June 20-26 is National Pollinator Week. Pollinators are a group of diverse animals that play a critical role in the world's food production. There are over 20,000 species of wild pollinators ranging from wild bees to managed honey bees, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals that pollinate crops including those that provide fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils. In Colorado, we have several agricultural industries that rely on pollinators such as our Palisade peaches and Rocky Ford cantaloupes.
A healthy pollinator population is important and multiple factors that can affect their health have been identified:
Proper management and control of infectious pests and diseases in honey bee populations
Loss of habitat and habitat diversity due to increased urbanization
Improper use of pesticides toxic to pollinators
Lack of genetic diversity in managed bee populations.
All of us can do our part to protect pollinators.
You can help provide more pollinator habitat by choosing plants favorable to pollinators. One of the main reasons urban dwellers may not notice pollinators in their landscapes is that there may be lack of food for the pollinators. If there is no food for pollinators, then the pollinators will go elsewhere.
Bees and other pollinators need plants that provide nectar and pollen; certain plants provide more food for pollinators than others.
Use a wide variety of plants that flower from spring to fall and plant them in clumps so that pollinators don't have to travel as far to find them.
Native flowering plants are more effective at attracting pollinators than hybrid flowers.
Read and follow pesticide labels before purchasing; many pesticides are harmful to bees and other pollinators. It's required by law to properly apply pesticides according to the label directions.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture recommends care when applying any pesticide, regardless of type, to help protect our state's pollinating insects.
Always consider alternatives to pesticides first. Use integrated solutions to manage a plant problem. Choose the least toxic pesticides whenever possible. Avoid applying all pesticides including insecticides and fungicides during bloom on ornamental plants such as roses, lavender, crabapples, and linden that attract pollinators. Apply pesticides after flower petals have fallen.
If you do apply a pesticide to plants that are attractive to pollinators, spray at dusk when bees and other pollinators are not active.
• Low Water Native Plants for Colorado Gardens: Front Range and Foothills. Colorado Native Plant Society: https://conps.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/NativeGarden-Front-Range-4-11-2016.pdf
• Attracting Butterflies to the Garden, Colorado State University Extension: http://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/attracting-butterflies-to-the-garden-5-504-2/#top
• "Gardening for Pollinators in Utah and Beyond" Utah State University Extension: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/plants-pollinators09.pdf