Celebrate National Pollinator Week


Next week is National Pollinator Week, so with that in mind I thought I would share some things to think about that are provided by the Pollinator Partnership organization.

Pollination is a vital stage in the life cycle of all flowering plants. When pollen is moved within a flower or carried from one flower to another of the same species it leads to fertilization. This transfer of pollen is necessary for healthy and productive native and agricultural ecosystems.

About 75 percent of all flowering plant species need the help of animals to move their heavy pollen grains from plant to plant for fertilization. About 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds, bats, and small mammals.

Most pollinators (about 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths, and bees.

Why are pollinators important?

Pollinators are often keystone species, meaning that they are critical to an ecosystem. The work of pollinators ensures full harvests of crops and contributes to healthy plants everywhere. An estimated one-third of all foods and beverages is delivered by pollinators. In the U.S., pollination produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually.

How you can help

• Reduce your impact. Reduce or eliminate your pesticide use, increase green spaces, and minimize urbanization. Pollution and climate change affect pollinators, too!

• Plant for pollinators. Create pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes. For information on what to plant in your area, download a free ecoregional guide online at www.pollinator.org.

What is pollination and what are pollinators?

Pollination occurs when pollen grains are moved between two flowers of the same species by wind or animals. Successful pollination results in the production of healthy fruit and fertile seeds, allowing plants to reproduce. Without pollinators, we simply wouldn’t have these crops.

About 75 percent of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators for fertilization and over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. Of those, about 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats and small mammals, such as mice. The rest are insects, such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies, and moths.

What do pollinators mean to the food industry?

Worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the resources on which we depend.

Foods produced with the help of pollinators include apples, strawberries, blueberries, chocolate, melons, peaches, figs, tomatoes, pumpkins and almonds.

In the United States, pollination by honey bees and other insects produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually!

What do pollinators mean to your land?

Native bees, butterflies, beetles, ants and flies are all valuable crop pollinators. Pollinating insects help to increase your crop yields and add money to your bottom line.

Inadequate pollination will reduce your yields, result in inferior flavor, produce smaller, misshapen fruits with fewer seeds, slow fruit maturation, increase disease in fruit and take money from budget.

In the United States, pollinators help you and others to produce nearly $20 billion worth of products annually. Native insects act as a cushion when managed honey bees and bumble bees are in short supply.

It is estimated that these beneficial native insects can provide up to 30 percent of your pollination needs. Unfortunately, these pollinators are in serious decline.

Our farm and ranch lands that support pollinators are disappearing at the alarming rate of 3,000 acres a day. The remaining farm and ranch lands lose pollinators’ valuable services as their surrounding habitat declines.

What can you do for pollinators?

• Increase the numbers of pollinators on your agricultural lands. This will support other wildlife such as birds and game animals, improve the quality of water runoff, decrease your soil loss, and reduce our need for expensive pesticides. By cooperating with gov’t programs for improving pollinator habitat, you may be qualified for financial support. Check with your local state extension office or soil conservation district.

• Learn how to reduce the direct exposure of pollinators to pesticides and how to protect critical nesting sites and food sources for beneficial insects and pollinators.

• Restore pollinator-friendly practices at your farm. Study the habitat on your land: look for areas that can support all kinds of pollinators and other wildlife.

• Renew forage and nesting habitats by adding flowering plants, hedge rows, butterfly way stations and other shrubs.

• Expand your efforts. Use reduced-tillage practices (many native bees live in the soil). Start to develop riparian (streamside) zones for wildlife habitats and corridors. Allow crops to bolt to give these pollinators additional food sources and to encourage them to stay around for when you have need of them.

Tony Nye is the state coordinator for Small Farm Programs and an OSU Extension educator, agriculture and natural resources, for Clinton County and the Miami Valley EERA.