More than three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants rely on the help of pollinators to reproduce. One out of three bites of food can be attributed to these important creatures – such as bees, butterflies, moths, birds, beetles, bats and a few other small mammals.

But as you may know, pollinators are in trouble. Many are seeing decreasing populations because of habitat loss, disease, parasites and pesticide use.

Pollinators provide crucial assistance to fruit, vegetable and seed crops as well as other plants that produce fiber, medicine and fuel. For many plants, without the help of pollinators, they would be unable to reproduce.

The honey bee and its pollinator allies are responsible for pollinating billions of dollars’ worth of American crops each year. Pollinators visit flowers in search of food (nectar or pollen). During the visit, a pollinator may inadvertently brush against a flower’s reproductive parts, depositing pollen from a different flower. This fertilized flower may then produce fruit or seeds.

While many pollinators are in trouble, you can help. It can be as easy as selecting high-quality pollinator plants for your garden. To find the best plants for your area, visit the websites of NRCS partners at the Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation Program or the Pollinator Partnership: xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center/ and pollinator.org/guides.htm.

If you operate a farm or ranch, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service can help you create habitat for pollinators. This not only benefits pollinators, but also provides ample perks for the farmers and ranchers, too. More pollinators – native and managed – can increase crop yields.

Native pollinators are free, and their numbers can be increased by planting wildflowers in and around fields and choosing the right cover crops. NRCS offers more than three dozen conservation practices that assist in building healthier landscapes for pollinators.

Habitats used by pollinators also attract beneficial insects (insects that eat crop pests), and they may provide habitat for other wildlife, reduce soil erosion and improve water quality. As you can see, pollinators and healthy habitat for pollinators help keep the ecosystem healthy. In fact, if you are putting in conservation practices to prevent soil erosion or protect stream banks, consider including wildflowers, shrubs and trees that support pollinators.

Learn more about how farmers and land owners are doing their part to aid pollinators: nrcs.usda.gov/pollinators.

Contact Autumn Birt, a District Conservationist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for more information. She works in the agency’s Belfast office and can be contacted at 338-1964 ext. 3 or autumn.birt@me.usda.gov

Submitted by Kym Sanderson, Waldo County Soil and Water Conservation District.