Like so much of the world, pollinators of all kinds are facing threats and declining populations. From rising global temperatures, habitat loss, pesticides, and so much more, these vital creatures are facing immense challenges. It seems utterly overwhelming but there are ways in which individuals can help! Some things are more on a personal level, like planting gardens and landscapes that provide shelter and food to pollinators. But systematic change is needed as well.
Plant a Pollinator Friendly Garden and Landscape
If you have the land or access to a community garden, making that space into a pollinator friendly garden/area can really make a difference. Pollinators will need things like shelter, food, water, and protection from pesticides. Some bee species are known to burrow into the ground so it’s okay if there are some empty spots in your yard or garden.
As far as food goes, this includes native plants of all kinds (like fruit trees, groundcover, and flowers) but can also include a vegetable garden! Native plants provide great nutritional value to pollinators, in addition to being great for the ecosystem in other ways. If possible, have a diverse range of plants and trees! Different plants, trees, and shrubs can provide the diverse nutritional needs and protection that pollinators need. Plus, having different plants that bloom at different times of the year or day can provide pollinators with food for most of the year, as different species are more active during different parts of the year.
If you live in an apartment with a balcony (or even a courtyard), you can still help pollinators! Even in the most urban areas, having just a couple small pots of vegetables or flowers can provide different pollinators with the nutrients they need. Plus, hummingbird feeders are a great way to help those tiny birds get the necessary calories their high metabolism requires and the nectar is simple and easy to make! To do so, combine one part white table sugar to 4 parts water in a pot and slowly heat for 1-2 minutes. Allow this to cool completely before filling feeders and put any remaining nectar in the fridge.
Offer Structures and Water Sources
In addition to plants, structures like bee or bat hotels and shallow water holes can provide temporary housing and clean water for the pollinators that stop by your yard! Bug hotels can provide a safe temporary residence for solitary bees to nest in, particularly when they hibernate during the winter. And like any other living creature, pollinators need clean water for a variety of reasons. For bees, a shallow and stationary water dish filled with water, marbles, or any sort of ‘bee raft’ is a great resource, as it would allow for bees to access water without a big risk of drowning.
Limit Pesticide and Chemical Use
While dealing with unwanted pests in your yard, garden, or farm can be annoying, pesticides and chemicals can have an immensely negative effect on pollinators. If you don’t want to use chemicals, there are plenty of homemade pest control remedies you can use. Being strategic in planting can also mean adding plants that naturally repel pests and plants that draw in natural pest-eaters like different bird species. Lavender bushes, for example, are great pest repellents for pollinator gardens because insects like ants and fleas hate the smell from the flowers while also providing nectar and pollen for the insects you want.
Another natural pest repellent includes sprinkling different dry materials or using natural DIY sprays around your garden. Diatomaceous earth is a natural insecticide because of its abrasive qualities and ability to absorb lipids from the insects’ exoskeleton. A border of recycled coffee grounds and crushed eggshells around your garden and plants can also deter pests like slugs and snails. Sprays made from tomato leaves, garlic, chili peppers, tiny amounts of soap, or vegetable oil can also have devastating effects on pests or provide a pungent aroma.
Advocate for Nature Restoration and Protection
In the fight against climate change and for the protection of pollinators and other species, intact wild areas are incredibly valuable. Scientists warn that we need to treat rising global temperatures and biodiversity loss as two parts of the same problem. While there has been a global push for reforestation and the planting of new trees can help absorb carbon emissions, simply adding in trees to every ecosystem is not the solution. Different ecosystems, like forests, savannahs, deserts, oceans, and tundra, all need restoration practices that bring back native plants and animals. Each restoration project is going to require its one solution. Savannah ecosystems, for example, rely more on drought resistant tall grasses and shrubs while temperate rainforests require trees, ferns, and mosses that can handle the heavy annual rainfall seen in the area.
While it’s an intense and necessary endeavor, simply doing nature restoration isn’t enough to help protect pollinators. The protection of wild ecosystems from human development and activity is also vital, which makes the fights against new pipelines, increased fossil fuel use, and new logging projects incredibly important. The recent end of the Keystone XL pipeline is a great victory for the water protectors and activists that have spent years fighting the pipeline’s company, TC Energy. But unfortunately, there are other pipelines, like Line 3 in Minnesota, and projects still ongoing.
One fight here in the Pacific Northwest is up in British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, where more than 180 protestors have been arrested since April in an attempt to stop old growth logging in the Fairy Creek area. Starting in the summer of 2020, a blockade of activists have fought to preserve one of the last unlogged watersheds on the island. Leaders from three First Nations in the area recently signed the Hišuk ma c̕awak Declaration and released a statement that after 150 years, they are taking back decision-making responsibilities for their traditional territories and requested a two year logging deferral for the Fairy Creek area. This request was accepted by British Columbia’s provincial government and in a related statement, John Horgan, premier of the province, stated that “the first step in protecting old-growth must be respecting Indigenous Peoples’ land-management rights in their territories”. This deferral is just one small step in the fight to end old growth logging in British Columbia.
Be An Informed Citizen Scientist
The US National Parks Service defines citizen science as “the voluntary involvement of the public in scientific research. Citizen scientists can help design experiments, collect data, analyze results, and solve problems”. In addition to observing pollinators, citizen scientists can help collect data on all sorts of flora and fauna species. The NPS has several current projects around the country but there are many ways to get involved and help collect data. For more resources, check out CitizenScience.gov, CitizenScience.org, or iNaturalist!
These five activities are just some of the ways you can help pollinators and their ecosystems but you don’t have to spend all day, everyday doing every single thing on this list to make a difference. We all have different strengths and using your own skills and passion to help pollinators can be an exciting way to make a difference!
Have you ever done any of these activities to help pollinators? Let me know in the comments!