Thank a pollinator for the food you eat; one out of every three bites of food is possible because of these animals. Pollination occurs when pollen is moved within flowers or carried from flower to flower by pollinating animals such as birds, bees, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, or other animals, or by water or the wind. The transfer of pollen in and between flowers of the same species leads to fertilization, and successful seed and fruit production for plants. Pollination ensures that a plant will produce full-bodied fruit and a full set of viable seeds. Pollination is not just a biology lesson, it’s an essential ecological survival function. Without pollinators, the human race and all of earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive.
Bumblebee cr Deb Orieta
A diversity of critters
It’s not just the bees that do the work; flies, ants, wasps, butterflies, hummingbirds, bats, and beetles all contribute to the pollination process. Pollinators are vital to creating and maintaining the ecosystems that we rely on for ecosystem services such as food, shelter, medicines, spices, and clothing. Consider this: Virtually all of the world’s seed plants need to be pollinated, from pine trees to fruits and vegetables to wild flowers. Pollinators are responsible for assisting over 80% of the world’s flowering plants with reproduction. Over three-quarters of the staple crop plants that feed humankind rely on animal pollinators. From a plant reproduction perspective, native bees are the most efficient pollinators because they exhibit flower constancy, meaning that they only visit one species of flowering plant per foraging trip. They are also more efficient at pollinating native plants and some food crops than European honey bees. Consider also that the caterpillars of butterflies and moths are essential to raise a brood of songbirds.
Unfortunately, pollinator populations are declining. A few decades ago, a short drive down any road in the country would yield hundreds of dead bugs splattered across the front of the car. Now, a drive across the entire state will yield a windshield practically bug free. Pollinators such as bees, bats, butterflies and ants are suffering from loss of feeding and nesting habitats, pollution, use/misuse of chemical pesticides, along with diseases, reducing their populations. Fragmentation of habitats due to climate change is another cause leading to a decline in native bee populations. Insect species loss numbers range from 67% to 75% to over 90%, depending on the study and the insects being investigated.
Tips to protect our pollinators
Plant host and nectar plants for the pollinators you want to attract.
Provide shelter in the form of windbreaks, ground cover, and overwintering areas.
Avoid pesticides, herbicides and chemical sprays - all have a disastrous effect on pollinators.
Help pollinators in your yard by not springing into garden clean-up too soon and by leaving the leaves in the fall.
Document the pollinators that come to your site and learn what other pollinators you can attract.
Resources to learn more:
Who Are the Pollinators? NH's Super Seven
Pollinators in the Landscape I: Importance of Pollinators and Causes of Decline
Massachusetts Pollinators: The Usual Suspects ... And a Few Others
Helpful Plant Lists of Pollinator Species. ← Use the plant list developed by plant sale?