle’s Best Pollinator Plants from the Urban Bee Project. A water source is also helpful.
2. Nesting resources
Ground nesters need bare ground, so leave some ground uncovered. Cavity and twig nesters need wood and branches, so leave some branches and brush piles. Trim plants back high to leave some dry stems. You may want to add nest boxes for orchard mason bees and other pollinators.
Don’t use pesticides in your yard, and spread the word to others about the hazards of pesticides to bees. Research has found that bees are far more susceptible to toxins than previously thought.
Find out more about attracting and protecting pollinators from The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Preservation. Their web site has a wealth of information, including identification guides, plant lists, fact sheets and more on bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
Thanks to Evan Sugden for the information in this article.