What Is a Pollinator and Why Does It Matter?

Posted by Ecogardens


Pollinators are and always have been incredibly important to humanity, but we don’t treat them way. It’s time to wake up and give pollinators the respect and protection they deserve.

If you’re one of the many who think of butterflies as something cute that lands on Bambi’s nose, and birds as creatures to decorate your feeder, well … you’re not alone.

And to be fair, they are those things. But they’re also critical to the overall health of our environment, as well as a crucial link in the human food chain.

Why? Because they’re pollinators.

Despite all the fuss on the news and in scientific journals over the last several decades, though, too many laypeople are still left scratching their heads and wondering, “What is a pollinator?”

Those who do have an inkling usually associate the word with bees, having no idea that the category is so much larger than that. But don’t feel bad; you’re not alone.

That said, it’s time we do something about this misunderstanding. Because while we think bees rock, they are show-stealers. If we’re to heal the environment and bridge the gap between city and nature, answering the question “What is a pollinator?” should be at the top of the list.

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Topics: Pollinators

How Beneficial Insects Work and Why They Matter

Posted by Ecogardens


Beneficial insects are relatively new on the cultural radar, but they’ve been doing their job faithfully for thousands of years. It’s time we take them seriously and give them some help in return.

The insect has a troubled image. From the locust of Biblical proportions to aphids, the gardener’s bane, our buggy friends … well, bug us.

In an agricultural setting, insect pests shoot right past annoying and become downright dangerous, jeopardizing entire crops. Because of this – oh, and because they look weird and have a tendency to swarm and can kill you and stuff – we’ve lumped the good in with the bad.

Unfortunately, we need a lot of those insects we would dismiss outright. From pollination to soil improvement to pest control, beneficial insects matter. So it’s important to figure out how they work.

To be fair, asking “how beneficial insects work” is kind of like asking “how Mars keeps afloat.” The answer involves so many different factors that it’s kind of difficult to sum them up in one blog post. (And yes, we know Mars does not actually float, so save your physics snobbery for someone else.)

Nevertheless, we thought we’d step in and offer some clarity on how beneficial insects work today.

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Topics: Pollinators

Beyond the Honeybee: Fighting of Behalf of Pollinators

Posted by Ecogardens


While honeybees are in trouble, so are the rest of the pollinator set. That means bugs, beetles, flies, moths and even bats … and they need our help too.

Next time you walk past the bat house at the zoo, take a close look at those furry little snouts and wicked little claws.

Guess what? Those are intimately involved in the pollination of several species of plant, including cacao and agave.

So if you like your chocolate and tequila, thank the bats. Oh, and the other pollinators, of course … which includes thousands of species beyond the honeybee.

While these yellow-and-black-striped favorites are certainly critical to our planet and food system, the laser focus on this singular species often obscures the fact that there are plenty of others that need our help as well.

Today let’s take a quick look at the issue with honeybees, who else represents the pollinator crowd, and what we can do to help both.

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Topics: Pollinators

Why Are Hummingbirds Important, and How Can Rooftop Gardens Help Them?

Posted by Ecogardens


These jewel-bright birds do more than dress up your bird feeder in the winter months. They also perform valuable pollinating services, so we would do well to help them out.

Toss off the word “pollinators,” and almost anyone will conjure up the image of a bee.

Usually a honeybee.

Probably fuzzy with yellow pollen and sitting on, like, a sunflower or something.

That’s not to say bees aren’t important pollinators. We merely mean to point out that this is a limited conception that fails to do justice to pollinators as a group.

Exhibit A: hummingbirds.

These flying gems gather pollen on their heads as they flit from flower to flower, helping fertilize them and propagating new generations of the plants on which we depend. Birds as a whole represent 2,000 species of pollinators, with hummingbirds making up a sizable percentage of those.

While putting nectar out for hummingbirds is a wonderful winter tradition, and can do much to keep them strong and well, we must do more. It’s time to give these tiny birdies habitat, shelter and real flowers on which to feed.

And that means using horizontal space more effectively in our cities.

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Topics: Pollinators

How Do Green Roofs and Pollinators Work Together?

Posted by Ecogardens


Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last decade – and a very remote rock at that – you’ve heard the word pollinator.

Most likely you even know that the term extends far beyond bees, encompassing birds, bats, moths, beetles and tons of other insects. Nevertheless, bees make up a huge portion of the pollinating pie (pillar page), and since they fly, they are frequent visitors of green roofs and roof top gardens.

Where, can we just say, they do a lot of kickass work. But what type of work, exactly? And how do those green roofs help them back?

That’s what we’re here to talk about today. Get ready for the greatest romance of all time: pollinators and the green roofs that love them.

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Topics: Pollinators

How to Increase Pollinator Diversity in Urban Areas

Posted by Ecogardens


Pollinators matter in cities as well as agricultural areas, but numbers and diversity of these critical animals are in constant decline. It’s time we address the issue.

You can’t get an honest bite of street falafel these days without experiencing the oh-so-popular lament for the sacred honeybee.

On television and magazine covers, over the radio and via interviews galore, we hear more and more about declining bee populations. And that does matter, but what all those interviews fail to take into account is the importance of other pollinators too.

Declining pollinator diversity is, in fact, a serious problem these days. Not just honeybees, but native bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, birds and even bats struggle from loss of forage and shelter.

It’s not enough that we fight back for the honeybee, although that’s important too. We need to work to increase the number and kinds of other pollinators as well.

But how can we foster pollinator diversity in both urban and agricultural areas? How can we prop up urban ecology before it’s too late?

Let’s take a look at the most promising approaches today.

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Topics: Pollinators

How Can Cities Help Bees Through Pollinator Conservation?

Posted by Ecogardens


Pollinators tend to suffer in cities, despite proof that urban areas can majorly benefit our flying friends. Here’s how we can do better.

Pollinator conservation is big news these days. We know how important our friends the birds and bees are, but not everyone is so sure what to do to help them out.

First and foremost, we must understand why bees matter to the city. They:

  • Pollinate the gardens we use for food and serenity
  • Keep trees and green roofs in good shape and propagating naturally
  • Support native plants that help clean the air and balance the ecosystem

… and more. Unfortunately, urban areas often damage bee habitat, which is why pollinator conservation is so important today.

The good news is, done right, cities don’t have to prove inhospitable to bees. In fact, some studies show that urban centers show greater density of certain kinds of bees than the surrounding countryside. There’s major hope, if we can get there.

So, how can cities help bees, you’re wondering? Let’s take a look.

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Topics: Pollinators

What You Should Know About Gardening for Pollinators

Posted by Ecogardens


We rely on pollinators for our food supply and other important plant crops, so it’s time we turn our gardens to their benefit.

Hanging hummingbird feeders are a lovely addition to the landscape, and no doubt your teeny feathered friends appreciate them.

No really, they do. We asked them.

But that’s not enough. With our ongoing destruction of natural landscapes in the building of urban and rural human structures, pollinators have faced steady habitat depletion. Many of them no longer have resting places or food, and so are declining alarmingly.

“Worldwide there is disturbing evidence that pollinating animals have suffered from loss of habitat, chemical misuse, introduced and invasive plant and animal species, and diseases and parasites,” explains Pollinator Partnership, adding that many are federally “listed species,” animals for whom there is empirical evidence of destruction and decline.

It’s time we start gardening for pollinators.

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Topics: Pollinators

Why Do Pollinators Matter So Much?

Posted by Ecogardens


Wondering why pollinators matter? Because they help feed us and keep the environment in good shape.

With all the hype about honeybees these days, you’ve likely wondered at least once why pollinators matter.

We don’t blame you. The coverage of devastating (but probably overblown) conditions such as Colony Collapse Disorder have made it seem as though A Giant Bee Crisis and Probably Worldwide Famine are imminent.

We don’t mean to make light of environmental degradation, but you can relax: That’s not going to happen soon.

More importantly, the fearmongering over the honeybees has obscured other important issues, leading fewer people to ask themselves why pollinators matter beyond honeybees.

The simple answer to that question is: Pollinators provide services that humans simply can’t mimic by hand or with machines, so we must protect them at all costs.

Here’s a closer look.

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Topics: Pollinators

Why You Should Get a Rooftop Garden Today

Posted by Ecogardens


Rooftop gardens bring more than beauty and energy to a formerly lackluster space. They also bring nature into the city, IMPROVING human health and offering valuable real estate for plants, pollinators and other wildlife.

Ever look out your office window and seen people having drinks on a rooftop garden across the way – and feel a serious urge to gatecrash their party?

Ever wish you could turn that abandoned roof space into a plant-bedecked, fairy light-strewn Eden, right in your own building?

Ever want to increase the psychosocial and physical healing times at your hospital with an elaborate green roof space, but you’re not sure how?

You, my friend, need a rooftop garden.

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Topics: Green Roofs, Pollinators