If you had to name one pollinator other than a honeybee, what would be your first guess? More bees? Well, you would not be wrong, nearly every species of bee pollinates flowers and food crops. But what about beetles? Certain birds? The winged night terrors we call bats? While there are no denying honeybees are crucial to our environment and provide us with an excellent service, the fact is, they are not native to North America. However, we do have roughly 3,600 native bees and countless other species that also act as pollinators. And nearly all of them are facing the harsh reality of declining populations due to habitat loss. So how can you help out our pollinators?
There are a wide variety of things that you as an individual can do at home. Firstly, a new trend that is starting to take over is what is called “No Mow May/April,” where simply enough, you don’t mow your yard in April or May. The idea here is to allow early spring flowers to bloom instead of being cut down, this allows for pollinator habitat growth early season and allows them to get a good start for the rest of the summer. This is ideally followed up by a “Low Mow Summer,” which I think speaks for itself.
Another thing that you can do is something you may already be doing or have the tools to readily do, and that is to plant yourself a garden bed with ideally native flowering plants. This directly creates pollinator habitat and allows you to get outside to tend to your garden and enjoy some beautiful flowers, this will greatly benefit many other species of concern of butterflies and hummingbirds. You can talk to your local Conservation District to receive information or packets on native seed mixes in your area. Or if you are like me and like everything to be multi-purposed, you can also plant yourself a vegetable garden. Pollinators will come in and do their job while also fertilizing your plants and yielding yourself some homegrown vegetables.
But perhaps you want to do something that is a bit more passive; one thing people often do not realize is that many insect species will hide out in the ground or piles of leaf litter. Snags, fallen trees, slash piles or even that corner of the yard where your “I’ll bag it later” piles go are all excellent habitat for several pollinator species. So, if you want to help our pollinator friends, feel free to pick up the leaves later so that they can keep warm for a bit, “Leave the leaves!” Despite which is your personal favorite, we can all contribute to the prosperous growth of our helpful pollinators one way or another. Plus, you have a good excuse when your HOA comes knocking, asking why your lawn is not mowed in May.
Please see the links below for more information on pollinators:
Harold Campbell is a Private Lands Wildlife Biologist with Bird Conservancy of the Rockies based in the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service Center in Gillette, WY.
If you live in the Front Range of Colorado come visit our Environmental Learning Center in Brighton, CO to see a demonstration pollinator garden!