This week is Pollinator Week! Pollinators are everywhere but are very important in Iowa with how much agriculture we have here. Pollinators are so important to the production of food that if they were to all go extinct, we wouldn’t have many of the foods we have today. With over 200,000 different species of pollinators, we have many opportunities to help our pollinators.
With over 4,000 species of bees and wasps in North America and a likely 300 – 400 native species of bees and wasps in Iowa, they are very influential here. The Mason bee is a native, solitary bee that is very important around Iowa. They pollinate our fruit trees and other plants in Iowa. They are important to the apple trees, pear trees and cherry trees among others.
Honeybees are also found in Iowa and pollinate while also making honey. They are great pollinators but so are bumblebees. The bumblebee is similar to the honeybee in they make colonies but they don’t make honey. They are great pollinators though and one of the main sources they pollinate is our crops. They keep our crops growing strong. They especially are important for berries, peppers and hothouse tomatoes as well as corn, soybeans and many other commercially grown crops.
Moths and butterflies are also great pollinators. In Iowa alone, there have been 2,000 species of moths and about 110 species of butterflies recorded. Moths and butterflies stop to drink the nectar from flowers and when they land on the flower, they pick up pollen that they carry to the next flower they land on. They don’t pollinate quite as much as the bees and wasps but they’re still very important.
Bats are another great pollinator. Not only do they eat insects, but some species eat fruit. When the bats swoop down to eat insects near fruit, they pick up pollen and then go do the same to other plants. When they eat fruit, they eat the seeds which in turn come out in their guano, or poop, and are then planted.
How to help the pollinators
One of the best ways you can help the pollinators is to create more habitat. Planting native is one of the biggest helps to plants. Making sure the plants are native to your area and the correct version helps as well. The Blank Park Zoo has a Plant.Grow.Fly program is amazing and has so many resources to know what to plant.
Making sure there is water in your pollinator garden is another important point. Everything needs food, water and shelter to live and pollinators are no different. You can have a birdbath or a dish with textured marbles in it so the bees and butterflies can get to the water but don’t get stuck in the water are great opportunities to help.
Sharing information about pollinators and making them fun is also a great way to spread awareness and keep people involved in the conservation of pollinators.