Break out the honey cakes and raise a glass of mead—it's National Pollinator Week! You probably won't find the observance pre-printed on your wall calendar, but it's worth penciling in as a reminder to honor those buzzing, fluttering, hovering creatures whose efforts are essential to so many plants we prize.
I learned about this celebration of pollination from an item in the summer issue of Michigan Nature, the magazine of Michigan Nature Association. From there I went on to find out more from Pollinator Partnership, a group devoted to promoting the health of pollinators through conservation, education and research.
Bees and butterflies usually come to mind when we think of critters that flit from flower to flower, sipping nectar and distributing pollen in the process. Those are important pollinators, for sure, but birds, bats, beetles and other animals also do the job.
And a vital job it is. Globally, some 1,000 plants grown for food and drink, fiber and pharmaceuticals depend on animal pollination for successful fruit and seed production. If you fancy chocolate, coffee or blueberries, if you have a passion for pumpkins, potatoes or peaches, if you're an apple or almond aficionado, if you treasure the tequila in your Margarita, praise pollinators!
But pollinators need more than praise. They need protection. In many parts of the world, including this country, pollinating animals are suffering the effects of diseases, parasites, harmful chemicals, habitat loss and invasive plant and animal species.
How can you help?
One of the biggest ways is by making your piece of the Earth—whether pocket garden or multi-acre spread—pollinator-friendly. Reduce pesticide use, install bee and bat houses, and cultivate native plants that attract pollinators and provide nectar and larval food. (You can find a guide to appropriate plants for your area by entering your zip code here.)
For several years, I've been buying native plants from our local conservation district's annual sale and encouraging the native species already growing on our property by saving and scattering their seeds and clearing away invasives that would choke them out. The lupine, coneflowers, columbine, prairie smoke, bee balm and black-eyed susans have rewarded me with floral displays and the entertaining antics of their winged visitors. I'm hopeful the milkweeds and blazing stars are mature enough to bloom this year.
I'll be sure to share the results when they do. And once my broken foot is healed and I'm more mobile, I hope to take you on a tour of my friend Sandy's flourishing native plant garden—a delight for pollinators and people alike.
Learn more about pollinators by visiting Pollinator Partnership's Learning Center.
For more about native plants and native landscapes, connect with the national, not-for-profit organization Wild Ones.
Useful books on native plants and their role in sustaining wildlife:
Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas W. Tallamy (Timber Press, 2007)
The Natural Habitat Garden, by Ken Druse, with Margaret Roach (Clarkson Potter, 1994; paperback Timber Press, 2004)
All photos by Nan Sanders Pokerwinski
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.