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Four Easy Ways to Protect Pollinators

Scott Hoffman Black is the Executive Director of The Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. As a researcher, conservationist, and teacher, he has worked for over twenty years advocating science-based conservation.

We’re happy to have The Xerces Society as a partner in our Share the Buzz campaign and glad that Scott is sharing his knowledge with our shoppers.

When many people think about bees what comes to mind is the honey bee. What many people do not realize is that pollinators come in a vast range of sizes, from large and flamboyant swallowtail butterflies and hummingbirds to tiny bees only a fraction of an inch in length.

They all are an essential part of our environment because they move pollen between flowers and thus ensure the development of seeds and fruits. Although pollinators come in every shape and size, bees are perhaps the ones that make the largest contribution to our daily lives.

Here are just a few facts:

  • Bee-pollinated crops are worth at least $20 Billion each year in the US, more than $215 billion worldwide.
  • Pollinators (mostly bees) are needed for more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species.
  • More than 100 types of crops in the US are pollinated by bees.
  • We can thank a pollinator for one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat.

Like all wildlife, bees are affected by changes in our landscape that result in the loss of habitat. Pesticides — both insecticides and herbicides — offer another significant threat. Despite these threats, anyone can take action to help these vital insects in four ways: Grow pollinator-friendly flowers, provide nest sites, avoid pesticides and tell people what you are doing and why. With these principles pollinator conservation can be adapted to any location, whether you tend an urban community garden, a suburban yard, work in a city park or manage a farm. Why these four principles?

  1. Flowers provide the nectar and pollen resources that pollinators feed on. Growing pollinator-friendly flowers, shrubs and trees with overlapping bloom times will support pollinators from spring through fall.
  2. A place to lay eggs and for larvae to grow is essential to pollinators. You can install bee-nesting blocks (or simply leave patches of bare ground and brush piles for native bees to occupy) and make homes for caterpillars by growing host plants for butterflies found in your area.
  3. Pesticides are harmful to pollinators. This is especially true of insecticides, but herbicides can reduce food sources for pollinators by removing flowering plants from the landscape.
  4. Talking to your neighbors or friends about the importance of pollinators and their habitat will encourage more people to join in, which will help pollinators even more!

Conservation efforts don’t need to be fancy or expensive. You can enhance gardens with native flowers. By creating drilled wooden blocks or making patches of bare ground in or close to these flower patches you can create nest sites. Even the smallest actions can make a difference. Here are the top ten pollinator plants. Your local Whole Foods Market® garden center or floral department can help you identify the pollinator-friendly seeds and plants native to your area, and may even have some for you to purchase!

  • Bee Balm
  • Milkweed
  • Lacy Phacelia
  • Wild Hyssop
  • Purple Coneflower
  • California Poppy
  • Sunflower
  • Lupine
  • Goldenrod
  • Penstemon

For more tips and advice, visit the pollinator conservation pages of The Xerces Society’s web site, www.xerces.org.

Are you on Pinterest and want to support bees even further? For each repin of the Share the Buzz video, Whole Foods Market will donate $1 (up to $5,000) to The Xerces Society.

What are you doing to help protect the pollinators? I'd love to hear about your efforts big and small!

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Hugo Troccoli says …

I built this Bee Condo few months ago and mounted it in the garden. It's seems to have attracted alot of activity! Go Bees!

Samantha Gallagher says …

This page and your "Share the Buzz" main page have such valuable information. I've been sharing them on Twitter and Facebook. I already loved Whole Foods very much, but this campaign is just so awesome. Thank you guys for doing this. It's so important that we get the word out and make people aware of how important the pollinators are!

Giselle says …

Our neighbors have a bee hive in the very back part of their yard. . .in their old dog run. . .we've planted tons of flowers plus they have our orange trees. We put out a water source for them - a little shallow birdbath with concrete frog. They clutch the frog and drink - super cute. I love their little bumbly bodies buzzing about. I've never been stung and we got a bumper crop of oranges!!!

JT says …

Thank you for spreading the word about the miracle of bees. I saw the videos playing on a loop at our local store, and hope others will as well. I'll share the link on Facebook.

Denise says …

Beware : Planting nonlocal native plants can be harmful to local native plants. For example, some plants native to Southern CA or even Monterey are invasive in the BAy Area. And nonlocal plants can cross pollinate with and contaminate the unique genetic pool of local plants of the same species. First do no harm. Proceed with caution. In California, contact your local chapter of the California Native Plant Society for advice and for local native plants for your garden. Do plant local natives for low maintenance and for conserving the locally native flora and related fauna where you now have a home. Avoid stores that won't even tell you the heritage of their native plants. Ask if the plant's parents and grandparents were from your city, for example. Most stores are more interested in sales than in what is ecologically appropriate. Avoid seed packets and seed bombs for the same reason--even if they are free.

Myron says …

Denise- Thanks for the adult supervision. No doubt the idiots who introduced the English House Sparrow to the United States did not intend harm either.

sheila pryor says …

I am an apiarist from CA living in SLC - Nothing foreign (chemicals) is used on the property - there is a water source and lots and lots of plants edible and landscape. It is a hard sell to convince some neighbors to quit spraying everything. Did you know that spiders in the spring are parent bird's favorite food item for their babies? Very nutritious. When I run across the little items, I put them outside in the grapevine or similar. Has to be the non-poisonous type . Locally, since I have been living here 14 years, bumblebees, solitary bees,etc have decreased. A sad fact.

Desa Abbamondi says …

Thank you so much for this article; and I loved the Share the Buzz video and made sure to Pin it on my pinterest page. I am so inspired. Working in the floral department for Whole Foods, I see how I can really help set the example.