Who are our pollinators and why are they important?
Pollinators are animals that transfer pollen from male plant parts (anthers) to female plant parts (stigmas). Pollen contains genetic material necessary for plant reproduction. Many different animals pollinate plants, such as birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and BEES! Bees are responsible for pollinating most of the worlds flowering plants and animal-pollinated foods.
Scientists estimate as many as 90% of flowering plants rely on insects and other animals. These pollinators affect production in 35% of the world’s crop…that means one in every three bites of food exists because of animal pollinators! Foods like potatoes, chocolate, apples, bananas, coffee, pumpkins, almonds, blueberries, and so many more need pollinators to survive!
What is causing pollinator decline?
Several factors contribute to pollinator decline, but loss in feeding and nesting habitat is widely thought to be the leading cause in population losses. Creating garden spaces and nesting areas for pollinators is a great way to improve their chances of productivity, but unfortunately it’s not that simple. Many plants are treated with chemical insecticides called neonicotinoids, proven toxic to bees. If seeds or starts are treated with “neonics,” the garden can actually do more harm than good to our local pollinators.
Where to find neonic-free flowers for your garden
Many nurseries and garden centers in the area are unsure of the chemical content of their flowers (and the seeds they germinated from). What we can do as consumers is ASK! Ask if the flower starts and seeds they sell are free of neonicotinoids. If they’re not, ask them to start selling such products! The more we ask, the more the market will shift towards safe plants for our pollinators. Below are a list of several sources for chemical-free flowers in Vermont and Massachusetts. If you know of any other distributors of confidently chemical-free flowers around southern Vermont, let us know! Call 802-257-5785 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allergic? Have kids? Most native bees are very gentle, and unlikely to sting unless grabbed or stepped on.
Note: any vegetable or flower labeled “organic” should not contain neonicotinoids or other chemicals.
Morning Star Perennials & Nursery in Rockingham, VT
Where did we get all of the great information on this page? Check out the links below!
Pollinator and Bee science and information:
Bumblebees of the Eastern United States (Xerces Society)
Pollinator Biology and Habitat, Natural Resources Conservation Services
Pollinator basics from Pollinator Partnership
Dr. Taylor Ricketts Lab, A UVM biologist working on pollinator conservation and their impact on crops.
More about neonicotinoids and products containing them (Xerces Society)
Neonic basics with many publication links to follow (Friends of the Earth)
Neonicotinoids and their toxicity (University of Florida)
A recent scientific article linking neonicotinoids and pollinator decline. (Proceedings of the Royal Society – Biological Sciences)
Pollinator Conservation and Gardening:
Protecting Bees from Neonicotinoid Insecticides in Your Garden (Xerces Society)
Northeast Plants for Native Bees (Xerces Society)
Pollinator Conservation, Three Easy Steps (Xerces Society)
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is a non-profit working to protect wildlife through invertebrate conservation. Their site contains a wealth knowledge pollinators, their threats, and our role in their conservation. Check out the website or links to several useful pages below.
The Pollinator Partnership is the largest non-profit dedicated exclusively to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems.
Vermont Center for EcoStudies focuses on the role of people in science and conservation. They are currently conducting a Vermont Bumblebee Survey. You can learn about this project, about our local bumblebees, and bumblebee conservation from their site.
Pollinators Welcome is an organization located in western Massachusettes whose primary goal is to increase pollinator habitat by enhancing, protecting, and creating new places for the 400 species of native bees in New England. Check them out for any questions about bees, their habitats, or your garden! Here’s an article written by Pollinators Welcome landscaper Tom Sullivan about native bees.