If you’ve ever sat quietly in a garden, you may have noticed an unmistakable buzz. Vibrant and constant, this buzz is the hum of a healthy garden – a garden made possible because of pollinators.
Pollinators are animals that move pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part. The pollen fertilizes the plant, and only a fertilized plant can make fruit and seeds, without which a plant cannot reproduce. Although we’re all familiar with bees and hummingbirds, pollinators include a vast array of unique species, like bats, butterflies, beetles, moths and even lemurs.
We all have a fond appreciation for honey, but there are many other reasons why our pollinators make life sweet. In fact, one out of every three bites you eat is thanks to the bees, beetles, hummingbirds and bats. And roughly 1,000 plants grown for food worldwide rely on pollinators. In the US, this accounts for $40 billion of food annually. Fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs and spices – there’s a lot that we owe to these hardworking aviators.
Our food supply is not the only thing that makes these creatures amazing. Besides being the hardest workers in the garden, there’s a lot more to pollinators than meets the eye:
- Honey Bees fly at 15 miles per hour and usually travel 3 miles from their hive.
- Bumble Bees flap their wings 200 times per second, a similar RPM to motorcycle engines.
- One pound of honey requires the colony to visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles, and is the life’s work of around 768 bees.
- Butterfly wings get their color from millions of overlapping scales.
- There are more than 4,300 kinds of Ladybugs around the world.
- Bats use echolocation to see in the dark, making noises and listening for the noise to echo back to determine if objects lie ahead.
- Hummingbirds are the only group of birds able to fly backwards.
We need our pollinators. Our ecosystems and our food, but also our fascination have an essential need for these animals. But they need us as much as we need them. Right now 9% of our bee and butterfly population and 16% of our vertebrate population is at risk. While we still do not understand the primary cause, we do know that aggressive agricultural practices, pesticides and climate change have put undue pressure on our pollinators.¹
It’s time to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between us and our pollinators, and to do our part to protect their livelihood and our own. Here are a few ways you can do your part at home:
- Opt for a garden instead of grass. Mowing the lawn is overrated and there’s nothing like a buzzing garden to bring your backyard alive. Plant native plants, with a preference on single bud flowers.
- Install houses for bats and native bees. These are exactly the kind of houseguests you want. Bats will even take care of the pesky mosquitoes that keep you inside during the summer months.
- Reduce or eliminate pesticide use. After all, if you plant native flowers and turn your lawn over to the bees, you won’t need these chemicals.
- Supply a salt or mineral lick, as well as small amounts of water, for butterflies and bees. They need a place to water down after a hard day’s work!
- Choose organic and locally grown produce whenever possible, and support pollinator friendly companies. At Earth Fare, we make this easy with our new Pollinator Friendly logo at the shelf.