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Protecting Pollinators

Two-spotted Bumble Bee (Bombus bimaculatus) at Clark Botanic Garden

What are pollinators?

Did you know that native insects are vital to the pollination and reproduction (producing fruit and seeds) of flowering plants, including wildflowers, trees, garden plants and cultivated crops?  When you hear the word pollinator you may think of honey bees.  Although honey bees are important in agriculture, they are not native to the United States and originally come from Europe.  Native insect pollinators include native bees like bumble bees, mining bees, mason bees and leaf cutter bees, butterflies, moths, flies like flower flies, wasps and beetles.  Non-insect pollinators include bats (although we don’t have any bat pollinators on Long Island) and birds like hummingbirds, as well as some reptiles, amphibians and other mammals.  Bees are known as the most numerous, effective and important pollinators since most females collect pollen for their offspring and have special structures for carrying it, making them better at holding on to pollen and transferring it from one flower to another.

Pollinators in Trouble

Many native pollinator species worldwide have been in decline over the last few decades and several species of bumble bees (Bombus spp.) were designated as High-Priority Species of Greatest Conservation Need in New York’s State Wildlife Action Plan.  The rusty patched bumble bee was even listed as an endangered species under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2017.  The monarch butterfly has declined by 90 percent within the last 20 years (click here for more information on helping monarchs).  These losses are attributed mostly to habitat loss and pesticide use.

What can you do to help?

Plant native plants:

Pollinators need plants that they evolved with, meaning that they need the plants that historically lived in this geographic area.  Planting a pollinator garden or even a container (if you’re short on space) with native plants that contain nectar and pollen will provide resources that bees, butterflies, flies and other pollinators need to feed themselves and their young.  These plants also provide food for birds like berries and seeds as well as insects, which 90% of birds use to feed their chicks.  Butterflies need host plants for their caterpillars to feed on, for example monarch larvae feed only on milkweed, while black swallowtail larvae will feed on plants in the carrot family (carrots, parsley, golden alexanders).

Click here for a list of native plants to incorporate into your yard!  You can even look at the pollinator and rain gardens at Clark Botanic Garden for inspiration as well as the newly planted pollinator garden at Gerry Park in Roslyn or take the free Native Plant Gardening Class offered by the Town.  Click here for more information and to register.

Reduce or Eliminate Pesticide Use:

Insecticides are a type of pesticide that kills insects so if you use them in your yard and gardens they can be very harmful to pollinators.  They can do anything from changing their normal behavior to killing them.  Be especially aware of plants sold in stores or nurseries that may have been treated with neonicotinoids.  These insecticides are systemic which means they infiltrate every part of the plant including nectar and pollen.  Research has shown these can do a lot of harm to bees by altering their abilities to fly, forage, reproduce and fight off disease.  Be careful when using herbicides as well.  Research has also shown that they have negative effects on bee health.

Provide Nesting Habitat:

Many bees nest in cavities like holes in trees or in bare patches of soil in the ground.  Providing areas of your yard without mulch or leaving an old tree stump can help bees to find nesting space.  Also, if you wait until the spring to cut back perennial plants (instead of the fall) bees can use hollow stems for nesting.  Visit this website to find out more about creating nesting habitat for bees: https://xerces.org/enhancing-habitat-for-native-bees/

Provide Water:

You can offer pollinators a place to drink by filling a shallow bird bath with gravel or creating a muddy patch in the corner of your yard.

Participate in Citizen Science:

This year the Town is taking part in the Empire State Native Pollinator Survey (ESNPS).  This project created by the NY Natural Heritage Program in partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation aims to determine the conservation status of a wide array of native insect pollinators throughout New York.  Currently the Town is surveying for pollinators by taking pictures of bees, flies, butterflies, moths and beetles that are seen at Clark Botanic Garden and submitting them to the ESNPS on iNaturalist.  You can participate too!  Click here for more information on the project and how you can get involved.  Check back in the fall to see the results of pollinator surveying at Clark Botanic Garden!

For more information visit:

NWF.org

Xerces.org

Pollinator.org

NYNHP.org/Pollinators

NorthHempsteadNY.gov/Monarchs

LINPI.org

 

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