Pollinators, like bees and birds, help pollinate the very plants that feed our communities
According to National Geographic, “Pollination occurs when pollen is moved within flowers or carried from flower to flower by pollinating animals such as birds, bees, butterflies, moths, or other animals, or by the wind.” When pollen is carried between flowers of and in the same species, it leads to fertilization. In terms of plants, this means it’s possible for seed and fruit products to occur. The pollination process ensures that full-bodied fruit and a full set of viable seeds will happen.
Pollinators are in trouble
Scientist suggest evidence reveal there’s a world-wide disturbance amongst pollinators who have suffered from the following:
- Loss of habitat
- Chemical misuse
- Introduced and invasive plant and animal species
- Disease and parasites
Like bats and bees, many pollinators are now listed on the federally “listed species,” which shows a significant disappearance of that species in natural areas. In Fact, the US has lost well over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies over the past ten years. Unfortunately, due to a lack of research, we don’t know too much about our pollen-passing-friends. In contrast, European countries have set aside over $20 million investigating the status of pollinators in Europe.
It’s essential to do our research, understand, and share some of the key players in our neck of the woods. And fortunately for you, we’ve gathered up a few key-pollinator members to introduce to you:
Meet a few of them now and what puts them at risk:
With more than 250 species, bumblebee bees like to fill the baskets on their legs with pollen and bring it back to their hives. Inadvertently, these busybodies carry pollen on their soft abdomens from one flower to another.
A sweet honey treat from the Farmer’s Market most likely began with the help of a honey bee. Did you know that commercial honey bees are transported thousands of miles to help create some of our favorite snacks? Some take the long journey to pollinate for Michigan’s cherry trees or California’s almond trees. Honey bees help grow kidney beans, coffee, strawberries, avocados, and walnuts.
In the past twenty years, managed-honey bee numbers have crashed, partly due to colony collapse disorder which occurs to the sudden loss of colony worker bees. These busybodies are necessary to keep the colony alive. Meanwhile, scientists claim bumble bees in Northern America and Europe are dwindling rapidly. While the reason for the loss of bees is complicated, climate change, insufficient nesting resources, food supply, pesticides, disease, and parasites are likely contributors.
As ambassadors of nature, these fluttering favorites are tiny yet mighty! Making a significant migratory journey from Mexico to Candida, Monarchs are quite legendary, even here in Texas. Gulf fritillary butterflies use nectar from many native Texan flowers, such as the passionflower. This familiar flower is hung beautifully on display in Georgetown, TX. “Bee” sure to check it out while grabbing lunch at Monument Cafe.
Whether it’s promoting pollinators by taking Winged pictures in Leander or putting colorful plants in the backyard, these beauties need our help. Our butterfly’s pollinators’ survival stands threatened due to loss of habitat and plant diversity, climate change, agrochemical pollutants, and invasive species.
From hummingbirds to honeycreepers, the United States relies on colorful crooners to help spread pollen in our wildflowers. Soaring from brightly colored flowers to the next, these “tweeters” help stabilize our ecosystem while enjoying red, yellow, and orange colors.
Climate change, pesticides, and glass window strikes from tall buildings are on the list because birds are not making it as they once would. Especially if outdoor house cats find entertainment in our pollinator bird friends, they tend to raise their mortality rate by ruffling more than a few feathers.
Bats are often misunderstood and tend to get a bad rap for carrying disease, but they’re mostly harmless to humans. In fact, many people favor bat feces as fertilizer! They’re naturals at pest control, consuming large amounts of harmful agricultural insects and bugs each year. Not only do bats keep pests off plants, but they also help pollinate and spread seeds. Many Texan bats, like the Mexican Free-tail bat, love bright white or light-colored flowers.
Recently, millions of bats have died due to a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome in bats who live in caves during winter.
What can you do today to protect and promote pollinators?
Pollinators are more attracted to and can “best” adapt to local, native plants, which often need less water anyways. When planting at home or in the community garden, look for Texas native plants that help produce nectar and larval food for pollinators. Not sure what to plant in Central Texas? Check here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Make a day of it and stroll through the beautiful gardens and discover which plants would best be suited for your little garden slice of pollinator heaven.
Here are a few other suggestions on where to buy flowering plants in Williamson County:
- McIntire’s Garden Center (Georgetown)
- Red Barn Garden Center (Leander)
- Round Rock Gardens (Round Rock)
To “buzz” up a conversation, tell them about the article you’re reading and help spread the word!
Welcome bees home by making Bee Hotels: Bees don’t know where to live, can you help? Most of them are spending their time trying to make a home in ground nests, while others live in grass or tree limbs.
Here are some fun DIY videos to get you started:
If you want to start small and easy, include the kiddos on a weekend build for the bees, check out the video link below.
Reduce your impact!
Purchase local, organic food and reduce your consumption by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
Supply mineral licks for butterflies
Attract magic to the garden by providing a salt lick for butterflies and bees. You’ll want to mix a small amount of sea salt or wood ashes and place them in a shallow puddle in the garden (or sheltered area). This provides valuable minerals to our free-flying friends!
Splish, splash! Let’s make a bath
No matter what Pinterest says, don’t use glass in the garden to make a birdbath. We’ve all seen this, right? Place sea-salted sponges in birdbaths to provide additional food sources and freshwater to our pollinators—Brownie points for keeping the water clean by changing the water often.
Ditch the lawn, plant flowers
Make the most of the lawn by planting more flower beds and veggie gardens. If you want to keep it cool, maybe try it mullet style. Business in the front, party in the back if you don’t want the neighbors to see your wild side!
Whatever you do, do something!
Bees and other pollinators help define our entire ecosystem. Without them, the ecosystem would be substantially different or cease to exist altogether. Pollinators are vital to global economies and food supply.
Get to know people within our community who care
It might be through local conservation groups, community gardens, or volunteering at the Farmer’s market. With the dramatic decline in insects and other pollinators, it’s essential we do our part as a community. Be sure to spread the word about pollinators and why they matter.