A pollinator is any creature that helps carry pollen from one flower to another allowing the plant to become fertilized and produce fruit, seeds and young plants. While some plants are self-pollinating or rely on the wind or water to do pollination, around 75% (maybe more) of the flowing plants on earth are pollinated by insects, birds and mammals. Many of these plants are important for our food, medicine, fuel or fiber. Most people are familiar with bees and butterflies as pollinators, but moths, flies, beetles, birds such as hummingbirds and even some small mammals can be pollinators. While the honey bee is the most well-known, there are over 4000 species of native bees that provide a majority of our pollination.
Why are pollinators important?
More than 1,200 food crops depend on pollinators. This includes fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Without pollinators, we would not have strawberries, blueberries, chocolate, pumpkins, squash and many other foods. Even cotton can benefit from pollinators and without bees, we would not have honey. Other plants provide clean air, stabilize the soil and provide food and cover for wildlife.
How do pollinators benefit wildlife?
Many of the flowers, shrubs or trees that attract pollinators also produce fruit or seed that many wildlife species use. These plants also provide cover for nesting birds and mammals. Most pollinators are insects and many of our birds rely on insects to feed their growing young.
Why should you establish pollinator habitat on your farm?
There are many other benefits to establishing pollinator habitat on your farm. Researchers from Iowa State University have found that setting aside a small portion of your field in native vegetation can reduce sediment loss by up to 97%, nitrogen runoff by 70%, and phosphorus runoff by 77%. In addition, they found that these areas can more than triple pollinator populations. They also found no additional weed problems in fields with this type of habitat. Learn more at www.prairiestrips.org.
Pollinators are in decline.
Many pollinators are declining due to habitat loss, disease and contaminates.
How can you help?
- Maintain buffers along riparian areas, edges of fields, and areas of low production in the field. Diverse native vegetation can provide early season flowering plants and over winter cover.
- Maintain snags, where it is safe to do so, in wooded areas. Many native pollinators use these for cover and nesting.
- Install hedgerows and windbreaks. These woody vegetation clumps provide food and shelter when crops are not actively growing.
- Maintain native vegetation clumps in odd/unused areas of the farm. Mow or burn these areas in the early spring. Leave standing vegetation through the winter. Many native pollinators overwinter in the hollow stems of this vegetation. Avoid disturbing the soil in these areas since many native bees nest underground.
If you are interested in how you can incorporate this type of habitat into your operation contact the private lands program at 229-420-1183 or www.georgiawildlife.com/landowners.
Read about how to get started with Wildflower Meadow Planting Basics.
There are several resources listed below that can help you get started.
- The Xerces Society is a leader in invertebrate conservation and has a ton of information on pollinators and how to create habitat for them. They even have an assessment guide to help you determine if your yard or farm is suitable for pollinators. This page is specifically for the Southeastern US.
- This brochure shares information about Georgia’s butterflies and some of their host plants.
- The Georgia Native Plant Initiative has some great information on restoring native plants, nurseries that carry natives, management of invasive plants and even a section on native plants for bats!
- Improving Forage for Native Bee Crop Pollinators
- Sustaining Native Bee Habitat for Crop Pollination
- Information on how to manage habitat for quail and pollinators.
- Cover Cropping for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects
- Farming with Pollinators
- Native Vegetation Advantage: Forage and Biomass
- Water, Soil & Air Native Vegetation Advantage
- Wildlife Native Vegetation Advantage
- Prairie Moon Nursery 2021 Cultural guide
- Planting for Butterflies