June 20 to 26, 2016 is National Pollinator Week. Pollinators – most bees, birds, bats, praying mantis, ladybugs, lacewings and ants – play a crucial role in flowering plant reproduction and in the production of most fruits and vegetables. Without the help of pollinators most plants cannot produce the fruits and seeds that we eat and that are used to eventually produce new plants. No bees, no food, it’s that simple.

Examples of crops that are pollinated include tomatoes, apples, squash, and almonds. The fruits and seeds of flowering plants are an important food source for people and wildlife.

In the United States alone, pollination by honey bees contributed to more than $19 billion of crops in 2010, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  It’s no secret that several studies have found that honey bee populations, which are not native to North America, and some other wild pollinators are declining. Theories for the decline include diseases, pesticide use, parasites and habitat loss  – change in the landscape in which they live.

So these hard-working creatures need help and support to survive. It’s easy.

Create A Pollinator Garden

1. Choose plants that flower at different times of the year to provide nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season. Here’s a list for the Arizona/New Mexico region that can help. Watch the elevations to tell which plants will work where you live.

2. Plant in groups, rather than single plants, to better attract pollinators.

3. Provide a variety of flower colors and shapes to attract different pollinators such as bats, hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

4. Whenever possible, choose native plants.  Native plants will attract more native pollinators and can serve as larval host plants for some species of pollinators. Check field guides to find out which plants the larval stage of local butterflies eat.

The Pollinator Partnership has a quick fact sheet on how you can protect pollinators in your landscape and garden.

Provide Nesting Sites

The Blue Orchard Mason Bee, technically known as Osmia lignaria, is an excellent pollinator and can be found throughout the United States. Each one can do as much pollinating as 120 honey bees, so imagine how beneficial these bees are to your garden. Since Mason Bees are solitary bees and do not make hives, they are always looking for a place to make a home.

Bee houses will not attract Africanized honey bees or other social bees because honey bees need a softball-sized cavity or larger to build their honeycomb in.

So be first person on your block with a bee house!

1. Get a Mason Bee Nest for bees – we carry them.

2. Do not disturb hummingbird nests.

Limit Or Avoid The Use Of Pesticides

Pesticides can kill more than just the target pests so consider the following points when managing your garden:

  • Remove pests by hand (wear your gloves!) whenever possible.
  • Encourage native predators with a diverse garden habitat.
  • Accept some pest activity – it’s normal and represents a circle of life.
  • If you choose to use pesticides, find one that is the least toxic to non-pest species and won’t linger on the plant. Apply it in the eventing when most pollinators are not as active.
  • Leave buffer zones between the area of pesticide application and sensitive habitats like water and potential nectar sources for the pollinators.