Happy National Pollinator Month! June is the time to celebrate our very important garden helpers. Pollination is the important process of moving pollen from one flower to another in order to fertilize the plant. Pollinators are the animals and insects including bees, butterflies, bats, and birds that move the pollen. They may be small in size, but their impact is tremendous!
Did you know that pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bits of food? If you’ve ever enjoyed a cup of coffee in the morning (and a shot of tequila during happy hour) or a handful of summer blueberries, thank a pollinator! When pollinator populations are healthy they can increase the size and quantity of crops, leading to increased production per acre. Honey bees, alone, are responsible for around $1.2 billion in agricultural productivity in the United States.
Unfortunately, pollinator populations are in decline. This is due to misuse of pesticides, loss of feeding and nesting habitats, climate change, and other factors. In fact, the issue is so urgent that in 2007 the U.S. Senate designated a week in June as National Pollinator Week – this year, that is June 17-23. This month, do your part in your own garden to help our pollinators thrive!
Plant a Pollinator Garden
Take part in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge! The National Pollinator Garden Network needs help reaching their goal of registering one million pollinator gardens. Every little bit helps – you can do your part even if you only have space for a small window box. Your ideal pollinator garden should:
- Include plants that provide sources of both nectar and pollen
- Include a water source
- Be in a sunny area with wind breaks
- Include masses of native plants, and
- Have continuous blooms throughout the growing season.
Try to use a very minimal amount of chemical pesticides, if you use any at all. Pesticides may be effective at getting rid of unwanted insects, but they also hurt pollinators. Introduce beneficial insects into your garden instead, like praying mantises and ladybugs! Beneficial insects are the only 100% organic way to control pests without harming pollinators. If you must use pesticides, apply them at night when pollinator populations are less active and don’t spray blooming plants because those are the ones that pollinators will be interested in.
It’s important to use native plants in your garden because they sustain our native pollinators by providing food and nesting sites. A plant is considered “native” if it was here prior to the European settlement of America. Some of our favorite native plants are:
- Oakleaf hydrangeas
- River birch trees
- Red maple trees
Include a variety of plants in your garden so that you have a continuous succession of blooms up until frost! Never dig up a plant from the wild and place it in your garden. Protect our natural habitat and only get yours from a responsible nursery or garden center.
You can learn more about Pollinator Week and the importance of pollinators through Pollinator Partnership at pollinator.org. Spread the word and celebrate our pollinators!
This blog post was also published as an article in The Murfreesboro Post on June 9, 2019.