National Pollinator Week – 2017

So much going on this time of year.  Just celebrated Father’s Day… Spring turned into Summer… lots of people saying, “I do!”  June only has thirty days, but what it lacks in time it sure makes up for in opportunities.  For me, as an elementary teacher, I’ve grown to appreciate the month of June as like the Saturday of Summer vacation, a time for transitioning, a slow down, and a time for getting stuff done.  Just like any good Saturday, June can offer a reprieve from the normal grind and a chance to focus on other things.  Although, for many, June is a busy month… it’s “Go Time!”  The workload seems to have no end and so too the days.  The old saying, “busy as a bee,” never seemed more fitting.

Ah, a perfect segue!  “Busy as a bee,” a familiar idiom that can be traced back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, way back to the late 1300s.  But even before Chaucer’s day, civilizations have noticed and appreciated these “busy” bees.  As early as 650 B.C., ancient Egyptians kept bees and even moved them along the Nile river to follow the fields in bloom.  The bees not only made the sweet honey the Egyptians so loved, but were also helping to pollinate their food crops.  Talk about multitasking!  Fast forward to today, and you’ll discover that the Honey bee continues to play a critical role, right here in the United States.  Many of our food crops, like California Almonds, require pollinators to visit their flowers, capture their pollen on their bodies, and redistribute it to other almond blossoms.  Without the Honey bee, millions of Almond blossoms would not be pollinated and never produce their seeds, the almonds.  Due to the shear number of Almond trees in need of pollination, honey bees are shipped out to California in February, much like the Egyptians did on the Nile river, to assist with the Almond bloom.  Once they are finished with this busy job of pollinating the Almond blossoms, these bees will be loaded back onto trucks once more to travel across the country to their next “pollination job.”  Without the help of these nonnative pollinators, we would see a significant decline in some food crops around the country and world.

A Honey bee preparing to sip nectar from one of the Common Milkweed flowers in our backyard.  Notice the pollen around her legs.  Some bees, like Honey bees, have ‘pollen baskets’ on their legs to assist in gathering pollen, a major source of protein for the colony.  Other types of bees simply collect pollen on their hairy bodies as they move around and inside various flowers. (June 2017)

The task of pollination isn’t exclusive to the Honey bee though.  Many native bees, birds, butterflies, ants, moths, wasps, beetles, animals, and other flying insects, all play apart in pollination.  We rely upon them for so much, but due to several of the challenges they face each day, many pollinator species are in need of our help!

A native Leafcutter Bee drops by one of the Butterfly Weed flowers in our backyard for a quick sip of nectar. (June 2017)

National Pollinator Week, established by the U. S. Senate on September 21, 2006, was first recognized during the week of June 23-30, 2007.  Overwhelming evidence and support for greater education and action prompted this resolution.  It is believed by many that pollinators play an important role in providing as much as 1/3 of every bite of food we eat.  But, due to habitat loss and pesticide use, many of these pollinators are in danger.  They need our help… and we need theirs!  So, what do we do?  The fix is pretty simple, but far from easy.

A movement has begun in the U.S. by many farmers, ranchers, businesses, organizations, churches, schools, and homeowners, to do two simple things.  First, add pollinator friendly habitat within our outdoor spaces, and second, reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the use of pesticides.  See, not so difficult… but for many, we are left without a clue on how to add this pollinator friendly habitat to our outdoor spaces.

A great place to start is by checking out the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge initiated by the National Pollinator Garden Network.

Join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

The Pollinator Partnership is another great resource as well!  Here is their free Ecoregional Planting Guide for Ecoregion 251, that includes Eastern Kansas & Nebraska, as well as Western Missouri & Iowa.  –  Prairie Parkland – Pollinator Partnership – Ecoregion 251 Information Guide

Here is a very informative TED Talk by Danielle Bilot entitled “How Parking Lots Could Save the Bees.”  Worth the watch!

A native Bumble Bee diving in for some nectar on one of the Wild Bergamot flowers in our backyard. (June 2017)

If you are like me, you probably still have many questions, but are up for the challenge.  If you’re not sure where to start we’d love to help!  We have added pollinator friendly habitat to our landscape and garden areas and would love to share our knowledge and experience with you about how you can too.  By simply adding some native wildflowers and grasses to your outdoor space, you can add critical habitat for many pollinators.  Contact us and let us know how we can help you… help the pollinators!!!

– Jay Parsons





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