Honeybee collecting pollen

As we close out the month of May and head into June, our staff here at Lancaster Farming is moving full speed ahead on June Dairy Month content.

But what you might not know is that June is also Pollinator Month.

Dairy Month gets all the attention during June, but pollinators are important, too!

I am huge supporter of pollinators. I just spent an afternoon sowing hundreds of native wildflower seeds to create a pollinator garden in one of my empty flower beds.

Need more proof that I love pollinators? Just this week I ordered a shirt that says “Plant these, save the bees,” with illustrations of pollinator-friendly plants on it.

But saying “save the bees” has to encompass more than just cute little honeybees and fuzzy bumblebees. Bees, wasps, yellowjackets and hornets are all pollinators, but most people only worry about bees.

I know, the other ones can be a little scary and painful. I hiked down a mountain last September with three hornet stings and it was not a fun experience. But we need all pollinators — even the potentially painful ones.

And it’s way more than just bees and butterflies, which are the typical creatures people think about when we talk about pollinators.

Flies, ants, moths, beetles, bats and birds all help with pollination.

I’m sure most people have heard someone talk about saving pollinators — I’ve even written about pollinators in a past column. But I don’t know if all people fully understand how important pollinators are to our daily lives.

According to the USDA, pollinators are needed for 80% of all flowering plants and over 75% of crops used to feed people.

In other words, according to USDA, pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat.

Let’s put that into even more perspective:

• More than 150 crops in the U.S. — including almost all fruit and grain crops — depend on pollinators.

• U.S. crops dependent on pollination are worth more than $10 billion.

So for farmers — the ones producing these dependent crops — pollinators are a vital part of your livelihood.

How You Can Help

Teaching about the importance of pollinators is really only half the battle. Working to support pollinators is the other half.

One of the best ways to support pollinators is to plant pollinator-friendly plants. Do you have an empty flower bed? How about a window box? Maybe an old field you don’t utilize anymore? Any of those could be used as a pollinator garden.

When planting for pollinators, native plants are always the best bet. It’s also best to plant large clusters of different flowers, which will help attract a larger variety of pollinators. Milkweed, for example, is the only food source of the caterpillar of monarch butterflies.

Limiting pesticide use can also help the pollinator population. I know that pesticides can be very useful to farmers, but there are ways to still be mindful of pollinators while applying pesticides, such as using spot treatment versus a broad application.

People can talk about saving pollinators so easily, but we need more than talk. We also need action. And honestly, it’s not too hard to plant a pollinator garden, so let’s do it!

So as we go into June excited for ice cream and cheese, don’t forget about the pollinators — it’s their month too.

Regional Editor

Stephanie Speicher is the regional editor at Lancaster Farming. She can be reached at sspeicher@lancasterfarming.com or 717-721-4457.

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