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Enjoying the Fruits of Summer? Thank a Pollinator

Pollinators help contribute to the growth of popular summer fruits such as blueberries. (Leo-seta/Flickr)
Pollinators help contribute to the growth of popular summer fruits such as blueberries.
(Leo-seta/Flickr)
June 22, 2018

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As Illinoisans enjoy blueberries, cherries and other fruits of summer, wildlife experts are asking that they give back to the pollinators who helped them grow. National Pollinator Week, which ends Sunday, is drawing attention to the importance of pollinators for ecosystems and food production.

Mary Phillips, senior director of the Garden for Wildlife program at the National Wildlife Federation, says animal pollinators including bees, butterflies and hummingbirds pollinate one-third of crops in the U.S.

"And in fact, one out of every three bites we eat is the direct result of our pollinators' work. That has been estimated to contribute to $29 billion in American food production," says Phillips.

But habitat loss, parasites and pesticides have contributed to a steep decline of pollinator populations, including Illinois' rusty-patched bumblebee that was recently listed as endangered. Phillips says Illinoisans, and folks from around the nation, are encouraged to plant a garden to support native pollinators.

She explains even small gardens can make a difference by increasing diversity of bee species
across urban and suburban landscapes.

"They can do this by planting anything from a variety of container gardens, if they have a porch or patio, or their backyard or working with community gardens," says Phillips. “And this is really important because pollinators can actually survive in these smaller settings and move from habitat patch to habitat patch."

The National Wildlife Federation is part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, which is two-thirds of the way to its goal. Phillips says habitat gardens can be registered to become part of an online mapping system, and folks can also consult the NWF's native plant finder to discover the best plants for their area.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL