The Birds & The Bees: Why We Need These Pollinators
We would like to chat with you for a moment about the birds and the bees! No, not that conversation. Instead, we want to highlight the important role that our feathered friends and those fluffy winged insects play in our world as pollinators.
What Are Pollinators?
There’s a chance that you already have a good idea of pollination. However, if this isn’t the case, we wanted to explain. Pollination is the process through which plants are able to reproduce. It facilitates the transfer of pollen from the anther of a plant to its stigma, allowing for fertilization to take place and seeds to be made.
Pollination is facilitated in many ways. Some of it occurs through the wind, particularly with grasses, wildflowers, and some trees. However, much of pollination is done be animal pollinators. These include things like butterflies and bats, but the two most significant pollinators are the birds and the bees.
There are thousands of different types of birds in the world. Not all species of birds are pollinators, but many are. Perhaps the most notable are hummingbirds, orioles, parrots, honeycreepers, and honeyeaters.
These birds typically feed on the delicious nectar from flowers. In the process, they also pick up pollen and transport it to other flowers, allowing fertilization to occur. Birds can quickly and easily travel from plant to plant, helping facilitate this process.
While many insects participate in pollination, the main ones carrying this load are bees. The most well-known bee pollinators are European honeybees. However, there are over 250 bee species that participate in pollination.
Bees fly to flowers, collecting nectar. This nectar will be taken back to the hive to be made into honey. While doing this, the bees also get a lot of pollen on their soft, fuzzy abdomens. As they more from flower to flower, they transfer this pollen, facilitating the pollination process.
The Plight of Pollinators
You may have heard about concern for the health of species of pollinators like bees. There is good reason for this. Pollinators are largely decreasing in numbers. In fact, roughly one out of every eight bird or mammal pollinators are currently threated with extinction. For insect pollinators, that number is 40 percent.
This is concerning not only for the diversity of worldwide species but also for our food sources. Pollinators are responsible for pollinating 90 percent of the plants in the world and 75 percent of food crops. In fact, one-third of our food crops are pollinated by honeybees specifically.
As pollinators decline, crops like apples, almonds, melons, pumpkins, broccoli, and squash could have a much harder time making it to the dinner plate. This could lead us to have to overwhelmingly depend on crops that don’t require pollination like corn and carrots or those that can be sufficiently pollinated by wind such as tomatoes and eggplant.
However, there is good news. Many governments and organizations have taken steps to preserve the birds and the bees that are so critical for our world. Additionally, there are things that you can do at home to lend a hand.
How Can You Help Pollinators?
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help the birds and bees thrive in your own backyard. Here are some tips.
Give Them a Drink
Provide a valuable water source for your pollinators in a few ways. You can leave a shallow dish of water on a deck or porch for bees. Consider investing in a bird bath for your local birds. These are great ways to meet a very important need while attracting pollinators to your yard.
Designing your yard to provide habitat for pollinators is another great way to help out. Create a pollinator garden that is attractive for bees, helping them and local plants thrive. Help out birds that are pollinators such as hummingbirds and orioles by providing feeders.
If you dislike raking leaves in the fall, the good news is that leaving them provides food and shelter for pollinators throughout the winter. Consider either not raking or minimally raking to provide some added cold weather support.
Whether you want to make your backyard an oasis for all types of pollinators or just want a few things to improve your birdwatching enjoyment, we are always happy to help out at Birdertown.