What comes to mind when you think of bees, beetles, flies and wasps?
If you consider them to be pests, National Pollinator Week is a great opportunity to change your perspective on these and other species that are actually critical to food and fiber production in Virginia and throughout the world.
Bees, butterflies and beneficial insects like the ones listed above are the cornerstone of complex food webs that sustain other wildlife by feeding them directly or pollinating the plants and plant fruits they eat. One third of our nation’s food can be attributed to activities that transfer pollen from one plant to another and many populations are decreasing due to habitat loss, disease, parasites and pesticide use. Virginia landowners can take some simple steps to help reverse those trends.
Stocking a garden with high-quality pollinating plants can offer long-lasting benefits. Farmers who place wildflowers in and around fields and choose cover crops that attract these species can support declining populations, create habitat for other wildlife (including insects that feed on crop pests) and increase yields at the same time.
If you’re putting in conservation practices to prevent soil erosion or protect stream banks, consider including wildflowers, shrubs and trees that support pollinators while improving water quality. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance for 29 separate conservation practices that enhance or protect Virginia pollinator habitat.
Contact your local Service Center or visit nrcs.usda.gov/pollinators to learn more about financial assistance available under Farm Bill programs. NRCS partners at the Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation Program or Pollinator Partnership can provide recommendations on the best varieties for gardens in your region.