What are pollinators?
Pollinators are insects, birds, and other animals that transport pollen between plants. This is how many plants reproduce, making pollination an essential part of biological diversity and protecting these plants from reducing populations, and eventual extinction.
Which animals pollinate?
Bees, butterflies, and fruit bats are all pollinators, as well as many other insects and some small birds and mammals.
Why does it matter?
While pollination is often associated with flowers, many more plants require pollination. One-third of the entire human diet is dependent on, or assisted by, pollination. This includes fruits such as apples, strawberries, avocados, and pears, vegetables such as onions, and carrots, and other foods like beans, nuts, peppers, and even coffee. If pollinators go away, it will be harder to grow food to feed us and our families.
There are other plants that benefit from pollination as well. Pollination aids plants used for medicines, as well as fibers and edible oils. So pollinators are important for food production, healthcare, and other things that increase our overall quality of life.
What’s the problem?
Pollinators are decreasing in population due to many factors connected to interaction with humans. Pollinators have lost much of their natural habitat, and the use of most pesticides unintentionally harms them. As a result, many pollinators are now considered threatened species.
How can I help from home?
There are at least three things you can do in your own backyards to help pollinators survive right here in Indiana.
- Build a bee house. Some bees, like mason bees, make their homes in wood rather than in nests. They often look for holes in wood that are already available, and are unable to burrow out their own space. With urban sprawl and tree loss, finding a suitable home becomes increasingly difficult, so providing a space in your backyard can be very helpful. Click here for instructions on how to build a bee house of your own from home.
- Plant a pollinator garden. Pollinators need a variety of nectar and pollen sources, so having access to a diverse garden of plants that bloom throughout the year is important for them. Click here for information on how to plant a diverse pollinator garden.
- Restrict pesticide use. While pesticides might be useful for gardening, they are harmful to pollinators. When pollinators come in contact with a plant that has pesticide on it, the animal is poisoned and frequently dies as a result. Limiting or even restricting use of pesticides around your home will help more bees, butterflies, and other pollinators survive and thrive.
As alternatives to pesticide use, try planting aromatic herbs in your garden to repel insect pests. Rosemary and mint, for example, repel many pests. You can also help by buying organic fruits and vegetables whenever they are available to reduce chemical pesticides.
- Love them! Appreciate what these fascinating creatures do for us, and remember that if you ever see any of them up close. If you’re in their natural habitat, you can admire them, but let them be. Butterflies especially can be harmed by even the most delicate hands. If you find them in your natural habitat, try to help them find a way out of your home without harming them.