You probably think of honey when you think of bees. But did you know that bees and other pollinators are responsible for apples, almonds, blueberries, cherries, avocados, cucumbers, onions, grapefruit, oranges and pumpkins?
It’s true. That’s because bees and other pollinators like butterflies, birds and a variety of plant-hopping insects pollinate more than 30% of the United States’ food supply and 75% of the world’s agricultural crops, not to mention a host of gorgeous native plants.
According to the USDA and a large body of growing research on pollinators, there have been a number of factors that have contributed to a pretty alarming decline in the bee, butterfly and other pollinator population.
The culprits? Parasites, mites, viruses, bacteria, genetics, habitat loss and the improper use of pesticides. There’s also something called Colony Collapse Disorder that happens when worker bees never return to their hives.
Some in the green industry say the dramatic dip in the pollinator population is reaching epidemic proportions and are asking that people pay attention to some small, but very important steps they can take to make a difference.
There is something you can do.
First and foremost, plant for the pollinators. What does this mean exactly? It means that you plant flowers that are rich in nectar and pollen. And it doesn’t have to be a lot to make a difference!
According to a study out of Arizona, groups or communities of bees have been able to sustain themselves with the wildflowers growing in small vacant city lots.
Start with a pollen- and nectar-rich window box or containers. We’ll get to varieties in just a bit, but the great thing about window boxes and containers is that you can place them in areas that make it easy to observe activity. There’s something really rewarding about seeing honeybees, Monarchs, moths, even hummingbirds hover over something you planted.
There’s a lot of talk about pesticides and which ones are safe. The truth is, an organic approach, especially when it comes to food, is both safer and more effective in the long-term.
But if you do use pesticides, be sure not to apply them to open blossoms or when bees or other pollinators are nearby. You also want to apply carefully and selectively, being sure to ask an expert at your local garden center if you need advice.
You can also give wildlife a place to nest, hide from predators and take shelter from weather. We love wooded areas that are left natural, tall grasses, lush evergreens and other plants and natural material. These things also help gather food and water for pollinators, something that will help attract and sustain them.
Black & Blue Salvia
We’ve always thought of a garden as a place full of life. Planting for pollinators and wildlife is a way to plant for the future. And a beautiful one at that.