Pollinator myths and misconceptions

Pollinators are a huge topic of conversation in conservation today, and that’s why we have added the Pollinator Paradise addition to the Dickinson County Nature Center.

As we enter into discussions about pollinators, we hear a lot of myths and misconceptions. Let’s take a look at a few.

Kim Miller

1. I don’t want bees in the yard because they will sting my kids.

One of our joys is watching kids quietly watch a bee as it lands on a flower and drinks nectar. They get so excited to watch a pollinator at work, and because the child is quiet and respectful of nature, the bee feels no fear and has no reason to want to harm that child. Honeybees die after they sting, so it is the last thing that they want to do. They will only sting if they feel threatened or if they feel their hive is being threatened. Stay calm, don’t swat at a bee and gently blow if you think it is too close to you. Bees don’t want to sting.

Carnivorous wasps, including yellowjackets, are more aggressive. Check out this blog to see if you’re dealing with a wasp, yellowjacket or hornet instead of a bee.

2. Bees are the only pollinators.

Many people think pollinator and immediately think “bee.” Bees are definitely some of the best pollinators, from mason bees to bumblebees, but the world of pollinators goes far beyond just bees. Butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, flies, fruit bats and even mammals can all pollinate. Learn more about these pollinators here.

Kim Miller

3. Pollinator conservation and agriculture can’t work together.

Native bees, butterflies and other pollinators are valuable to helping pollinate a variety of crops, although corn and soybeans in Iowa are self-pollinated. However, that doesn’t mean that planting pollinator-friendly natives doesn’t work well with Iowa agricultural land. Planting native species in buffer zones, in low-lying areas and in CRP acres not only is good for pollinators and wildlife but it also helps improve the quality of water runoff, decreases soil loss and reduces the need for expensive pesticides. Cooperating with government programs for improving pollinator habitat can also qualify farmers for financial support.

Another way that agriculture and pollinators work hand-in-hand is in the off-season. Reduced tillage is not only less work for the farmer but it is also great for native bees that overwinter by burrowing into the soil. Your empty field might just provide the perfect winter home for some of our dwindling native bee species.

4. I don’t like healthy food, so I don’t need pollinators.

You might think that pollinators don’t affect your life. You’re a meat-and-potato kind of person.

However, pollinators may affect the foods you eat more than you realize. Dairy and beef cattle eat alfalfa, and alfalfa needs pollinators. Chocolate and coffee beans both need pollinators as well. Do you like tea or tequila? That needs pollinators too.

Even if you don’t eat all fruits and vegetables, one-in-three bites of food that you take is still affected by pollinators.

5. Most bees are honeybees.

There are only seven species of honeybees worldwide — and none are native the United States. There are almost 300 species of native bees in Iowa, and there are about 1,200 native to the United States.

Photo of sweat bee

Augochloropsis metallica

Read: Honeybees are not native bees, surprised?

6. Monarch butterflies fly all the way north each season.

It can take four-six generations of monarch to make their way all the way to the northern most breeding grounds in the Midwest or southern Canada before the final generation migrates back south to Mexico for the winter. So when you see monarchs this spring, they are not the same monarchs that flew south last year. They are that monarch’s great-great-grandchild at least!

That means that we not only have to support one generation of butterflies but up to six generations of butterflies throughout the United States with enough milkweed and nectar sources to survive.

Read: The majestic monarch’s magnificent life cycle

What pollinator myths or misconceptions have you heard?

 

 

 

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