Keep pollinators in your garden

Updated June 05, 2018
Keep pollinators in your garden
Pollinators can be any insect or animal that moves pollen from male structures (anthers) of flowers to the female structure (stigma) of the same plant species. This action results in fertilization of the plant and produces seeds or fruit that ensure the plants’ reproduction and the source of much of the food that is consumed by animals and humans. In fact, up to 70 percent of food crops rely on animal and insect pollinators.

It is critical that we protect pollinators so that we can enjoy a healthy diet of foods that depend on pollinators. Most people can identify the European honey bee as responsible for pollination, however, there are thousands of species of native bees, bumble bees, hover flies, butterflies, beetles and some bats and birds that also assist in pollination. Without pollinators, our diets would be severely limited.

Protecting pollinators

Recognize the insects that inhabit our gardens and realize that many of the insects we see are actually beneficial in our gardens. If bees and insects are present on blossoms, that’s probably a good thing and do not require you to squish them or apply a pesticide.

For example, a hover fly looks like a bee but is actually a fly that feeds on pollen and is beneficial, not a pest. Bumble bees may be large and scary but are major pollinators on many food crops such as sunflowers, strawberries and apples.

You can also plant flowering plants that attract pollinators, which is a good way to invite pollinators to your garden and keep them there.

Pesticide use near pollinators

If you identify an insect pest in your garden that you think requires a pesticide application, don’t apply any insecticide or fungicide while plants are blooming or if good bugs are present. Apply pesticide only after the blooming cycle is over and bees and other pollinators are not present and always choose the least toxic product that will manage the pest. Avoid pesticides that are systemic, (those that travel in the plant from root to leaf and flower) because they are always present in the plant and can harm pollinators that come in contact with flowers and pollen.

For other tips on Integrated Pest Management approaches, visit the University of California Integrated Pest Management website.

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