Statement issued by the USDA:
Indianapolis, June 23, 2011 – This week goes to the birds and the bees – and to all of the other pollinators that keep our world growing and productive. June 20-26 is National Pollinator Week, and its intent is to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators to plants, animals, and humans.
The work of pollinators is worth $14.6 billion annually in the United States as an ecological Service. They are responsible for the reproduction (the production of fruits, seeds, nuts, etc.) of 70 percent of all flowering plants and two-thirds of crop plants. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack designated this week as National Pollinator Week as a way to honor pollinators, "which provide significant environmental benefits necessary for maintaining healthy, biodiverse ecosystems," said Secretary Vilsack. The NRCS promotes pollinator habitat in its cost-share programs, which gives landowners incentives to establish nectar corridors and pollinator nesting habitat. Many of the standards and specifications used for conservation practices have been reviewed to ensure establishment of pollinator habitat is incorporated.
Unfortunately, many of the world's pollinators are at risk. Studies have shown that about a third of the nation's managed honeybee colonies are lost each year, a trend that has held steady for the past five years. Pesticides and other toxins have also reduced the number of butterflies and other crucial pollinators.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, along with other agencies and nonprofit groups, have assembled to help restore and protect pollinator populations, and there are things everyone can do in their own backyard to help pollinators flourish.
First, incorporate pollinator friendly plants into landscaping. A diverse planting of mostly native plants is typically best. Create diversity by using flowers with different shapes, colors and times of bloom. Natives include beardtongue, coreopsis, black-eyed susan, native sunflowers, purple coneflower, beebalm, tropical sage, and milkweed.
Provide nesting sites for bees, called bee blocks. To make a bee block, start with preservative free lumber and drill holes 3/32 to 3/8 inches in diameter. Holes should be spaced 3/4 inches apart, and they should only be open at one end.
Avoid using pesticides. While pesticides kill nuisance bugs, they can also remove beneficial bugs, too, including pollinators. Explore non-pesticide options when protecting yourself and your plants. Certain plants can ward off unwanted bugs or attract desired bugs.
Promote pollinator habitat in your community. Green spaces like parks and golf courses can provide valuable habitat for pollinators. As urbanization continues to deplete natural lands, these green spaces can serve as sanctuaries for pollinators. Encourage your local leaders and golf course owners to use landscaping and pesticide management best suited for pollinators.
For a copy of NRCS' "Be Kind to Pollinators" brochure, call 1-888-526-3227.