By Ramon Gonzalez, TreeHugger
Pollinators play an important role in the cycle of our gardens, health, and agricultural ecosystems. According to the Pollinator.org website, about 75% of all flowering plant species need the help of pollinators to move pollen grains from plant to plant for fertilization.
An estimated 1/3 of all foods and beverages consumed are helped by pollinators. That accounts for nearly $20 billion worth of products annually in the United States alone.
The majority of pollinators are beneficial insects such as butterflies, bees, beetles, wasps, and ants. A smaller, but equally important role is played by vertebrates such as birds, bats, and various small mammals.
Today marks the start of National Pollinator Week and there are many ways you can celebrate and encourage pollinators where you live.
1. Start a Garden Today
You don’t need a big, expensive, time-consuming garden to create a habitat for pollinators. Start small and grow what will keep you interested in gardening.
Keep it cheap by starting many of your plants from seeds. Earlier this spring I posted a roundup of links of some of my favorite seed companies, and TreeHugger readers chimed in with their 10 favorite seed companies.
Next: making your garden pollinator-friendly
2. Make Your New Garden Pollinator-Friendly
The takeaway from the study that found that honeybees prefer working class gardens is to keep the flower selection simple.
The less complex the flower, the better it is for bees. When you’re buying plants or seeds look for keywords like “old fashioned”¯ and “cottage flower.”
Choose older plant varieties over seed packets labeled “new introduction”¯ and “improved.” New and improved introductions often produce less pollen than their “old-fashioned”¯ counterparts.
Grow plants that attract butterflies and don’t forget to plant some that will become food for caterpillars. Ensure that there’s a water supply for bees and other pollinators in your garden by setting out a pail of water and floating wine corks in the water.
Butterflies and the European honeybee get all the love and headlines, but our native bees play a role in pollination that is often overlooked. Can you tie a few pieces of bamboo stakes together with a string and hang them from a tree branch? You just created a home for native bees and you’re now a native beekeeper.
3. Join a National Pollinator Week Event
There are many events across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico scheduled for this week that you and your family can participate in. Visit the National Pollinator Week event page and click on your state or territory to find a local event you can participate in, or start one in your community.
What are you doing this week to celebrate pollinators?