What are pollinators?
Pollinators are the critters that pollinate most flowering plants, trees and shrubs in a mutually beneficial relationship. Pollinators visit flowers to drink their nectar and accidentally pick up pollen which is then transferred to other flowers. This act of pollination fertilises the plant, leading to the production of seeds and fruit. Butterflies, moths, insects, birds, bats (and some other animals) are pollinators.
Why is looking after pollinators important?
It is estimated that around a third of the food (fruit, vegetables, some grains) we eat requires pollinators for its production. Put another way, one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat! In addition, some foods that are fed to animals (e.g. alfalfa) also require pollinators. About 1000 of the estimated 1330 crop plants cultivated for our use require pollination (food, beverages, fibres, spices, medicine).
Do pollinators need help?
Studies have show that loss of habitat and food sources, and indiscriminate use of pesticides, has significantly reduced pollinator numbers. Because our food supply relies heavily on pollinators, any pollinator loss should be of concern to us. In addition, natural ecosystem health will suffer with declining pollinators and this will affect our enjoyment of the outdoors.
How can we help?
- Set aside a portion (or all!) of your garden as a pollinator friendly space. Plant a diversity of species, for different seasons, in largish groupings (i.e. not single plants) as this provides more nectar for the pollinators.
- As well as food, pollinators need resting areas, water and minerals from damp soil, overwintering areas, and host plants for the larval stage. (See the Planting a Butterfly/Pollinator Garden web page).
- Avoid the use of pesticides, even some sold as ‘natural’, as these can also kill non-target species.
- Ask your municipality, or other organisations, to plant pollinator-friendly gardens and cut down on mowed lawns (these are deserts, providing no pollinator benefit).
- Support pollinator organisations such as this Butterflyways Project. Get involved with us!