Pollinators and their Health

One third of our food supply exists because a pollinator moved pollen from one flower to another. Their quest for nectar and pollen means we reap the benefits by harvesting fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Despite the necessity of pollinators for a reliable food supply for humans, pollinator habitat is in jeopardy because of reduced food sources and chemically-dependent pristine landscapes.

Helping pollinators is a local issue. Gardeners can make a difference for pollinator health by planting more flowers, supplying a water source, reducing the number of insecticides used and leaving a few dandelions and white clover for them to feed on.

pollinator sign

The Nebraska Certified Pollinator Habitat Program was launched in 2016 to address this growing concern for the health of our pollinators.  Individual gardeners, neighborhoods, churches, businesses with green spaces, schools, community gardens, fair grounds and municipalities can apply to have their garden certified as a pollinator habitat.

To qualify, gardens spaces must have plants in flower spring, summer and fall; be maintained in such a manner that no or very little pesticides are used; have a fresh water source; and leave garden clean up until spring (to save native bees that overwinter in the stalks of plants).  While we often recognize butterflies and honey bees as pollinators, nature provides us with beetles, bumble bees, wasps, moths, and mason bees (among many others) that are excellent pollinators too.

Single flowers—those that are fringed with just one row of petals—are the best for pollinators, allowing them ready access to both nectar and pollen. Double flowers are pretty but they are difficult for pollinators to get what they need, so limit the number of these.  Herbs and vegetable plants are great sources of pollen and nectar too.

Educate yourself.  The gardener who planted milkweed for the monarch caterpillars learned the “pesky caterpillars” she was killing because they were eating her plant were actually the very things she sought to help.

More information about pollinators and the Nebraska Certified Pollinator Habitat Program can be found at http://go.unl.edu/pollinatorhabitat .

Kathleen Cue
Horticulture Educator at Nebraska Extension
Kathleen serves as the Horticulture Educator for Nebraska Extension in Dodge County. She educates people on making smart plant choices to reduce use of fertilizers and pesticides in their landscape which has a positive impact on air, water, soil and environmental quality, property values and people’s pocketbooks.

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