The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that will help to save pollinators across the United States.
When we think of pollinators we immediately think of honey bees and butterflies, but did you know that birds, flies, moths, bats, hummingbirds, wild bees and beetles are also pollinators? While honey bees get all the press, recent research shows that wild bees are more important because they are more efficient and pollinate more food products.
All pollinators are instrumental in moving pollen within flowers, or carrying it from flower to flower. This leads to fertilization, and ensures that a plant will produce fruit and set viable seeds. Over 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices and medicines need to be pollinated.
There are some alarming statistics that worldwide pollinators have suffered loss of habitat, diseases and parasites, and some are completely disappearing from natural areas. The United States has lost over 50% of managed honeybee colonies over the past ten years!
We can help pollinators by:
Providing shelter and sites for nesting and roosting by creating different canopy layers in the landscape by planting trees, shrubs and different size perennials. 65% of wild bees are ground nesters, so create nesting sites by building an uncovered compost pile, but leave some areas of soil uncovered to provide easy access to underground tunnels.
Provide water with natural and manmade water features such as pools, ponds, bird baths and other containers. Use containers with shallow or sloping sides, and add a large rock or sand to create perches where they can safely sip without fear of drowning.
Provide food for pollinators. Allow the dandelions and clover to grow in the lawn, and plant native trees, shrub, and flowers. Non-native plants may produce fruit that is not able to be consumed by local pollinators. Check into specific food sources for pollinators you want to invite into your garden (like milkweed for Monarchs or pipevine for Swallowtails).
Avoid using pesticides that are toxic to pollinators. Nancy Payne of Habitat Landscape suggests using Bt and MicroGrow organic products in place of chemicals.
The Pollinator Partnership is sponsoring the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. This nationwide organization promotes the protection of pollinators and offer great educational resources for individuals, teachers and groups. Also on their website (www.pollinator.org) is information on how you can celebrate National Pollinator Week June 19-25, 2017.
Every individual can make a difference. Plant a flower and take a pollinator to lunch!