National Pollinator Week
Have you ever seen a huge bumblebee searching through a yellow peony flower looking for pollen? Or have you ever seen a swarm of bees on white or purple clover? The sound that they make is hard to describe yet very fascinating!
Last week was the National Pollinator week in the United States. This is the time for those of us who garden and those of us who do not garden to consider the habitat and potential loss of our pollinators and what it could do to the food sources for humans and animals alike. As many of us know, the numbers of native and domestic pollinators is at risk from human’s use of habitat as well as chemicals. While we often think of native pollinators as insects that fly about, most of the 4,000 pollinators that we have in the US are native ground nesting or also nesting in dead twigs of plants. Bumblebees tend to be my favorite insect mostly because they can fly when it seems that how their bodies are not suited for flight. Sweat bees are also another bee that we will see quite a bit in our area along with hover flies. These are the little guys that seem to be able to hover in front of our faces while we wonder what their intentions really are.
There are of course other pollinators that are just as important as bees are. We can’t forget the jewels of the pollinators: butterflies. And there are also bats, moths, birds, and other insects such as flies and beetles.
There are three things that pollinators need that are the same needs that humans have to survive. This includes: food, water and shelter. These areas must connect to each other so that these insects do not have to struggle to find their essential needs in order to survive. We often call these pathways or corridors. The pollinators can follow these corridors to go from area to area, pollinating as they go. You will often see beekeepers place their colonies next to wide open spaces, with plenty of flowering plants and water.
In our area it important to make sure that there is a food source from about March until November for the pollinators to use. In our area, the food sources are most often bulb flowering plants such as anemones and also trees or shrubs that flower early in the season. For butterflies, it is also important to have host plants for them to lay their eggs onto the plant material. These are often not the same plants that they will visit for food. Sunflowers, beardtongue, violets, hackberry trees, and wild plum trees are a few good examples. For many of us, we know that milkweed plants (there are several different varieties native to Minnesota) are the most important food source for Monarch butterflies and they also serve as host for these beautiful butterflies.
For more information on pollinators, please visit pollinator.org or go to the U of M Extension webpage https://extension.umn.edu/lawns-and-landscapes/flowers-pollinators for more information on pollinators and what kind of plants they like best! The U of M has a great online questionnaire to help residents determine how pollinator friendly your growing space is and it also give suggestions on how to improve it.
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