Help pollinators survive throughout the winter

  • Bees and other pollinators can nest under twigs and leaves in soil throughout the winter. What you do now in your garden may help their survival through the cold winter months.

    Bees and other pollinators can nest under twigs and leaves in soil throughout the winter. What you do now in your garden may help their survival through the cold winter months. Courtesy of bumblebeeconservation.org

 
 
Updated 11/19/2021 9:59 AM

Pollinators are responsible for helping one-third of the world's food supply flourish and grow. They are vital to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines and other products. Their populations are also in sharp decline.

Sue Ryba, horticulturist with Bertog Landscape Company in Wheeling, says there are things you can do in your autumn garden now to help with this global problem locally.

 

"Pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths and more are nesting, resting and hibernating right in your yard," Ryba says. "Be sure to keep this in mind this fall."

Different species of pollinators can be found in the hollow stems of perennials and natives, so it may be best to wait until spring to cut them down. Perennial plants like ornamental grass and shrubs provide food and shelter for pollinators and are a haven for hibernation. Waiting until spring to cut these plants back can give the pollinators a chance for survival.

"Pollinators can also be found under rocks, in flower pots containing soil, or inside dead wood or brush piles, so check for nesting before moving them this fall," Ryba says. "It's best not to disturb the soil since many bees nest underground. Most can withstand a general clean up, but try not to disturb the soil."

Eight states have added the most important pollinator -- the bee -- to their "endangered" list. Some experts say bees are similar to the "canary in the coal mine."

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Decades ago, coal miners brought canaries into coal mines to serve as an early-warning signal for carbon monoxide and methane gases. As long as the birds kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary signaled an immediate evacuation.

The health of bees and other pollinators is said to be an indicator of overall health of the environment and needs our attention to help them flourish.

"That is why each one of us needs to do just a little bit to help pollinators survive," says Ryba. "Even a small effort across the Chicago area, the state and the U.S. could give a big boost to the declining numbers of bees and other precious pollinators."

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