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With arctic air turning America into a giant United Statesicle and most of us reduced to chopping up furniture for heat, it's almost impossible to imagine spring as anything but a cruel fiction. But it will blossom someday, and with those blooms will come all the pollinators we depend upon. Or so we hope.
Fact is, in many places a good pollinator is getting hard to find. Under siege from insecticides, development, climate change, invasive species, and other forces, the bees, bats, butterflies, hummingbirds and other species we depend on to pollinate and produce 80% of Earth's flowers and one out of every three bites of food we eat are disappearing.
Altogether, pollinators supply a whopping $29 billion worth of crops each year in the U.S., and speaking on behalf of a hungry nation, I'm not ready to say goodbye to apples, almonds, or avocados not to mention strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, melons, peaches, pumpkins, peppermint, tomatoes, wine, or any of the other things they provide. The thought of summer's blueberry crop alone is the only thing keeping hope alive in my house at this frigid point.
With some important species having declined over 95% in the last decade, this spring is an excellent time to boost the fortunes of our friendly neighborhood pollinators. And there's plenty we can all do at home to help:
- First and foremost, no insecticides, please. (Obvious, yes, but always worth saying!)
- Second, don't be afraid of bees! Very few species are aggressive. Most are exactly like us - they just want to be left alone to mind their affairs without trouble. Treat them respectfully, as friends not enemies, and you'll co-exist quite peacefully.
- Plant locally native species around your home to provide the food sources your growing zone's pollinators need. Use the BeeSmart app to identify your top regional options.
- Remember that nature always knows best so consider letting parts of your yard "go wild" and return to their natural state.
- Grow flowering plant species with different colors, shapes, and blooming times to provide plenty of attractive choices for different pollinators throughout your growing season.
- Plant in clumps, which attract more pollinators than single standalone plants.
- If you're not in a drought zone, keep gardens well-watered so they produce more nectar.
- Mow your grass less often so pollinator favorites like daisies, clover and other wildflowers can grow through and bloom.
- Don't just feed pollinators. Shelter them by putting up some bat houses and bee nests.
- Leave dead tree trunks standing for wood-nesting bees.
- Supply some water. Pollination is thirsty work so set out a shallow birdbath-like bowl with some water and floating wine corks and/or half submerged stones.
The last we can do is the simplest: Share this information with your family and friends. If everyone is buzzing about pollinators, we'll make a real difference, and no matter how ugly winter may get, we'll always have a spring full of flowers and other vernal fruits to enjoy.
About the Inkslinger
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds.
Photo by Tamera Ferro