Act Now To Preserve Pollinators
This week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has announced a new federal initiative to confront the worsening problem of collapse in pollinator populations in North America. As part of this initiative, the office has released a Pollinator Research Action Plan.
This plan identifies a series of research goals. Among them is the goal to “Identify resilient, self-sustaining native plant species mixtures for public lands and plant species mixtures appropriate for private lands important pollinator-appropriate native plants, and determine appropriate seed transfer guidelines.”
It’s fantastic that the federal government is committing resources to organize more research on the importance of native plants as food sources for pollinator populations, rather than just focusing on more industrial solutions for the maintenance of disease-ridden honeybee hives. Making more native plants available for pollinators to feed from is a holistic response to the current crisis, re-establishing ecosystems that can maintain themselves.
A shortcoming for this particular research goal: The Office of Science and Technology Policy estimates that it will take 10 years to complete. Actual implementation of native plant restoration to federal lands can only take place after that.
In the meantime, the rest of us can take action. There are a number of concrete things we can do to improve habitat for pollinators where we live right away.
1. Drastically reduce pesticide use. If there are aggressive yellowjackets chasing and stinging your children, that’s one thing. Spraying liberally to create vast insect-free zones around our homes is another.
2. Plant more garden variety flowering plants. Forget the big showy hybrids. Many of them don’t deliver very well for pollinators. Try native and heirloom varieties instead.
3. Stop cutting back the flowers that are already growing. Maybe you don’t need to mow your lawn every 5 days just to keep it a monoculture of grass. If there’s a stand of goldenrod, you can let it grow instead of hacking it back – it won’t give you an allergic reaction.
4. In general, let more natural spaces be. Leave dead trees standing. Don’t clear away every pile of fallen stone. Pave not. Pollinators need places to nest, lay eggs, and pupate.
5. Create varied environments. Have a bit of standing water here, and a patch of tall grass over there, next to some trees, an herb garden, and some flowering native bushes in the corner. A mosaic environment is more likely to make resources available to pollinators in a steady way, rather than in just a few short bursts.
Do your bit, or at least don’t make it worse where you live, and there may be a larger pool of surviving pollinators by the time the federal government gets around to implementing its own plans for pollinator preservation.