Bee the change
Without pollination, we’d have no apples, tomatoes, strawberries, green beans, grapes, squash and many more food crops. In fact, over 75 percent of food crops—and about 90 percent of all plants—rely on pollinators to reproduce.
But the population of bees, butterflies, bats and other pollinators that fly from flower to flower, fertilizing plants by distributing pollen, is in drastic decline. While the decline is still being studied, we do know that loss of habitat, invasive species, climate change, and overuse of pesticides are some of the possible causes.
We can make a difference! If everyone in Massachusetts takes even one step to Bee the change, we’ll be helping to reverse the decline—and breathing easier, growing our economy, and making our state even more beautiful in the process.
What is pollination? read more
Flowering plants must be fertilized in order to produce seeds for new plants, but most plants lack the ability to fertilize themselves. They need help from pollinators.
When we hear the word pollinators, most of us think of honey bees, but many kinds of bees, as well as butterflies, bird, insects, bats and invertebrates also pollinate plants. Pollinators fly around, searching for food, water, and places to nest. They eat or collect pollen and nectar from flowers as a source of food.
Each pollinator species is attracted to the fragrance, colors, and shapes of particular flowers. As the pollinators travel from flower to flower, they inadvertently transfer pollen grains from the anther (the male organ) to the stigma (the female organ) of the same species.
Once the pollen grain is transferred to the stigma, a “pollen tube” forms and grows down into the ovule, which results in the development of seeds or fruits.
Why pollinators are so important? read more
Over 75 percent of crops grown worldwide wouldn’t be able to reproduce without pollinators. Without pollinators, we’d lose a lot of plant diversity. Having access to a wide range of crops ensures a good supply of vitamins and minerals and provides us with more cancer-fighting foods.
The loss of foods wouldn’t only hurt our nutrition, but it would also be detrimental to our farms. Farmers depend on pollinator populations for their livelihood. Bee pollination accounts for $20 billion alone. Strong and diverse pollinator populations allow farmers to grow healthier food in greater amounts.
Roughly 90% of all plants rely on pollinators for their survival. Given the current decline, the World Conservation Union predicts the loss of 20,000 flowering species in the next few decades unless we take action. Many herbivores rely on these flowering plants, and predators, in turn, rely on the herbivores for their survival. Thus, the health and diversity of our entire ecosystem relies on pollinators.
What’s causing the pollinator decline? read more
Habitats like meadows, forests, and even front lawns and back yards are extremely important for pollinators. Each habitat is home to many different species.
Our ecosystem has already lost a lot of plant variety, which makes it difficult for pollinators to find food and increases competition for scarcer supplies. Having a diverse range of habitats provides food sources for all types of pollinators and ensures that food is available throughout the seasons.
Ever notice how some flowers are very long and thin, while others are wide and flat? Long, thin flowers are ideally formed for hummingbirds to find food, but they’re the wrong shape for other pollinators. That’s why planting a variety of flowering plants is so important: it helps ensure that many species can thrive.
Habitats have also become “fragmented,” or separated, which means there may be big gaps between suitable spaces for pollinators to find food and shelter. Some pollinators, like the monarch butterfly, migrate over long distances every year. These butterflies need lots of food and nourishment to travel so far. If there’s too large a distance between sources of food and water, monarch butterflies won’t survive their journey.
Human development has also caused the pollinator population to decline. Some egg-laying insects need specific conditions to nest and reproduce. Buildings, concrete, and impacted soil reduce the number of available options, so pollinators must compete for appropriate space.
In addition to the decline in the pollinator population, we’ve also lost a lot of pollinator biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of life on the planet. Having a diverse variety of species is important, because each species has characteristics that enable it to thrive in different conditions. As climate change leads to changes in weather patterns, some species are struggling to adapt. When we take action to help pollinators survive, we’re maintaining the biodiversity we need to ensure that there will be enough species to pollinate our crops in the future.
Pesticides and Herbicides
The excessive use of pesticides has also been correlated with the pollinator decline. Pesticides are designed to kill extremely harmful pests like the tomato hornworm, but are lethal to small beneficial organisms. Unfortunately, we can’t prevent pollinators from coming in contact with the pesticides.
For example, wind can spread pesticides far from their intended location. In addition, some pollinators travel long distances and encounter pesticides to only bring them back to their colonies. This can spread the impact of pesticides through large parts of ecosystem.
Herbicides can also effect the pollinator population, because they can kill off wildflowers and destroy foraging habitats that certain insect populations rely on.
Following best practices for the use of pesticides and herbicides—and reducing or eliminating their use whenever possible—can reduce their potential impact on pollinators.
Introducing new plants and animals to a new environment can also lead to decline in pollinator populations. When non-native plants or animals enter an environment, they can crowd out native species, including the pollinators that the native plants depend on.
For example, bamboo is an invasive species in North America. When grown in Massachusetts, bamboo thrives and takes over land previously occupied by native plants, reducing the amount of biodiversity in a location.
When new plants or animals are introduced to a habitat, they can also bring in new diseases, which may also reduce the pollinator population.
What do pollinators need? read more
Bees, birds, and other pollinators use pollen and nectar they find in flowering plants for food.
- Stay local! Local native plants are always going to be the better choice for pollinators. The best place to find them is at your local garden center or through a local landscaper.
- Go with variety. Remember, different pollinators are attracted to different shapes and colors. If you’re going to put in several plants, try to mix it up! View ourlist of native pollinator plants for more information.
- Use species that bloom throughout the different seasons.
- Pay attention to how much sun is available where you plant. Ideal spots receive at least six hours of sun.
- If planting in containers, make sure the soil is rich in nutrients and has good drainage.
- Fragrant flowers are more attractive to pollinators, especially for nocturnal pollinators, like bats.
- Hummingbird feeders are also supply a great source of nutrients.
- Young pollinators (larvae) don’t start eating pollen and nectar until they mature. They feed on wildflowers, weeds, and wild grasses, so keep plenty of these around to help offspring grow. (Milkweed is especially good for butterflies.)
Water is an essential resource for pollinators; it helps with hydration and reproduction.
- If you have a stream, pond, or other natural resource, you don’t need to add anything else.
- Birdbaths or open containers are great alternative to natural sources.
- Change your water every 2-3 days to keep mosquitos from spawning.
- Make sure containers have a shallow or approachable side so pollinators can drink without drowning.
Pollinators need shelter for nesting and seasonal protection. Nesting sites for pollinators differ from species to species, so any option you can provide is likely to attract pollinators.
- Some bees nest in the ground. Leave some areas of bare soil that isn’t too compacted where they can nest.
- If you have a space away from your house, dead wood provides shelter and nesting for bees, wasps, beetles, and ants.
- Instead of cleaning up your garden in the fall, leave debris until the spring to provide shelter over winter.
What about pesticides and herbicides? read more
Use pesticides and herbicides sparingly
Remember, pesticides can kill more than your intended target. Some can still kill pollinators days after application. Before you use a pesticide or herbicide, try one of these alternatives.
- Remove pests or weeds manually. You can pick pests off or pull weed by hand (Use a good pair of gardening gloves from your local store when doing this.) Or you can use a hose to remove colonies of pests like aphids.
- Use a natural predator instead. You can order ladybugs from your local garden center. Not only do they go to town on annoying pests like aphids, they’re wonderful creatures to have around.
- Use a non-harmful alternative. There are clever gardening tricks to keep away pests. Sometimes it involves planting pungent herbs like lemon balm, while others take advantage of hot spices or cinnamon.
- When dealing with pests and weeds, the best motto is “a little time everyday.” If you spend just a few minutes a day pulling weeds or checking for pests, you can prevent problems from getting out of hand.
- Weeds aren’t always bad! Some provide nourishment for larvae while others, like dandelions, provide nectar when other flowers aren’t ready to bloom.
Reducing Pesticide Use & Impacts—Xerces Society
Pollinator Protection Checklist by PSU
What are 3 plant adaptations that can help attract pollinators? ›
Plants have adapted many traits to attract pollinators. Bright colored blossoms attract bees, flies, butterflies, and moths inside to collect nectar and pollen. Sometimes lines on their petals will guide the insects down into the blossom or a sweet smell will attract pollinators from a long way off.How many plants depend on pollinators? ›
Somewhere between 75% and 95%  of all flowering plants on the earth need help with pollination – they need pollinators. Pollinators provide pollination services to over 180,000 different plant species and more than 1200 crops.What are the 3 ways they attract pollinators? ›
- Mix it up. Different pollinators respond to different colors. ...
- Create drifts. Many pollinators are near-sighted, so it's easier for them to find flowers when there's a large bunch. ...
- Add water. ...
- Provide shelter. ...
- Try trees. ...
- Include natives. ...
- Let herbs bloom. ...
- Use pesticides wisely.
Plants can be: Self-pollinating - the plant can fertilize itself; or, Cross-pollinating - the plant needs a vector (a pollinator or the wind) to get the pollen to another flower of the same species.What are pollinators plants? ›
A pollinator is anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma). The movement of pollen must occur for the the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds, and young plants.Why are most pollinators attracted to plants? ›
Plants produce nectar to attract pollinators. As the pollinator moves from flower to flower collecting nectar, they are also moving pollen from flower to flower.What are two things that attract pollinators to a flower? ›
Many flowers use visual cues to attract pollinators: showy petals and sepals, nectar guides, shape, size, and color.How do plants depend on pollinators? ›
During a flower visit, a pollinator may accidentally brush against the flower's reproductive parts, unknowingly depositing pollen from a different flower. The plant then uses the pollen to produce a fruit or seed. Many plants cannot reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging pollinators.What is an example of pollinator? ›
Insect pollinators include bees, (honeybees, solitary species, bumblebees); pollen wasps (Masarinae); ants; a variety of flies including bee flies and hoverflies; lepidopterans, both butterflies and moths; and flower beetles.What are 4 pollinators? ›
Pollinators by Numbers
More than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and beetles and other insects.
How many types of pollinators are there? ›
There are over 200,000 species of animal pollinators and the vast majority of these are insects (Berenbaum 2007). Insect pollinators include beetles, flies, ants, moths, butterflies, bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees, and wasps.What makes a good pollinator? ›
Wings or legs allow pollinators to move easily from flower to flower, taking pollen along with them. Many bees are also great pollinators because they have hairy bodies. Pollen gets caught in these hairs and drops off on other flowers they visit.How are most plants pollinated? ›
Pollination is an essential part of plant reproduction. Pollen from a flower's anthers (the male part of the plant) rubs or drops onto a pollinator. The pollinator then take this pollen to another flower, where the pollen sticks to the stigma (the female part). The fertilized flower later yields fruit and seeds.What foods depend on pollinators? ›
One out of every three bites of our food, including fruits, vegetables, chocolate, coffee, nuts, and spices, is created with the help of pollinators.What is pollination give example? ›
Bees provide a good example of the mutualism that exists between hymenopterans and angiosperms. Flowers provide bees with nectar (an energy source) and pollen (a source of protein). When bees go from flower to flower collecting pollen they are also depositing pollen grains onto the flowers, thus pollinating them.What are 4 things that pollinate plants? ›
Pollination occurs when birds, bees, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, other animals, water, or the wind carries pollen from flower to flower or it is moved within flowers.What are two types of pollinators? ›
Although there are many different types of pollinators, there are just two main types of pollination—self-pollination and cross-pollination.Do all plants need pollination? ›
Virtually all of the world's seed plants need to be pollinated. This is just as true for cone-bearing plants, such as pine trees, as for the more colorful and familiar flowering plants. Pollen, looking like insignificant yellow dust, bears a plant's male sex cells and is a vital link in the reproductive cycle.What are 3 reasons pollinators are important? ›
Pollinators are vitally important to agriculture, as well as our food system and ecosystems. They help thousands of flowering plants reproduce, from flowers to fruits and even some crops. Pollinator habitat can also provide benefits on the farm, such as preventing soil erosion and improving biodiversity.Why is it important to plant flowers for pollinators? ›
Pollinators help plants that bring us food and other resources. By carrying pollen from one plant to another, pollinators fertilize plants and allow them to make fruit or seeds. Pollinator health is critical to our food system and the diversity of life across the world.
Which colors attract which pollinators? ›
Flower color significance also depends on the specific pollinator. For instance, bees are attracted to bright blue and violet colors. Hummingbirds prefer red, pink, fuchsia, or purple flowers. Butterflies enjoy bright colors such as yellow, orange, pink, and red.What are the types of pollination? ›
There are two types of pollination: Self-Pollination. Cross-Pollination.What are the biggest pollinators? ›
Bees are the most important pollinator. Honeybees, for example, are responsible for pollinating over 110 crops that we eat and use every day, like tasty apples and delicious strawberries.How many plants are pollinated by insects? ›
Approximately 80 percent of all flowering plant species are specialized for pollination by animals, mostly insects.What are 5 common plants that bees pollinate? ›
The Many Crops That Are Pollinated by Bees
Bees pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons, almonds, and broccoli. Fruits like blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent on honey bee pollination, and during bloom time, almonds depend entirely on honey bees for pollination.
Water pollinated plants are aquatic. Pollen floats on the water's surface drifting until it contacts flowers. This is called surface hydrophily, but is relatively rare (only 2% of pollination is hydrophily). This water-aided pollination occurs in waterweeds and pondweeds.What is a natural pollinator? ›
Almost all plants, wild or grown by humankind, need natural pollinators in order to reproduce. These are insects like bees, butterflies, beetles and flies, as well as some birds like hummingbirds and mammals like bats —which pollinate more than 500 species of tropical plants.What is a Type 1 pollinator? ›
Type 1 trees produce pollen and then have receptive female flowers. Type 2 trees are going to have receptive flowers first and then produce pollen. So, when selecting your variety of trees, and you'll want at least two, you need to make sure that they complement each other in the pollination process.How do flowers pollinate? ›
How does pollen get from one flower to another? Flowers must rely on vectors to move pollen. These vectors can include wind, water, birds, insects, butterflies, bats, and other animals that visit flowers. We call animals or insects that transfer pollen from plant to plant “pollinators”.Can humans pollinate plants? ›
A person can pollinate 5–10 trees a day, depending on the size of the trees. Farmers pay the human pollinators US$ 12–19/person/d. They still believe that hand pollination is the only solution if they continue to grow apples.
Where are pollinators found? ›
Pollinators have two basic habitat needs: a diversity of flowering native or naturalized plants, and egg-laying or nesting sites.What is the number 1 pollinator? ›
Native honey bees are the most commonly known pollinator. They are 'volunteers' that work tirelessly pollinating a variety of crops. Recent problems with colony collapse and bee pests have put the wild honey bee population in danger, leading to many initiatives to aid honey bee health.What are the most efficient pollinators? ›
Native bees are the super-pollinators of the garden! While honey bees have their place, it's our native, solitary bees—such as mason bees and leafcutter bees—which are critical to growing food and flowers.Which pollinator is most efficient? ›
Bees are the most efficient pollinator; a single bee colony can pollinate 3 million flowers a day. Plants, just like every other living organism, need to reproduce.What are the three main pollinators? ›
Although birds, bats, and other creatures are also pollinators, insects are the animals that do the bulk of the pollination that affects our daily lives. Some of these insect pollinators will be familiar (bees and butterflies), but you might be surprised by some of the others (flies, wasps, and beetles).Which vegetables are good pollinators? ›
Examples include lettuces, asparagus, broccoli, beets, and onions. Again, this is just concerning crops we grow for food. If you want this vegetable group to set seed instead (for seed saving), pollination will likely be required once the plants are flowering. But it's not needed for the food production stage.How many plants can a bee pollinate? ›
Honey bees alone pollinate 80 percent of all flowering plants, including more than 130 types of fruits and vegetables.What kind of plant attract bees? ›
Bees are particularly attracted to bee balm, echinacea, snap dragon, and hostas, as well as a number of other wildflowers like California poppies and evening primrose. Fun fact: Did you know that bees have excellent color vision? For this reason, they flock to yellow, purple, blue, and white flowers.What is the most common of pollination? ›
Bees. Bees are perhaps the most important pollinator of many garden plants and most commercial fruit trees. The most common species of bees are bumblebees and honeybees.Which insect is the most important pollinator? ›
Of all the insect pollinators, bees are the only ones that collect pollen for eating. As such, bees are responsible for 90 percent of all the world's pollination.