Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gardening for Native Pollinators

WHEN ECOLOGIST Rachel Winfree set out to survey native bees in the Delaware Valley of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, she was not optimistic about her results. Not only is the region far from any known hot spots of bee diversity, such as the U.S. Southwest, “New Jersey is also the most densely populated state in the country,” says Winfree, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at Rutgers University. “I was worried that after getting funding and hiring a staff, the project would turn out to be a waste of time.”

Her fears were unfounded. “We found bees everywhere,” says Winfree—thousands of individuals of 46 different species. More surprising, she and her colleagues discovered that the number of flower visits by these natives was sufficient to fully pollinate the watermelon crop on 21 of 23 farms in her study region.

Gleaning such data was the goal of Winfree’s work. As European honeybees decline in a mysterious phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), “I wanted to find out whether native bees could fill in for them,” she says. While Winfree cautions against extrapolating her results too broadly to other crops in other parts of the country, “if we lost all honeybees in this region to CCD tomorrow, between 88 and 90 percent of the watermelon crop would be fine,” she says. “Native bees are providing a backup plan—for free.”

How to Plant for Pollinators

“The neat thing about pollinator conservation is that anyone, from the owner of a golf course to an apartment dweller with a window box, can do something to help,” says Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. All it takes is to provide appropriate food and habitat for bees, butterflies and other pollinating species—and to avoid using the pesticides that harm them.

“Being pollinator-friendly also means you are being wildlife-friendly,” says Kimberly Winter, NWF’s habitats program manager. “And you are creating a sustainable ecosystem in your own backyard.”

Read the entire article and get tips on planting for pollinators.

1 comment:

BanditsBuddies said...

Awesome info! Thank you, Donna.

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