Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pollinators Wanted

When warm weather hits the garden pollinators are out in force. What is a pollinator? A pollinator is responsible
for providing food for the world! Strong words, yes, but without pollinators we wouldn't be able to survive, we wouldn't have enough food. The dictionary definition is a vector that moves pollen from the male parts of a flower, or anther, to the female parts of a flower, the stigma. In this way the plant is fertilized and can then develop fruit or seed. Pollinators are usually insects such as butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, and flies. Other pollinators are lizards, hummingbirds, bats and even other mammals may carry pollen from the anther to the stigma of a flower. Some plants are pollinated by wind like wheat, rise and corn. Other plants are self pollinators like peanuts or soybeans. Humans can be pollinators too. We might hand pollinate our garden vegetables due to pollinator decline or to keep a species genetically the same. Many new varieties of plants are developed by someone who hand pollinates one variety with another.

As I am writing, a picture comes to my mind of armies of robot insects swarming about. And that's about what it seemed like today. The wisteria was humming with honey bees and carpenter bees. The hummingbird was buzzing around the salvia. The alyssum was attracting bees to the vegetable bins and the apple tree blossoms were visited by many an insect too.

We can all use a few more pollinators. I encourage pollinators in my garden by leaving a low, flat container of fresh water for insects to drink from. I place a small stick in the water so any insect falling in can get up and fly out. I also place a rock in my birdbaths. I don't use any pesticides or herbicides unless I absolutely have to and never when pollinators are present. I use the pollinator stamp on my mail. Oftentimes visitors to the garden will remark "Doesn't that plant attract a lot of bees?" I say yes, but the bees are no bother, they just go about their business and leave me alone. I have harvested my lavender for four years now and have never been stung by a bee while harvesting.