Fun fact: pollinators are responsible for bringing us one out of every 3 bites of food. Not so fun fact: pollinator populations are declining globally, due to major issues like habitat loss, pesticides, invasive species. Big problems for pollinators means big problems for the foods we eat. June is National Pollinator Month, a time to spread awareness about the challenges pollinators face, and what we can do to support them.
While there are over 100,000 different pollinators on earth, one of the most visible pollinators are, of course, bees. We’ve got a particular affinity for bees, as they produce one of our most treasured superfoods: bee pollen, the nutrient-packed morsels found inside Tropical Zing.
Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are all super important pollinators that can thrive in your yard, with a little help. Here are four tips from the National Wildlife Federation on how to support healthy populations of bees and other pollinators.
Plant your garden and yard with the needs of pollinators in mind. This includes planting native plants that will give pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds access to the food and shelter they need to survive and multiply. Pollinators are near-sighted, so arrange your plantings in clusters of 3-5--also called drifts--to mimic nature and make it easier for pollinators to hit their target. And don’t forget the herbs--pollinators love ‘em. Bees are particularly fond of mint, oregano, basil, dill, fennel, and rosemary flowers. Oh, one more thing: native trees and shrubs are great additions to a pollinator-friendly yard!
Here’s a species-by-species plant list to attract your favorite pollinators:
Butterflies: Salvia coccinea, Mexican sunflower, yarrow, butterfly weed, blazing star, butterfly bush
Hummingbirds: honeysuckle, torch lily, salvia (all types), hummingbird mint, trumpet vine
Bees: Bee balm, purple coneflower, dill, mint, sunflower
Give bees nesting places. Most of the 4,000 bees native to North American (ICYMI: honey bees were imported from Europe) don’t actually form hives. Instead, they lay their eggs in decaying wood or sandy soil. Leaving tree snags, unmulched soil, unmowed grass, or a hedge near your garden will help pollinators raise their young safely. Yes, this means part of your yard might look like a mess, in this case your mother (nature) says it's okay!
Avoid pesticides. Pesticides aren’t doing anything by way of helping to increase pollinator populations. If you must use them, try doing it at times when bees aren’t active (early evening) and refrain from using them on flowers in bloom. Click here for more tips on cultivating a pesticide-free garden.
Plant native milkweed. Here’s an alarming stat: monarch butterfly populations have declined 90% perfect over the past two decades. Sounds about time to hit the panic button, doesn’t it? We can do our part by planting milkweed, which is also on the decline and the species’ only caterpillar host plant. And just to be clear, milkweed is totally OK for your garden--here’s a great piece on busting milkweed myths.