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Green Gardening: The Importance of Pollinators

by Karen Lawson, All About Lawns Columnist

Who can imagine breakfast cereal without strawberries, pies without apples, blueberries, or peaches, or Halloween without pumpkins? What about a world without chocolate? The plants that provide these foods depend on pollinators to reproduce. Without bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators, we would not have many familiar foods. 75 percent of flowering plants depend on pollinators, and about 90 food crops are dependent on pollinators.

Backyard Pollinators: Bees, Butterflies, and Birds

Bees are the workhorses of the pollinators. Although honeybee populations are declining in the U.S., there are more than 4000 native bee species in the U.S. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that honeybees alone help produce about $15 billion in food crops in the U.S. annually. Bees typically prefer blue and yellow flowers, and flowers with a sweet scent. Local nurseries and university extension services can help you identify regional plants that attract pollinators.

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Butterflies can bring color and movement to your landscaping. Unfortunately, the Fish and Wildlife Service notes declining populations in some butterfly populations in the past 30 years. Butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, and orange flowers. Try incorporating some native plants with these colors in your landscaping. They rely on sight rather than scent to locate flowers. Did you know that butterflies taste with their feet?


Hummingbirds are the gluttons of the bird world, as their metabolic needs require them to consume twice their weight in food each day! As they move among flowers, they move pollen from one plant to the next. Common species include the ruby throated hummingbird and Anna's hummingbird. Hummingbirds are drawn to red, orange, pink, and yellow flowers. Songbirds also facilitate pollination by consuming fruit and spreading seeds.

Attracting pollinators to your backyard adds beauty and can provide hours of enjoyment.


About the Author
Karen Lawson is a freelance writer with an avid interest in gardening and horticulture. She earned BA and MA degrees in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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