The plight of the monarch butterfly has increased the demand for milkweed exponentially over the last few years. While the monarch butterfly is the poster child for pollinators, other important endangered pollinators include birds, bats, bees, beetles, moths and wasps.
Bees pollinate one in every 3 bites of food we enjoy. Almonds, apples, avocados, strawberries and blueberries are just a few crops that depend on bee survival. Bee colonies have severely declined and in many instances completely collapsed over the past decade.
Factors that threaten pollinators:
- Lack of wild forage and habitat due to housing development, agriculture and industry.
- Monoculture leads to starvation. Commodity crops like corn and soybeans provide little nutrition-pollen and nectar
- Loss of milkweed- sole source of food for the monarch butterfly
- Parasites-the varroa mite destroys bee colonies
- Improper human use of pesticides and fungicides
Tips for improving pollinator survival:
- Plant native plants as well the showy nectar producing plants that predominate in our yards. Native plants provide food for insect larvae that in turn feeds baby birds who cannot digest bird seed. Native milkweed is the sole source of food for the monarch caterpillar. Oak, wild cherry, willow, spicebush and common herbs like parsley, fennel and dill are excellent caterpillar host plants.
- Bee friendly. Rethink a lawn only environment – set aside a small portion of your yard, maybe on the back side of a garage or along an alleyway. Let it go a little wild with a few native plants, grasses and wildflowers.
- The more diverse the habitat the better. Plant a combination of shrubs, wildflowers, native plants and grasses- the more diverse the better.