Plants make our world more beautiful and healthier. They are a source of food not only for people but also for animals. Unfortunately, most plants (for example 84% of European domesticated plants such as apples or cherries) need animals help to produce fruit and, what is more important, seed. Europe has 13.4 million too few honeybee colonies to properly pollinate its crops, according to new research from the University of Reading. Insects visit flower to find there sweet nectar or very nutritional pollen, but by the way they move pollen from one flower to another, that is why we call them pollinators. Pollen contain sperm cell which is necessary to fertilization providing to develop a fruit with seed, so pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anthers of one flower to the carpel of another or the same flower. The second one cell necessary to fertilization is hidden inside ovary which is a part of carpel and where fertilization takes place. Without this process most of flowering plants couldn’t exist. Many of them are addicted to only special species of pollinator. That is why it is so important to protect more species than honey bees (Apis mellifera).
Which insects are the most productive pollinators? Research show that honey bee is not as productive as wild species of pollinators such as bumblebees, solitude bees: mason bees (Osmia), mining bees (Andrena), overflies, butterflies and even ordinary flies. We have been protecting many species both plants and animals, but not many people heard about protecting pollinators. For few years we can observe phenomenon called „pollination crisis” or „pollination deficit”. Many species of pollinators extinct because of many various reason. Last years brought very rapid transfer of pollinators parasites and disease among all continents. Another one problem is destruction of their natural habitats and forages such as flower meadows, hedgerows, mixed forests and other „unproductive” land to develop highly productive agriculture. Level of agricultural biodiversity is coming down very fast and it comes to extinction of specialized pollinators. Intensification and modernisation of agriculture has got both positive and negative sides. What is more crops are protected by more destructive pesticides especially neo-nicotinoid ones and herbicides. Maybe weeds are harmful for crops, but for pollinators they are a source of varied nutritional food. We must remember, that pollinators are like people: they don’t like eat everything, some flowers are better than another. Some researchers claim, that there is no „pollination crisis”, but only too intensive development of agriculture, which is connected with growing amount of people on the Earth and growing food needs. Nevertheless it is really important to help pollinators, because their work is worth billions of dollars and their lack may lead not only to natural but also to economical disaster.
So, what can we do?
- Plant a Pollinator Garden full of flowers with various colours and shapes. Plant in clumps, rather than single plants, to better attract pollinators. Choose species that flower at different times of the year to provide nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season. The best are species native for your country, because they will attract more native pollinators.
- Try to use only organic source of fertilizer. Avoid or limit pesticide use
- Provide nesting sites in your garden. Leave some bunch of dry stalks (bamboo,reed,straw) and some piles of wood and branches in sunny and still place. That will be great place for insects’ nests.
You can also build or buy special „insects’ house” and put it to your garden. Example of pollinator tower for various pollinators from University of Warsaw Botanical Garden in Warsaw, Poland you can see in the photo. More examples and instructions are available on websites below.
Author: Dorota Sobol, Youth Peace Group Danube