What's the buzz about pollinators?


Pollinators have been greatly discussed in the media—especially social media. ALCC wants to provide information to help landscape companies and consumers better understand the issues surrounding pollinators and pollinator protection.

What is a pollinator?
bumblebee on flowerAccording to the US National Park Service, “a pollinator is anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma). The movement of pollen must occur for the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds, and young plants.”

Pollinators can include wildlife such as bees, wasps, birds, moths, butterflies, flies—even bats. There is a special relationship between flowers and pollinators—not every pollinator can pollinate any plant.

More than just honeybees
One important distinction that is often overlooked: honeybees, which have been affected in recent years by Colony Collapse Disorder, are not native to North America. That means that if your landscape features native plants, then honeybees will not pollinate your landscape. Those plants have their own pollinators, which are specific to each plant.
There are hundreds of native bees in Colorado, as well as many other native pollinators including butterflies and birds.
Honeybees are helpful if you are cultivating non-native species like fruit trees and other European and Asian plants. Those bees are managed populations whose survival depends on the careful attention of the beekeeper.

Beehive“Beekeeping is an ageless form of animal husbandry that requires an awareness of the environment and seasonal cycles. It is not simply a matter of ‘saving the bees’. It requires a dedication for learning about the nature and behavior of bees, which involves selection of suitable hive locations and effective management practices during the different seasons.” [from Strategies for Identifying and Mitigating Pests]

There are many contributors to Colony Collapse Disorder and other issues of pollinator health. Scientists are still studying the many factors affecting their health, from Varroa mites to climate change to pesticides.

You can learn more about pollinator health and proper use of pesticides from Colorado State University Colorado Environmental Pesticide Education Program.

Read more about bee health.

How do I attract the right pollinators for my landscape?
Not all plants need pollinators. Most grasses are wind-pollinated, meaning their pollen is carried by the wind and therefore do not need an insect or other pollinator. Some crops, like corn, are also wind-pollinated. Others, like tomatoes, are self-pollinating and don’t need any help at all!

Those plants that do need pollinators often have very specific needs. As mentioned, different pollinators pollinate different plants.

Therefore, if you’re interested in attracting butterflies, bees, and other pollinators into your yard, you need to choose the right plants for them. The Xerces Society publishes Attracting Native Pollinators, an excellent resource for those interested in building a pollinator garden for native plants. In Colorado, Plant Select® offers many resources for plants and gardens featuring native plants and pollinator-friendly ones. 

Read more about attracting pollinators to your yard.

You can also contact an ALCC landscape company to help you build your garden. Visit www.alcc.com/find-a-landscape-pro to find a member company near you.

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