Pollinators are responsible for the survival of about 75 percent of the flowering plants and 75 percent of the crops around the globe. Without pollinators such as hummingbirds, bats, moths, bees, beetles, flies, and butterflies, life as we know it could not continue.
Threats to Pollinators
Sadly, pollinators face many threats. First of all, their habitats–the places they go to feed, rest, and reproduce–are being destroyed. As roadways, lawns, and crop fields replace natural areas with their native pollen and nectar plants, pollinators have fewer and fewer familiar places to go. For the pollinators who migrate seasonally the loss of habitat means they have to travel longer distances between resting places, making it harder for them to survive their already arduous trips.
Pesticides are another problem. They are designed to kill pests, but they often kill plants and animals that aren’t pests. Pesticides kill pollinators themselves as well as some of the plants they depend on.
Some pollinators face particular threats. Bats, for example, are dying from white-nose syndrome. More than one million hibernating bats have died from this fungal disease in the past three or four years. And the population of honey bees has declined nearly 50 percent in the last 50 years, at least in part because of mites and diseases.
The Pollinator-Friendly Garden
Gardeners can help pollinators survive by creating pollinator-friendly habitats in their own backyards.
You can make a few simple choices that will turn your garden into an oasis for pollinators.
Provide pollen and nectar sources throughout the growing season by planting flowers that bloom at different times of the year.
- Plant flowers in clumps rather than singly or in rows.
- Select plants that are known to attract pollinators in your area. Many of these will be native plants. You can learn what pollinator-friendly plants grow in your part of the country from the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) and the Pollinator Partnership.
- To attract different types of pollinators choose flowers with a variety of flower shapes and colors. NAPPC also has a guide to the types of flowers that appeal to the different pollinators, at: Guide to Attracting Different Pollinators with Native Flowers.
In addition to planting flowers that attract pollinators, you can take other steps to bring pollinators to your garden, such as:
- Installing bat houses and bee nesting blocks.
- Keeping a source of fresh water.
- Keeping a patch of ground bare and undisturbed, preferably facing south.
- Leaving a dead tree or limb in wooded areas as natural nesting spots.
- Avoiding use of pesticides in and around the house.
Want to learn more about attracting pollinators to your garden?
Many people and organizations are aware of the serious threat to pollinators, and are taking steps to educate the public and protect the endangered pollinators. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an entire website devoted to pollinators. You can find great information, plus links to related sites at The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Polinators website.