Summer is officially here. And as the temperature rises, so do the number of pollinating frequent-fliers. For 2018, Pollinator week falls on June 18-24. This program aims to raise pollinator awareness and their role in maintaining future ecosystems and food diversity.
If your favorite park has an abundance of wildflowers or flora you might see a few bees, butterflies, or hummingbirds flying around. Summer is the peak season for most insect pollinators. As brazen Texas wildflowers diminish into the hot months, pollinators begin searching other resources and foliage for nectar. In 2016, Austin parks foundation gave a $17,000 grant for prairie restoration in the Commons ford Metro Ranch Park. This undoubtedly benefitted prairie-dependent animals like pollinators and help native grasses and wildflowers thrive.
For valid reasons, our relationship with bees has always been contentious. The risk of a sting, especially for those who are allergic, is too high for sharing personal space. Out in Austin’s parks, if you encounter pollinators, don’t disturb their work! Pollinators need access to water in hot temperatures. Bees in particular become easily fatigued if they have been foraging for too long. When this happens they lethargically crawl on the ground or stop on a surface.
Contrary to stereotypes and fear, honeybees are very docile when ignored. Nevertheless, they are curious creatures. Bright concentrated colors, perfumes, and sugary drinks can attract pollinators into your personal space. Keep in mind that swatting agitates bees and other insects. A gentle nudge or slow push usually deters them away if they bother you. Unless it becomes threatened, it is very unlikely a bee will sting you. Of course, if you are allergic, take proper caution.
How to be a Pollinator Ally
There are small acts Texans can take to become pollinator friendly. It’s never too late to plant: in the spring and sometimes early summer, planting native plants will help butterflies, moths, bats, and hummingbirds. The Ladybird Wildflower center offers a detailed database of pollinator-friendly plants here.
And while honeybees are one of the most well-known pollinators, hundreds of different native bees species coexist. Unfortunately, loss of habitat and colony-specific disease cause nationwide bee and butterfly populations to dwindle. In an crowded urban city like Austin, development threatens habitat space. Nectar and pollen become scarce, therefore reducing genetic diversity in plant populations. Hotter temperatures also pose a risk of less water resource and seasonal wildflower longevity.
Nesting shelters, nectar feeders, and gardening are a few ways to take action in helping native pollinators in your neighborhood or backyard. For ideas, check out the USDA’s forest service information on pollination.