Apiphobia – the fear of bees. Most of us were taught at a young age to be weary of anything that stings, bees being the main culprit. From electric swatters to expert exterminators, we spend countless dollars trying to eradicate the very insects that need our protection.
Bees are one example of a group known as pollinators – individuals who move pollen between flowers and instigate seed fertilization and reproduction. Scientifically speaking, these individuals work as vectors to move pollen from male anthers to female stigma, which in turn fertilizes female gametes and allows reproduction to occur. Simply put, pollinators allow flowers to come in contact with each other and make more seeds. In Alabama, many of these pollinators include bees, wasps, hummingbirds, butterflies, ants, and bats – many are stigmatized as being dangerous and deadly.
While the bee is the pollinator, the plant is the pollinizer and is the source of pollination for the bee. Many plants that require pollination include native beauties like purple coneflower (right) and Rudbeckia (below). These plants rely on pollination to grow, mature, and reproduce. In return, pollinators receive nectar and other pollen rewards from plants. Nectar offers necessary carbohydrates and pollen has proteins, fats, and vitamins. This mutualistic relationship works to keep each party alive and build families and generations.
Plants need pollinators and vice versa, but why do we care – why do we need pollinators? Firstly, pollinators not only fertilize pretty flowers. They also pollinate over half of our crops. Okra, potatoes, and onions are a few examples of the countless food items that need pollinators to produce yield. Pollinators also direct biodiversity. Areas that are abundant with pollinators will have more flowers, fruits, and more plant species overall. Rich biodiversity not only indicates a healthy ecosystem but also provides food and habitat for more species. Plants also lower levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases, a conversation for another time. More plants mean more animals, more clean air, more food, and more natural beauty.
The takeaway? We need pollinators and they need us. Due to deforestation, urbanization, and erosion, pollinators are losing vital habitat and foraging space. They are running out of places to live and feed. Chemical pesticides also endanger pollinators, which in turn damages the many plants that rely on pollination. Although there are large scale solutions like ending deforestation and reversing climate change, there is also a simple at home solution – plant a pollinator garden. By planting certain flowering species, you can easily attract pollinators and supply the nutrients necessary for their survival. Not sure where to begin with your pollinator garden? Follow this list to get started.
- Feed pollinators all year – Make sure to plant species that will flower at different times of the year.
- Make it attractive – You want a home that looks loved and clean and so do your pollinators.
- Have plant diversity – Pollinators all favor different foods, so make sure to plant a variety of food options.
- Provide the necessities – Just like us, pollinators need shelter and water, so adding some spaces of shade and hydration will attract even more pollinators.
I am a junior at Birmingham-Southern College from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I am studying Urban Environmental Science, with a double minor in math and religion, in the hopes of becoming the next Dian Fossey. When I am not studying, you will either find me in the theatre department or the great outdoors.