Ask A Naturalist: How can I help pollinators?

August 04, 2020

Written by Kristen Angelini

butterfly on flower 

Photo Credit:

"Butterfly 57" by Christa R. is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

Learn

During pollination, sticky pollen from flowering plants stick to the bodies of pollinating animals and is then carried from one plant to another. This significant process allows flowering plants to reproduce. When someone hears the word “pollinator,” the first animal that may pop into their head is generally the bee. While bees are the most economically important pollinators responsible for most fruits and vegetables, there are many more pollinators benefiting our plants than we think. Some other important pollinators consist of insects such as butterflies, wasps, flies, moths, beetles. As well as birds, such as hummingbirds, and mammals such as bats. Even some lizards and small mammals living in other parts of the world can be pollinators!

Animals pollinate about 87% of flowering plants. This includes wildflowers and plants used by humans for food and medication. Plants and animals have been co-evolving for millions of years, and while some flowers are generalists and can be visited by many species, others have adapted to co-exist with specific animals. Often overlooked, about 9% of mammals and birds are thought to pollinate plants. Even humans pollinate without even knowing it! As we walk, pollen we step on gets stuck to our shoes, eventually falls off, and can help pollinate plants as we stroll by.

Bat flying from agave Photo Credit: 

"Agave desmettiana and bats" by Marlon Machado is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


Unfortunately, many species of pollinators are in rapid decline. Here are some tips on how you can help:

  1. Reduce your impact. Reduce or eliminate your pesticide use, increase green spaces, and minimize urbanization. Pollution and climate change affect pollinators, too! 
  2. Plant for pollinators. Create pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes. For information on what to plant in your area, download a free eco-regional guide online at www.pollinator.org
  3. Tell a friend. Educate your neighbors, schools, and community groups about the importance of pollinators. Host a dinner, a pollinated food cook-off or other event and invite your friends. 
  4. Join the Pollinator Partnership! Go to www.pollinator.org and click on “Get Involved.” Be part of a growing community of pollinator supporters.

Create

Create your own game to learn how pollination works or try this fun pollination activity at home! Click to play.

flower made from a bowl filled with chesse purrs Photo from Annette Whipple.com. Click the image to see her fun activity!

Activate

Walk around your home or neighborhood and discover what pollinators are living in your area. Consider planting flowers and other plants to help your local pollinators keep the ecosystem running smoothly!

More Resources 

When you think about pollinators what comes to mind? For many of us, bees will be first on the list.

Learn about the many different kinds of pollinators common to urban environments!

Check out some suprising pollinators around the world!