Protecting Pollinators While Outdoors
Your favorite flowers, trees, birds and butterflies may be part of your everyday experience, but they’re also an integral part of the ecosystem. Because they provide food for all animals, pollinators are critical to human survival. Yet, it’s not only about getting out there in the woods or on a trail — it’s essential to protect pollinators everywhere you go.
Why Should You Protect Pollinators?
Pollinators are a vital part of the world’s agricultural system. They help farmers by increasing crop fertilization and keeping pests away from food sources. This means people can grow more food by yielding more crops.
Another reason the Earth needs pollinators is they’re crucial to the ecosystem as a whole. A healthy ecosystem is one where plants and animals can live together harmoniously. That’s why protecting pollinators is essential for everyone — not just for farmers who rely on them for their livelihoods, but also for you.
If the planet loses its pollinator populations, everyone loses an integral part of the plant-animal connection that keeps the food chain thriving. Unfortunately, bee and butterfly populations have decreased significantly due to insecticides, habitat loss, climate change and disease.
However, there are many ways you can protect pollinators while you’re enjoying the outdoors. Here are four to get you started:
1. Start by Planting Flowers
The next time you’re outdoors, consider planting flowers and other plants, such as wildflowers, Lavender, Dahlias, Coneflowers and Dandelions. All of these (and more) provide food for pollinators, like insects, birds and even bats.
You can also plant flowers near where you walk or bike, but make sure to plant them in open spaces, as pollinators need them to fly around to pollinate plants. Additionally, be sure to choose native plants over exotic ones when possible. Native plants provide a habitat for bees and other beneficial insects while keeping invasive species at bay.
2. Keep Your Yard Free of Pesticides and Herbicides
You might be tempted to spray your yard with pesticides or herbicides to keep insects away from your flowers and plants, but these can be harmful to pollinators. Pesticides and herbicides kill off insects that pollinate plants. As a result of killing off these insects in one place, you’re impacting the environment and killing off food sources for other animals.
If you have invasive pests in your garden, consider using a better alternative, like horticultural oil. You can safely use this to keep pests away. However, ensure you spray when pollinators aren’t present, such as at dusk or dawn.
3. Water Gardens Smartly
While water conservation is important, watering gardens regularly is essential for flowering plants and maintaining food sources for pollinators. If you have a lawn or garden, consider keeping a hose or watering can nearby so you can water it whenever you need. You can also use sprinklers, or drip irrigation, if your property is especially dry. This will ensure the soil stays moist and no plants dry out before they can drink their fill.
Remember, pollinators like bees prefer not to be soaked by sprinklers. Therefore, if you have a nest nearby, avoid using sprinklers in the area where they could get drenched.
4. Keeping Nesting Materials Nearby
Ensure your yard has plenty of nesting materials, like sticks or leaves for honeybees and other insects. This provides a habitat for them to stay warm during winter months when they don’t always have enough food sources.
Leaves are good because they act as natural mulch, decomposing over time and providing plant nutrients. Therefore, consider leaving them around the ground in your garden the next time you have the urge to clean up your yard.
Do Your Part to Keep Pollinators Alive
Protecting pollinators while you’re outdoors is good for the environment, your health and the food you get from your grocery store. The next time you’re outside and enjoying the fresh air, keep these essential tips in mind. By doing so, you contribute to protecting the vital species in your area.
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