By now, everyone in agriculture is aware of what has become known as the “Bee Colony Collapse Disorder.” What is talked about less is the fact that other pollinators such as butterflies and moths are also experiencing a decline in population. There is a lot of speculation as to the cause of this phenomenon; but whether it be habitat destruction, pesticides or even, as some claim, GMO plants, this is an alarming development for farmers and consumers alike.
Ask any farmer how important pollination is in the process of crop production and you will understand the level of concern. While much of our food supply is wind pollinated, it is estimated that about a third of the food we eat every day can be attributed directly to pollinators. If you like to eat, you have a stake in finding a solution to this growing problem.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that we all—from the backyard gardener to the largest commercial grower—can play a part in helping to reverse this trend by planting pollinator plots. A pollinator plot is designed to grow plants that attract bees and other insects and birds that feed on the nectar and pollen and then spread it to other nearby plants. These plots are beneficial for both the insect and the plant populations. Commercial growers use these plots on land that needs to "rest" or where crops need to be rotated, and home gardeners can plant smaller areas with the bonus of adding diversity and beauty to the landscape.
While bees are the best known of the pollinators, butterflies and most all insects, as well as birds, can play a role--so these plots should be planted with that in mind. There are wildflower seed blends that are targeted for pollinators like our Clifton Bee Mix or our Bird and Butterfly Mix. (To learn more about these specialized blends, call our office at 910-267-2690 or toll free at 1-800-231-9359). Most seed blends can be customized to your geographical area.
In order to be successful your pollinator plot should include:
- A diverse mix of plant types
- Plants that are native to the area
- Plants that bloom at different times
Many of the large seed producers such as Syngenta, are strongly invested in the campaign to save our pollinators. For more information on planting a pollinator habitat, please visit Syngenta's Know More, Grow More agronomy blog and read this article.
Hundreds of flowers, shrubs, trees and vines can be used to sustain pollinators, but for a plot to be succesful, it is important that the plants are native to your area so check with your county extension office or search the Internet for native varieties. The USDA and most state departments of agriculture are actively involved in this research and can provide helpful and timely advice. The following link will take you to the USDA website that will guide you to your local resources.