How and why to love bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles
June 14, 2010
Animals play key roles in keeping our shared habitat sustainable. However, the decline in species critical for our gardens, food and drug production – as well as the beauty of our planet – motivated the U.S. Senate to act unanimously in designating the final week in June as “National Pollinator Week.” The event has grown into an international celebration of the irreplaceable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats beetles, moths and even flies.
These wild winged neighbors are vital to preserving delicate ecosystems. They support earthbound species including humans, provide for a healthy watershed and more. According to the National Academy of Sciences on Pollinators, about three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants and at least 90 food crops eaten in North America depend on pollinators. A world without adequate pollinators would be a world without apples, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate, almonds, melons, peaches, pumpkins, and other important food, fiber and medicinal plants. The honey bee alone contributes to the annual production of billions of dollars in American crops.
Q: What do bees and cats share? A: A love of catnip!
In scientific terms, Lake Tahoe is in the Sierran Steppe, Mixed Forest, Coniferous Forest, Alpine Meadow Province. Long before there were homes and farms, the original, natural vegetation provided continuous cover and adjacent feeding opportunities for wildlife, including pollinators. With thoughtful gardening and landscaping, some of the natural habitat required for pollinators to survive and thrive can be recreated for mutual benefit. Most pollinators have very small home ranges.
Observe the activity in your yard, take notes, and then make a difference by understanding the vegetation patterns of the forest or neighbor’s yard adjacent to you. Make planting choices that support the pollinators’ need for food and shelter as they move through the landscape during their active seasons. You can increase the number of pollinators by choosing plants that provide essential habitat for them. For example, bees prefer blue or yellow flowers and those that are sweet-smelling. Butterflies like flowers that are red, yellow, or orange. Butterflies rely more on vision than scent to find nectar, as do Hummingbirds who are attracted to red, orange, or yellow flowers. Bats like large flowers that are white or pale in color. Some bat-pollinated flowers open only at night and typically have a fermented, fruity or musky scent. Moths are attracted to large, sweet-scented flowers of white or a pale color. As with bat favorites, some moth-pollinated flowers open only at night. Beetles are attracted to white or green flowers with a wide opening.
For questions about information presented here, call (530) 542-2857.
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Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help “Keep Tahoe Kind.”
Dawn Armstrong is the executive director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and SPCA.