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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Protecting Pollinators


If you are like most Americans, your day has not started unless you have had your daily cup of coffee.  That cup of coffee is not possible without the help of some little friends.  These friends are pollinators and without their help there would be no coffee or many other foods and flowers that we like so much.

However, pollinators are being assaulted from all sides.  Invasive species are reducing the number of native plants on which many native species rely.  Habitat loss is having a similar effect.  The use of broad spectrum insecticides is a significant danger to pollinators, as well.  In conversations that I have had with local honey producers, there has been a significant loss of colonies throughout the region. (I know of three local producers that have lost entire colonies. In one case, they lost their entire population, a total of three colonies).  Pollinators, and particularly bees, play a crucial role in ecosystems and agriculture.

So what can you do to help the pollinators?  1) Pollinator Week is June 15-21. That is a great time to get out and talk about the importance of pollinators.  Volunteer at the butterfly habitat at Wildlife Prairie Park and talk to the visitors about butterflies and other pollinators.  2) Plant a pollinator habitat, but ensure that the plants you are planting are free of any pesticides, particularly when the flower is in bloom.  Reading the label that comes with the plant is a good place to start, but most of the big box stores treat their plants with pesticides.  Purchasing the plants from a local nursery is a good way to ensure that they are free of pesticides, because you can talk directly to the grower.  And try and select native species to help promote native pollinator populations.  3) Provide a nesting site by building a bee block.  Plans and instructions can be found on the US Fish and Wildlife and Forest Service websites.  4) Limit or avoid the use of pesticides.  This is particularly important while the flowers are in bloom.

For more information on protecting pollinators, contact Jason Haupt (jdhaupt@illinois.edu).

 



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