No bees, no food.
Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s not too much of a stretch because a good amount of our food supply depends upon pollinating insects, like bees and butterflies.
It’s good to see many news reports are addressing the decline in the populations of pollinators. Hopefully, people will become more aware and do something about the problem.
Eighty-seven percent of the worlds’ 124 most commonly cultivated crops are pollinated by insects or other creatures, according to the Department of Natural Resources. More than 80 percent of the world’s 250,000 or more flowering plants depend on animals for pollination. In fact, more than one-third of the world’s food supply comes from foods made possible by the pollination of bees.
Some of the most commonly known pollinator-dependent foods are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, tomatoes, peppers, apples, melons, sunflowers, plums, squash, canola and pumpkins. There are many, many more. Our diets would be dreary without the work these pollinators unwittingly do.
In a nutshell, bees are our friends.
In recent years, there has been an alarming decrease in numbers of butterflies, honey bees, birds and bats. Last year was an all-time low for the number of migrating Monarch butterflies. Those worrisome losses are attributed to shrinking habitats, use of pesticides, diseases, parasites and the spread of invasive species.
But it’s not time, yet, to despair. There are things everybody can do to help our pollinating friends, right at home.
Here is a list of suggestions from the DNR:
• Avoid or minimize use of pesticides.
• Plant native wildflowers and grasses that have lots of blooming flowers. Use a wide range of colors and shapes of wildflowers. Flower diversity is very attractive to pollinators of all kinds.
• Plant at least three plant species that can bloom in spring, summer and fall. Early-blooming and late-blooming plants are especially valuable for the survival of pollinating creatures.
• Reduce tillage
• Avoid plastic ground-cover sheeting because some bees rely on ground-nesting.
• Delay mowing grassy meadows or roadsides in order to leave some habitat for pollinators.
• Provide warm-season, clumping grasses for bumblebee nest sites.
• Avoid swatting at bees. Let them be. Flailing and swatting makes them mad and increases the chance you will be stung.
For more information on how to help protect our pollinating friends, please visit the following website: www.mndnr.gov/roadsidesforwildlife, then click on “Pollinators and Roadsides.”