I love celebrations, especially when they involve food, and a very important celebration is coming soon.
National Pollinator Week is June 15-21. At first glance, pollinators may not seem worthy of celebration. Who thinks of pollinators when visiting the grocery store?
In reality, the selection in the produce section would be scarce without them. Roughly one third of the world’s agricultural crops rely on pollinators. A world without pollinators would be a world without apples, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate, almonds, melons, peaches, pumpkins and a whole lot more!
Pollination is the movement of pollen from the male part of the flower, called the anther, to the female part of the flower, called the pistil. This transfer of pollen in and between flowers of the same species leads to fertilization and successful seed and fruit production for plants.
Some plants are wind-pollinated, such as grasses, small grain crops and conifers. But almost 90 percent of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators for fertilization.
About 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators, including bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, along with often-maligned creatures such as ants, moths, bats, flies, mice and beetles.
I love pawpaws, a tree which depends on fruit flies, ants, carrion flies and beetles for pollination.
And for all of you chocolate addicts, two species of midges (which are small flies) are the only known pollinators of cacao trees, which produce the beans from which chocolate is made.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, tequila exists thanks to bat pollination. The nocturnal aviators help fertilize the agave plant, the source of tequila. Bats also pollinate more than 300 species of fruit, including mangoes, bananas and guavas.
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service estimates pollinators’ ecological service is valued at $200 billion each year just in America and that about 90 percent of our vitamin C comes from insect-pollinated plants. It is easy to be a pollinator supporter, no matter where you live.
Here are some tips:
• Use pollinator friendly plants in your landscape. Choose a mixture of plants for spring, summer and fall that will provide different flower colors, shapes and scents to help attract a wide variety of pollinators. Trees such as maples, willows and redbuds provide food at critical times, as do herbs such as oregano, basil and lavender.
• Reduce pesticide use and incorporate plants that attract beneficial insects for pest control. If you need to use pesticides, strictly follow all label directions. If the label lists a caution to avoid actively visiting bees, then apply before dawn or after sunset. If the caution says to avoid visiting bees, do not apply on blooming flowers.
• Provide clean water for pollinators with a shallow dish, bowl or birdbath with half-submerged stones for perches.
• Accept some plant damage on those plants meant to provide habitat for butterfly and moth larvae. For example, black swallowtail caterpillars feed on parsley and dill.
These are only a hint at the many options available to us. Visit www.pollinator.org to enter your ZIP code and access the free “Selecting Plants for Pollinators.”
Bees are the main pollinators for fruits and vegetables and www.feedabee.com offers information on bees and a free seed packet of bee-attracting flowers.
OSU Extension has several publications which you can download at http://ohioline.osu.edu.
Specific caterpillar requirements for butterflies and moths can be found at www.wildlife.ohiodnr.gov.
Start planning now for your own personal celebration of National Pollinator Week this month.
Visit Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District at www.delawareswcd.org or stop by our office at 557-A Sunbury Road in Delaware.