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Who Are the Pollinators?
Pollinators include birds, butterflies, bats, moths, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees. Pollinators add over $200 billion dollars to the global economy. Honey bees alone are responsible for between $1.2 and $5.4 billion dollars in agricultural productivity in the US. Pollinators also support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife.
The Buzz about Bees
"As sweet as honey" and "as busy as a bee" are phrases known and used by many. These phrases are, of course, honey bee derived. Unfortunately, humans are endangering these incredible honey producers. Scientists continue to document declining bee populations. This is especially alarming because the FDA reports that about one-third of all food eaten by Americans (apples, melons, cranberries, pumpkins, broccoli, etc.) comes from produce pollinated by honey bees. Crops like blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent on bees for fruition while almond crops are 100% dependent on these tiny, hard working pollinators. Rockefeller Park Greenhouse's All-America Selections Garden supports pollinators.
Bee-Friendly at Home
Growing a residential, bee-friendly garden is a valuable way of helping endangered bees. Bee-friendly gardens can be cultivated almost anywhere: a space as small as a windowsill can serve as one. To start, simply plant flowers that attract bees--lavender, bee balm, pansies, marigolds, daises, peony, milkweed, and other native wildflowers.
Avoid flowers and plants sold at big-box retailers; they are often contaminated with pesticides implicated in the wide-scale death of beehives. Instead, grow plants from untreated seeds in organic potting soil, or purchase organic plant starts. Use 'single' flower tops (e.g., daisies and marigolds) rather than 'double' flower tops (e.g., double impatiens).
Do not use insecticides and pesticides on plants; these kill bees.
Bee gardens are not the total solution to the problem of disappearing bees. However, they help provide food and habitat for these endangered pollinators that are so essential in producing the food that humans need.