2013-07-11 / Local & State

Conservation Corner

By Greg Reinke

Do you realize how essential pollinators are to your life? One in three mouthfuls of food and beverage required the presence of pollinators! Without bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, wasps, flies, beetles, and even a few bats, your food choices would be severely limited. Without pollinators, there would be no apples, blueberries, almonds, pumpkins, or dozens of other fruits and vegetables. In the United States alone, there are more than 100 crop plants that need pollinators. Bees are the primary pollinators for most wildflowers and crops in this country.

Unfortunately, in many areas pollinators are in decline. The decline in honey bees due to a variety of factors has been well documented in recent years. While the decline in honey bees is alarming, we are also seeing a dramatic drop in wild native bee populations. While the non-native European honey bee is our most common domesticated pollinator, native bees are often adapted for specific plants, resulting in more efficient pollination and the production of larger and more abundant fruits and seeds. In areas of Pennsylvania, wild bees provide the majority of pollination for some summer vegetable crops.

Bumble bees are often utilized to pollinate tomato plants in greenhouse production. Outside, bumble bees forage in cool, unfavorable weather better than other bees. Our native orchard mason bees are extremely efficient pollinators of native crops. The blue orchard bee is prized for its efficiency pollinating fruit trees.

As pollinators disappear, the effect on the health and viability of crops and native plant communities can be disastrous. The best way to conserve pollinators is to protect, enhance and provide habitat for them. You can conserve and attract native bee species by increasing the amount and diversity of floral resources on your property, conserve natural habitats in your landscape, provide access to clean water, create or conserve nesting sites, and reduce bee exposure to pesticides.

To find out more about the practical steps you can take to improve the health, abundance and diversity of local pollinator populations, consider attending the “Backyard Conservation” workshop coming up this September. In the meantime, check out “Conserving Wild Bees in Pennsylvania” (http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/Fre ePubs/pdfs/uf023.pdf)

Contact the Fulton County Conservation District at 717-485-3547, Ext. 4, for additional information. As it becomes available, more specific details regarding the workshops series will be posted on the district’s Web site www.fultoncountyconservatio ndistrict.org and the district’s Facebook page. “Like” the Fulton County Conservation District to receive our updates.

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