It's National Pollinator Week (June 20-26, 2011), which makes it a good time to pause, consider all the good that the creatures that pollinate our flowers do for us, and lend a hand to their colorful cause.
The best known pollinators, and the most commercially important, are honeybees. About one-third of our food crops is pollinated by honeybees, and commercial beekeepers have been struggling for years with the malady known as colony collapse disorder, which each winter has killed off a substantial percentage of the nation's bees. Backyard beekeeping is a fast-growing hobby in the U.S.
Related: How to Start Beekeeping
But the world of pollinators is much broader than just honeybees, which are native to Europe. Native bees like orchard mason bee, as well as butterflies and moths, flies, beetles, hummingbirds, bats and other creatures pollinate flowers, allowing those plants to reproduce and create fruits and vegetables.
Many of these native pollinators are in decline, too, though the data documenting their plights is scarce compared that for honeybees.
The simplest and most enjoyable thing most people can do to help pollinators is to plant a colorful butterfly garden. Butterflies are bright, as are the flowers that attract them, so it's no sacrifice to choose the plants that feed native butterflies when planting a flower garden.
Plug in your zip code at pollinator.org to download an easy-to-use pollinator planting guide that recommends specific flowers, vegetables and other plants that are most beneficial for your region. Because pollinators are adapted to feed on specific plants, you'll want to consult with a guide like this before planting your butterfly garden.
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