| Story by Meghan McMahon |
As spring inches ever closer and we begin to think about getting outside to get our yards and gardens in order, now is the time to consider the importance of pollinators in our world and how our gardens and flowerbeds can ensure their success and, in turn, ours.
Pollinators are the bees, butterflies, birds, bats, beetles and other small insects and animals that pollinate plants, according to the Pollinator Partnership. These creatures visit flowers to drink nectar and feed off pollen and then transfer pollen from plant to plant in the process.
Pollinators are vital to our world, because between 75 percent and 95 percent of all flowering plants need help for proper pollination, the Pollinator Partnership reports. One-third of every bite of food we take wouldn't be possible without pollinators and, beyond supporting our food supply, pollinators also support other wildlife and contribute to healthier ecosystems.
"We need pollinators to exist," said Angie Opiola, an interpretive naturalist at the Forest Preserve District's Plum Creek Nature Center. "Pollinators create seeds. Seeds create plants. Plants provide soil, air, food. They are the bottom of just about every food chain on the planet."
Despite their importance, the populations of many pollinating species are declining. The reasons for the decline are varied, but key factors include habitat loss and destruction; pollution; use and misuse of chemicals and pesticides; disease; and climate change, according to the Pollinator Partnership.