Pollinators are vital to life as we know it. Around 75% of all plant species are pollinated by animals (and 90% of flowering plants). While we tend to focus on bees, particularly honey bees, many different animals will pollinate plants. Insects such as butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and wasps as well as some birds and bats also will pollinate plants.
When we talk about ways we can help pollinators, they're often additional things we should do, such as planting more flowers. Let's face it; we're all busy, and sometimes we don't have the time or the energy to "do more stuff." So what are some things we can stop doing to help pollinators?
Stop using so many chemicals on your lawn and garden. When we think of the stereotypical lawn, it's a nice uniform green color. While that may be appealing to some people, it's not all that great for pollinators. Herbicides, whether a weed and feed or an herbicide by itself, commonly target broad-leaved plants such as clover and dandelions. These plants can be important floral resources for pollinators. The more diversity, or "weeds," in your lawn, the more attractive and beneficial it will be to pollinators.
Additionally, be careful when treating for grubs in your lawn because some products are toxic to pollinators. Make sure to scout your lawn to see if you need to apply an insecticide. Taking steps to make your landscape less attractive to grubs, such as reducing irrigation during late July and early August, also can help reduce the need for insecticides.
When it comes to the garden, it's okay to have some feeding damage on your plants. Think of it as a sign of a potentially healthy ecosystem. If your plants are being defoliated, or your fruit is being devoured, you may need to go the route of using pesticides. Often though, other management strategies can be used to help reduce problems from the start.
Become a lazy lawn mower, and stop mowing your lawn so often. Frequent (weekly) mowing can give lawns a uniform, clean and tidy look. This look isn't very good for pollinators, though. Frequently-mown lawns typically have few flowers available for pollinators to visit. Simply mowing every two or three weeks, instead of weekly, can significantly increase the number of flowers present. Not only will you have food for pollinators, but you can also add some color and beauty to your lawn. If you decide to go this route, make sure to check on any regulations regarding lawn height where you live.
If you don't want to be "that person" in the neighborhood that has the unruly yard, you can opt for the "landscape mullet." Just like the haircut, it's business in the front and party in the back. You can cut your front lawn more frequently to have a nice manicured look. Then in the back yard, you opt to mow every two or three weeks to help increase the number of flowers for your pollinator party.
Good Growing Tip of the Week: Bug zappers also are bad for pollinators and beneficial insects. While they're typically used to control mosquitoes, research has shown they catch relatively few of them. Instead, they kill numerous beneficial insects like moths and non-biting midges.