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Friday, May 6, 2016

Remember the 'pollinators'

Thursday, June 2, 2011

So maybe you don't even like chocolate.

What about apples, blueberries, strawberries, almonds, melons and peaches? If fall is one of your favorite seasons, could you imagine it without pumpkins? A world without pollinators would be a world without apples, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate, almonds, melons, peaches or pumpkins.

Three-fourths of the world's flowering plants depend on pollinators to reproduce. Most fruit, vegetable, and seed cops -- and other plants that provide fiber, medicine and fuel -- are pollinated by animals.

Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and beetles and other insects.

How does this happen?

Pollinators visit flowers in their search for food (nectar and pollen).

During a flower visit, a pollinator may accidentally brush against the flower's reproductive parts, unknowingly depositing pollen from a different flower.

The plant then uses the pollen to produce a fruit or seed.

Many plants cannot reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging (the act of searching for food) pollinators.

Pollinators are in trouble. Bees, bats and other animal pollinators face many challenges in the modern world.

Habitat loss, disease, parasites, and environmental contaminants have all contributed to the decline of many species of pollinators.

So, why am I worried about this? Remember: Actions have impacts.

You can help.

Provide food and habitat for pollinators to help them thrive. Here are some simple things you can do:

* Use pollinator-friendly plants in your landscape. Shrubs and trees such as dogwood, blueberry, cherry, plum, willow and poplar provide pollen or nectar, or both, early in spring when food is scarce,

* Choose a mixture of plants for spring, summer and fall. Different flower colors, shapes and scents will attract a wide variety of pollinators,

* Reduce or eliminate pesticide use in your landscape, or incorporate plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control. If you use pesticides, use them sparingly and responsibly,

* Accept some plant damage on plants meant to provide habitat for butterfly and moth larvae,

* Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, bowl or birdbath with half-submerged stones for perches,

* Leave dead tree trunks in your landscape for wood-nesting bees and beetles,

* Support land conservation in your community by helping to create and maintain community gardens and green spaces to ensure that pollinators have appropriate habitat,

* Purchase a rain barrel or two so you can collect rainwater for use when watering your plants that attract these pollinators. These can be purchased at your local Clay County Soil and Water Conservation District Office for $65,

* Composters can be purchased as well. Composting enriches the soil thus helping plants for pollinators thrive. Composters can also be purchased for $115, and

* Learn more online or contact your local Cooperative Extension Service Office (www.nifa.usda.gov/Extension/index.html) or U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service Office (www.nrcs.usda.gov) for more information about selecting plants for particular pollinators.

They Clay County USDA NRCS Office is located at 955 W. Craig Ave., Brazil, Ind., or you can contact the office by calling 448-1108 Ext. 3.

Let's take the honey bee for example. This pollinator alone contributes to the production of many billions of dollars worth of crops in America every year.

Curious about the different types of pollinators you are trying to "bee" friends with? Here is a small list and some information about each:

* Bees. They are the main pollinators for fruits and vegetables. There are more than 4,000 species of bees native to North America. They nest underground, in twigs and debris, or in dead trees,

* Butterflies and Moths. Nectar-seeking butterflies are daytime garden visitors and moths are their nocturnal counterpart. These popular creatures pollinate many plants,

* Birds, Bats and Hummingbirds. They are the most common avian pollinators in the continental United States. These tiny wonders prefer tubular flowers in bright, warm colors -- especially red. Two species of bat are major pollinators in the Southwest, and

* Beetles and other insects. There are many thousands of beetle species -- in fact, 40 percent of all insects are beetles. Flies and other insects are common flower visitors and pollinators.

So why, you ask, did I start this off talking about life without chocolate? Midges are small flies.

Two species of midge are the only known pollinators of cacao trees, which produce the beans from which chocolate is made.

By not taking action, we could impact this species.

I really don't want to imagine life without chocolate, apples, blueberries, strawberries, almonds, melons, peaches or pumpkins.

Take action by providing food and habitat for pollinators.

Your impact will help them thrive.