Back in 2006, Congress officially recognized the valuable role pollinators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems and supporting agriculture by designating a week in June as National Pollinator Week. This week, people across the country are celebrating by raising awareness about why we need to protect pollinators.
While bees get a lot of attention, several other species — butterflies, birds, bats, beetles, flies and more — are also vital pollinators. We have all of them to thank for an estimated 1 out of 3 mouthfuls of food we consume in the U.S. But they’re unfortunately facing a growing number of threats, from habitat loss and degradation to diseases and pesticides.
Fortunately, there are many ways we can help pollinators this week and beyond.
1. Attend an Event
Individuals, organizations and businesses are taking the time to celebrate pollinators with events and workshops across the country. If you want to join in, you can find events near you that are registered with the Pollinator Partnership and Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
2. Watch and Share a Short Film
Our agricultural practices widely impact pollinators, and pesticides are having a serious negative impact — particularly neonicotinoids, which are used on a number of common crops. “Seeds That Poison” covers how they’re used, why they’re so harmful to pollinators and ecosystems and how we can help.
3. Tell Congress to Pass the Saving America’s Pollinators Act
While we know pesticides pose a serious threat to pollinators, chemical companies continue to produce, use and promote them. The Saving America’s Pollinators Act — introduced by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Jim McGovern — would suspend seed treatment, soil application and other pesticide use on plants that attract pollinators until all of the science is reviewed by independent scientists with no conflict of interest. If they determine a pesticide is too toxic, it would either be removed or never allowed on the market.
4. Create a Pollinator-Friendly Habitat
As the Xerces Society pointed out, pollinators can survive in a variety of landscapes — from wilderness to cities — which makes it easier for us to help them. Put a few flowering plants on a deck, decide not to mow dandelions and clover or even change how you landscape your entire property.
Along with providing food, we can also help by ensuring pollinators have places to nest and lay eggs. Create more habitat by adding bat houses and bee boxes, which can draw in more pollinators.
As part of the Bring Back the Pollinators campaign, the Xerces Society is encouraging people to take the Pollinator Protection Pledge and join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. To find out about native plants in your area, you can also download Bee Smart, an app that can help you decide what to plant based on your landscape and which pollinators you want to attract to your garden.
5. Keep Chemicals Out of Your Yard and Garden
While providing food and shelter will give pollinators a boost, it’s also important to keep pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals out of your garden — as well as to leave the weeds.
Beyond Pesticides has a handy Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory that lists companies that sell organic seeds directly to the public, so people can avoid buying plants grown and treated with harmful chemicals. You can also share your pollinator-friendly efforts on the Pesticide Free Zone Map.
For more on how to help pollinators, check out the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Pollinator Partnership, Bee City USA and Beyond Pesticides.
Photo credit: DanielPrudek/Getty Images