Editorial: Help pollinators by planting native flowers
Experts have been sounding the alarm for many years about the dwindling numbers of pollinators -- bees, butterflies and others -- and why that's something we all should care about beyond seeing fewer of these amazing creatures in the garden.
The reasons for both points are pretty clear. Pesticides, loss of habitat and disease are among the many factors that contribute to the rapid demise of monarch butterflies, bees -- thousands of them, from honeybees to bumble bees and more -- and other insects and animals. Why should we care? They are vital to human survival as key members of our ecosystem and food chain.
Pollinators transfer pollen from one flower to another, and pollen is essential to the lives of plants. Their work is necessary for wildflowers to create seeds and reproduce and for bushes and trees to produce food for wildlife and humans. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 80% of the crops that produce our food need to be pollinated by insects and other animals.
What's also clear is there's a lot we all can do to help. And, it's really pretty simple. You don't need to be handy or wealthy or an environmentalist or have an advanced degree in entomology. You just have to grow flowers and other plants that provide food, nutrients, a home and, most important, pollen that can be carried from one place to another. Let nature take over from there.
"It's not helping the environment by planting evergreens and a couple of bushes. I mean there's no pollinator that's going to an evergreen to eat," Elk Grove Village's Ned Bruns told our John Starks last week.
Bruns should know. He is one of many suburbanites who have been working for years to reverse the decline of the beautiful monarch butterfly, one of many struggling pollinators. Bruns has planted flowers and milkweed -- the only plant where monarchs lay their eggs -- to create a butterfly playground and nursery in his back yard.
He's so passionate about the monarch that since 2017, he has been harvesting the tiny eggs and raising them into adult butterflies that he releases into the wild. He raised and released 657 monarch butterflies last year alone. He also talks to children, community groups and municipal officials about the need to protect pollinators.
Bruns is not alone. There are groups across the suburbs hosting events and spreading the word about the need to help pollinators and how to do it.
You don't have to go as far as Bruns and collect monarch eggs off milkweed plants in trying to boost pollinator populations. But you can make a difference by dedicating a portion of your yard or garden or even a pot on your porch to pollinator-friendly native flowering plants. Visit your local nursery for ideas on the ones that are best to use.
In doing so, you'll make colorful additions to your yard and attract some bees and butterflies along the way.