Pollinating Insects are Essential to Our World
Native bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, ants, and beetles are fascinating forms of wildlife essential to a healthy environment. These beneficial insects visit a wide range of flowers produced by trees, shrubs, vines, and other plants, including humans' crops. In collecting nectar, they disperse pollen that fertilizes the flowers, which ultimately develop into fruits and seeds, including many eaten by wildlife.
A Large Tribe
Among the better known pollinating insects native to the Northeast are bumblebees (Bombus species). Other important bee pollinators include sweat bees, carpenter bees, digger bees, mason bees, and leafcutter bees.
Butterflies pollinate many plants. Moths visit flowers mainly at night. Many flies and beetles pollinate flowers as well.
As adults and larvae, these insects represent an important food source for wildlife.
Among the birds, the ruby-throated hummingbird is a key pollinator, its long beak letting it pollinate deep-throated flowers, including many wild native species.
Problems and Solutions
Populations of wild pollinators have fallen because of pollution, diseases, stress brought on by climate change, humans' improper use of herbicides and pesticides, and a loss of food plants caused by development, intensive farming, and invasive plants degrading many habitats.
To thrive, pollinators need places where they can find food, shelter from the weather, build nests, and lay eggs.
Tailoring Habitat Projects to Help Pollinators
Habitat projects aimed at creating and improving young forest and shrubland can also benefit pollinators. Removing selected trees will boost the amount of sunlight hitting the ground, leading to more abundant and more diverse plant life. As part of a young forest project, wildflowers and native shrubs can be seeded or planted.
New Hampshire Extension offers advice on establishing a wildflower meadow from seed.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation offers Pollinator Habitat Installation Guides that can be combined with region- and state-specific guidelines to plan, create, and maintain nectar- and pollen-rich habitats such as wildflower meadows and hedgerows stocked with native shrubs.
The Pollinator Partnership provides a series of regional planting guides, Selecting Plants for Pollinators.