Thursday, July 27, 2017
By Susan McMann
OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer
Without the pollinators, we wouldn’t have much to look at – or eat.
Pollinators, including bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, wasps, flies, beetles, and even some bats are responsible for assisting over 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants, and over three-quarters of the staple crop plants that feed humankind.
Pollinators are at risk. In many areas of the country and in Ohio, pollinators are in decline.
The loss of Ohio’s nonnative honey bees has been widely publicized in recent years. Many of Ohio’s native bees, including bumble bees, are disappearing.
More than 150 food crops in the U.S. depend on pollinators, including almost all fruit and grain crops.
The USDA estimated that crops dependent on pollination are worth more than $10 billion per year.
Many wildflowers rely on only a few species of pollinators in order to bloom and produce seed for the future.
Habitat loss harms pollinators. We can help pollinators by creating a pollinator-friendly landscape around our homes and workplaces.
For example, a bundle of hollow sticks hanging from a tree limb can provide a bee home. Bee condos can be built by drilling holes of varying diameter about 3 to 5” deep in a piece of scrap lumber mounted to a post or under eaves.
We can help sustain the pollinators by planting flowers, vegetables and trees that supply vital nectar and pollen. Here are a few tips:
Pollinators need a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring into late fall. Help pollinators find them by planting in clumps rather than single plants. Include native plants that are adapted to our local climate, soil and pollinators.
Night-blooming flowers will support moths and bats.
Before planting a flower, be sure it is on the list that provides adequate pollen and nectar.
If you want colorful butterflies, grow plants for the caterpillars. They will eat the leaves, so place them where unsightly leaf damage can be tolerated.
Create a damp salt lick for butterflies and bees. Use a dripping hose, drip irrigation line, or place your bird bath on bare soil to create a damp area. Mix a small bit of sea salt or wood ashes into the mud.
Try putting out slices of overripe bananas, oranges and other fruits, or a sponge in a dish of lightly sea salted water and watch which butterflies come to investigate.
Hang a hummingbird feeder. Clean feeder with hot soapy water at least twice a week.
Use pesticides sparingly (even the ones that are labeled organic). Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM), by following protocol in identifying the pest, determining the level of damage and using other options before choosing to use a pesticide. Be sure to read and follow the label for any pesticide.
For a list of pollinator-friendly plants, go to http://go.osu.edu/pollinatorplants.
For a factsheet on attracting pollinators, go to http://go.osu.edu/attractive.