The Undeniable Importance of Pollinators
1 in every 3 mouthfuls of the food and drink we consume requires pollination.
On June 17, Boulder Community Alliance sponsored the informational forum “Attracting Pollinators with Plants for Food and Habitat Health” presented by NRCS Biologist, Casey Burns. Boulder Town was well represented with thirty individuals in attendance. The presentation provided Boulder residents with some helpful tips on how to attract native pollinators to our gardens, farms, and ranches.
Casey explained that 1 in every 3 mouthfuls of the food and drink we consume requires pollination. And this is only a conservative estimate. If we factor in the entire food chain, even more of our food requires pollination prior to reaching our bellies. For example, milk often comes from cows who were fed alfalfa, which requires pollination.
70% of flowering plants require an insect to move this pollen. Casey illustrated that in China, due to the massive absence of pollinators, human apple farm workers use cigarette filters to move pollen from one flower to the next, a process that is economically impossible here in America. Why pay Homo sapiens to do the work that pollinators—such as butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, bats, and, most importantly, bees—are naturally evolved to accomplish?
Attracting native pollinators—specifically diverse, native bees—leads to an increase in farm production and efficiency and the development of higher quality food products.
Casey Burns’ Tips on Attracting, Protecting, and Utilizing Native Pollinators
1) Protect Pollinators from Pesticides
Avoid using insecticides. If you must use insecticides, read the label carefully, minimize use, and read “How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides”. Remember, organic pesticides are not necessarily safe for bees.
2) Provide shelter
Roughly 70% of native solitary bee species nest underground. Although native bumblebees and feral honeybees gather in hives, the majority of our native bees live solitary lives in underground tunnels that, from above ground, resemble ant nests.
To attract and keep these bees near your crops:
The remaining 30% of native solitary bees next in wood tunnels. It is possible to build tunnels for these bees if natural habitat is lacking in your area.
3) Provide ample food
Pollinators need to eat throughout the spring, summer, and fall, so it is important to include plants on the landscape that bloom at different times of year. It is important to manage for plants that exist and seed or plant if they don’t. Beneficial plants for the Boulder area include:
For more information on purchasing seeds and designing a pollinator friendly landscape contact:
Utah State Biologist
For more in-depth information, read the following publications:
Check out the BeeSmart Pollinator Gardener phone app at http://pollinator.org/beesmartapp.htm