What’s the Buzz? Your Guide to Pollinators

What's the buzz with pollinators?  

Pollinators need our help! Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that causes the majority of a bee population to disappear, was documented at an alarming rate in the early 2000s.

Since then, scientists and environmental groups have concentrated their efforts in pollinator conservation and awareness including introducing National Pollinator Week.  This is an annual celebration in support of protecting pollinator health in our environment.

Pollinators play a valuable and vital role in our fragile ecosystem, and one of the reasons for the decline in the pollinator population is directly connected to climate change.

What's the effect of climate change on pollinators?

Greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons), deforestation, burning fossil fuels, overfishing, industrial waste from power plants, factory farming, unsustainable consumerism, pollution from gas-powered vehicles, and the accumulation of waste in landfills have all contributed to the decrease in pollinators. 

Pollinators also face climate challenges such as rising temperatures, destruction of their natural habitats, disease, increased pesticide use and natural disasters.

For our ecosystems to thrive, it needs pollinators like bees, butterflies, birds, bats, beetles, moths, wasps, flies and other small animals to pollinate plants. Globally, over 1,400 plants we depend on for food or products require the natural process of pollination.

How does the pollination process work?

Pollination is an essential part of plant production and the ecological survival of the planet. Pollen from the anthers (the male part of plant) rubs or drops onto the pollinator as it sips nectar. The pollinator travels to another flower of the same species, thus taking the pollen and depositing it on the stigma (the female part of the plant). The fertilized flower produces seeds or fruit.

Seeds are what produces a new plant; and that’s genetic material for the next generation. Flowers are the tools that plants use to attract pollinators. Since flowering plants produce breathable oxygen, our future depends on pollinator protection.

How can we help?

Conservation can help combat the impacts of climate change by supporting pollinator habitat protection. What can we do to help support pollinators and a healthy ecosystem? Here are some ideas:

  • Plant a butterfly or bee garden in your backyard. Butterflies and bees are valuable pollinators. They are very common in fields and meadows, but those habitats are in short supply in today’s modern urban landscape. To help boost the population of bees and butterflies, add a sanctuary in your garden that will attract these creatures. Both butterflies and bees are active in spring through late summer when plant growth is at its peak. Pick a spot in your yard that gets ample sunlight. Choose particular plants that are a nectar source like purple coneflower and zinnia. Avoid chemical-based pesticides. Add places for rest such as stones and a water source for hydration.
  • Build a bat house. Bats are pollinators too! They can keep your yard free of pests like mosquitos and moths. Adding a bat house can provide a safe environment for bats. Bat houses should be at least 10 feet off the ground and placed in a sunny location where they can keep warm while they sleep.
  • Use organic pest control methods and discontinue using toxic chemicals on your yard and in your garden.
  • Buy natural products produced from pollinator-friendly merchants.
  • Provide hummingbird feeders. Hummingbirds are specifically adapted to pollination. They pollinate a variety of flowering plants. Adding a special feeder to attract hummingbirds will help keep your yard pest-free. For protein, hummingbirds can catch flies and other insects in flight. The best flowers for attracting hummingbirds to your garden are tubular plants like daylilies and lupines.
  • Donate to, join or attend a Friends of the Rouge event. Conserving beneficial water sources for natural wildlife and wetlands is important to the ecological health of our communities. Friends of the Rouge is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help restore, protect and enhance the Rouge River watershed. They provide hands-on immersive learning opportunities to encourage the public to become citizen scientists and invest in the stewardship of the Rouge River. There are volunteer events in the Canton area.
  • Visit a pollinator garden near you. The Plymouth Pollinators is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing pollinator habitats in the community. They collaborate with municipal sources, residents and other conservation groups to support pollinator garden spaces for the community to enjoy and appreciate. Their education materials are a great place to start for information on plant selection and pollinator gardening tips.

Want to learn more? Try one of these books. 

Beekeeping for Beginners by Kim Flottum. Covering everything you need to know from selecting the right kind of hives to finding and bringing bees home to your yard, right up to the collection and enjoyment of the glorious reward—golden honey. Rewarding and environmentally beneficial, reading this complete and introductory guide is the first step in your journey to becoming a successful beekeeper, whether you decide to have one hive or 25.

Bicycling With Butterflies by Sara Dykman. An outdoor educator and field researcher recounted her incredible journey following the annual migration of the threatened monarch butterfly by biking with them on a 10,000-mile, round-trip journey through three countries.

Handmade Houses and Feeders for Birds, Bees, and Butterflies by Michele McKee-Orsini. Provides instructions for building birdhouses and feeders, discussing the tools and materials to use, woodworking techniques, and bird safety.

In Business With Bees by Kim Flottum. A step-by-step guide to turning a serious hobby into a part-time beekeeping business that is tailored to your goals and needs.

The Mind of a Bee by Lars Chittka. Most of us are aware of the hive mind—the power of bees as an amazing collective. But do we know how uniquely intelligent bees are as individuals? Based on decades of research, including his own pioneering work, the author argues that bees have remarkable cognitive abilities. He shows that they are profoundly smart, have distinct personalities, can recognize flowers and human faces, exhibit basic emotions, count, use simple tools, solve problems, and learn by observing others. They may even possess consciousness.

Raising Butterflies in the Garden by Brenda Dziedzic. A guide to attracting local species of butterflies and moths in your garden. Readers can do this by growing the plants that they use in all stages of their life cycles. 

What a Bee Knows by Stephen L. Buchmann. For many of us, the buzzing of a bee elicits panic. But the next time you hear that low droning sound, look closer: the bee has navigated to this particular spot for a reason using a fascinating set of tools. She may be using her sensitive olfactory organs, which provide a 3D scent map of her surroundings. She may be following visual landmarks or instructions relayed by a hive-mate. She may even be tracking electrostatic traces left on flowers by other bees. We’re invited to follow bees' mysterious paths and experience their alien world.

What Bees Want by Susan Knilans. Bee populations are plummeting. The solution? Give them what they need to live naturally, and they'll handle the rest. When bees are allowed to live as they would in nature (with smaller hives, no chemicals, freedom to swarm, and little-to-no human interference), they will thrive. Sharing preservation beekeeping's key tenets, the authors provide concrete, simple ways to implement their approach, from finding the right hive location to honing observation skills. This preservation manifesto is a vital addition to any beekeeper's library, imparting all the joys of a beekeeper's life.

Featured DVDs

Honeyland – Hatidze lives with her ailing mother in the mountains of Macedonia, making a living cultivating honey using ancient beekeeping traditions. When an unruly family moves in next door, what at first seems like a balm for her solitude becomes a source of tension as they, too, want to practice beekeeping, while disregarding her advice.

My Garden of a Thousand Bees – A story of surprise and revelation. Martin Dohrn, a veteran wildlife cameraman and bee enthusiast, embarked on a special challenge during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020: to film all the bees he could find in his tiny urban garden in Bristol, England. By the end of the summer, he became bee obsessed and developed relationships with some individual bees.

The Pollinators – Thousands of semi-trailers crisscross the country in the dead of night delivering goods through the darkness to stores, warehouses and factories nationwide. But some of them carry an unsuspected and highly unusual cargo—honey bees. Tens of billions of them are transported back and forth from one end of the United States to the other in a unique annual migration that’s indispensable to the feeding of America. A fascinating and untold story warning that bees are in serious danger.

Silence of the Bees – Up to 80% of the honeybees in the U.S. have vanished. The massive die-offs, first reported in November of 2006, are now the subject of emergency research around the globe as the devastation spreads and scientists race to discover the cause of this ecological disaster. Could it be a disease? Or is it caused by cellphones, pesticides, mites, fungi, or the stress that comes from increasingly industrialized beekeeping operations? Whatever is happening, we must solve the mystery soon, and correct the problem, or face consequences we hardly dare imagine.