I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the birds and the bees. I mean that in the most literal sense, not in any corporeally suggestive one. I’m wrapping up a book on beginning beekeeping and have been attending honeybee workshops and classes lately, looking online for beekeeping information, and chatting with other honeybee enthusiasts. To put it as Meg of Brooklyn Honey recently described it, I’ve been “beeking” out on honeybees.
All of this talking, researching, and pondering about bees has naturally lent itself to the discussion of pollination as a whole. Honeybees are the rock stars of the pollination world. Their bodies are remarkably adept at transferring pollen across and between flowers. However, if honeybees are the lead singer of the band, then all of the other pollinators constitute the band’s musicians, the back-up vocalists, the manager, the publicist, the road crew, the accounting agents, the record label associates, the fans-in short, everyone else that makes sure the lead singer gets the job done, and does the job well.
Pollinators of all sorts play a crucial role in the environment. According to the Xerces Society “The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of nearly 70 percent of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species.” In other words, if you eat it, chances are it was made possible by the efforts of the world’s pollinator population (including products derived from animals, who rely on a number of pollinated crops for their own food).
Unfortunately, the incalculably valuable services put forth by native pollinators, offering their prodigious efforts completely on a pro bono basis, are at risk. Due to a number of factors (among them heavy pesticide use, habitat loss, and foreign diseases introduced into the greater environment), pollinator populations are dwindling. Speaking on behalf of pollinators everywhere, I’d like to suggest they’re well overdue for some reciprocal love. And so, today’s small measure, which could have massive cumulative effect if implemented on a wide scale (the ultimate goal of small measures, anyways!), promotes the creation of native pollinator homes.
CLICK HERE for the rest of Ashley’s post and tips for housing local pollinators!
In North America, there are over 3,500 native bees. These bees are enormously valuable pollinators, helping to bump up crop yields. Keeping their numbers high provides a bit of padding as long as honeybee populations continue declining due to Colony Collapse Disorder . A number of these native bees are solitary, living not in hives, but as bachelors and bachelorettes. Others, such as bumblebees, are hive-minded, much like honeybees. Furthermore, ladybugs and lacewings, other wild, native pollinators, help in controlling greenfly and aphid populations, which might otherwise damage, and even kill, garden plants.
A number of truly beautiful houses for these beneficial creatures can be found online. This mason bee house , made of bamboo, is particularly lovely, as is this cheeky bee-shaped offering. The Plant Directory features homes for bumblebees, lacewings, ladybugs, butterflies, moths, and more.
If you’re more of the do-it-yourself type, whipping up some habitats at home is inexpensive and easy. In fact, my husband made three (!!!) Wednesday afternoon over the course of several hours. Using materials we had on hand, he drilled holes into a large piece of firewood and several smaller pieces of wood attached together to create two houses, and inserted bamboo reeds into an old coffee can to fashion the third. Martha Stewart offers a similar bamboo house, using waxed twine in place of the can, while Sunset Magazine presents a drilled wood panel tutorial.
Finally, I came across this article about a bit of human pollinator fashion. Created by Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design students Jacek Barcikowski and Laura Boffi, the Human Bee Pollinator suit allows humans to gather and spread pollen from food crops, work otherwise performed by honeybees and their pollinating compatriots. Considering that pollination by hand is already occurring in parts of the world where honeybees have disappeared, the Human Bee Pollinator suit might not be so far-fetched. However, creating and fostering native pollinator habitats (in addition to keeping honeybees and continuing to examine the causes of CCD) might be a considerably less intensive (and more fashionable!) solution.
Do you have any tips for drawing wild pollinators to your area? Have you ever planted crops specifically with pollinators in mind?