John Sterling Poole
Helping our Perfect Pollinators
I am going to break my happy-go-lucky tone and attitude this post and really be honest with you: We are in trouble. Now, especially during an election year, we can be told what our next existential threat is and what needs to change to avoid it and it goes on and on and on and on. One thing that is crucial for the continued development of humanity and the natural world will not come up on any debate stages. You will not see any ads on Facebook about this. We are losing pollinators.
With this emergency, however, you can do a good bit to help them out. Pollinators are responsible for the blooming of over 90% of the worlds flowering plants. In terms of foods and consumables, 75% of plants depend upon pollinators for production and health. So, we all have a stake in preserving pollinators.
The common pollinators that we think of are butterflies and bees, but there are actually a good bit more! Hummingbirds (which should be making their way here soon!), wasps, flies, beetles, and bats are all important pollinators in your yard. Providing for hummingbirds is easy and hummingbird populations are relatively stable. As are the bat populations. However, the insects are much more at risk.
What can you do to help them out? First off, plant. Plant flowering plants. Take care of those plants. Make sure they are healthy and that there is nothing preventing that plant from flowering. That draws pollinators in and provides nutrients for them. Having a healthy flowering garden sends ripples throughout the community and can significantly improve pollinators’ lives and population numbers. In a former post, I provided a website that tells you all of the best local plants to provide for the ecosystem in your backyard. Please plant local plants and refer to this post to further improve your yard.
Since so many insects are pollinators, you need to avoid insecticides and pesticides altogether. You should avoid them anyway as they can deeply affect your birds but think bigger for a second. Pollinators are the reason so many different species eat, including us! There are some natural insect repellent you can put out and some other natural practices. Citronella and/or rosemary are natural mosquito repellents so consider put them out on your porch instead of spraying your yard with an insecticide (also rosemary will change your cooking game for the better!). These insecticides and pesticides have ramifications that are hard to realize in the moment but on a greater scale, they are truly detrimental to our wildlife.
If you were to better maintain insect populations, you could help the other, larger pollinators drastically. Hummingbirds love small insects and a healthier insect population means more hummingbirds which means more pollen spread! Bats work the same way. Now you may ask yourself, “this man just told me to increase bug numbers, but now he is wanting me to bring in things that will eat the bugs!” What I am asking if for natural processes to remain natural. Luckily, hummingbirds and bats will not eat the honeybees which are one of my favorite pollinators.
These bees are incredible in their complexity, but their function in our world is much needed. Flowering plants will help these bees maintain healthy populations. Avoiding pesticides helps maintain stable populations. What else can you do? Believe it or not, you can offer some houses for them! Wild Birds Unlimited Mt. Pleasant has a simple house that can be hung really anywhere that gives the bees protection from the elements but also encourages hive construction. It is divided up with several small wooden tunnels within which the bees can hide out in for protection, but also, female bees can lay eggs in the tunnels. There are some other houses/structures you can find that also offer the same features to help bee populations. Some people avoid these bees or are afraid of them, but they do not sting you. I repeat, they do not sting.
Lastly, you can promote butterfly populations by offering both feeders and houses. The feeders are a lot like hummingbird feeders in their design and the formula for the nectar is the same (4 parts water to one part sugar). These feeders typically use wicks which soak up the nectar which the butterflies can then suck on with their incredibly long tongues. Additionally, some feeders allow banana slices to be impaled unto small prods. Butterflies can slowly eat these thin slices and greatly benefit the butterfly. Houses are a little different though. “House” is not the right word for them although that is what they are labeled/marketed as. “Shelter” is much more accurate word. Butterflies are not homebodies, but they do seek warm, dry places when the weather takes a turn. We all know how sensitive butterflies are, so imagine the detriment that the weather can bring upon them. They would use them shelter, as will several other insects, when the weather threatens the survival of a butterfly. NOTE: While on the subject, people love monarch butterflies and want to help them out. They plant milkweed to draw them in. Please do your research before doing this. Since monarchs are endangered, there are actually a lot more requirements and a lot more upkeep than you may think when preserving a monarch colony.
All of these tips can help you better encourage your pollinator populations and we all need to make a better effort of helping our pollinators. We rely too much on them to not put our effort in to help them out. Wild Birds Unlimited is glad to now be a partner of the National Wildlife Federation which does great work in helping pollinators grow and flourish. If you would learn more about the National Wildlife Federation, go to this website! Happy gardening!