The gardens have been slow to wake from their winter slumber as temperatures remained cool and skies gray four or more days out of five. But gradually the color is coming back and with it the insects. As I did my daily survey the other day of what did and did not make it through the winter, I was pleasantly surprised to see a cloud of tiny bees hovering above the tight buds of the low-growing sumac shrubs in the front yard.

Many early bloomers like the bloodroot and crocus have come and gone. But more blossoms are yet to show — everything in its time — and with them come the pollinators. Some gardeners have never considered the role these important insects play. Indeed many gardeners are more concerned about those insects that might eat their tomatoes or cause some other damage than being interested in welcoming pollinators. But the time has come to look at insects, not just pollinators, in a different light.

As gardeners we have a responsibility to do no harm to our environment. The very practice of gardening can upset the balance of nature, so it is important that we do so responsibly. Many of us have seen the alarming news that not only honeybees and other pollinators like butterflies, bees, some wasps and flies are dying and endangered. However it has been reported that all insect species are in serious decline as well. We are just going to have to discard the notion that we can spray away the bugs we don’t like, because the insect world is an example of a complex interdependence with many insect species relying upon other insects for their survival. In fact some 99 percent of insects are either beneficial or harmless, with only a tiny percentage of troublemakers.

Maintaining that perfect green carpet of a lawn can require a lot of chemical assistance and so too the way some gardening for ornamentals or food does as well. A number of insects, fireflies and several varieties of native bees spend most of their lives underground. They and many other insects are negatively impacted by lawn spraying with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. But that is rarely necessary if we strive to grow stronger, healthier plants fed with natural enhancements like compost for example rather than harsh commercial fertilizers that can boomerang by making plants more dependent upon them when they destroy microorganisms in the soil. Those tiny organisms enable plants’ roots to take up nutrients.

The fact is that when we garden for pollinators, we are also gardening for a plethora of other insects as well. But that’s okay! Remember, I said we were going to have to look at this issue in a different way? And that brings us to National Pollinator Week (June 17 to 23) which is one of the the projects of the Pollinator Partnership. The organization’s Pollinator Garden Challenge has registered more than one million new pollinator gardens in just the last three years. This year’s challenge is to encourage everyone to plant three new pollinator-friendly plants that bloom throughout the growing season to ensure a consistent food supply for pollinators by planting a new plant in spring, summer and fall.

“Pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we take each day and yet pollinators are at a critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline,” according to the Pollinator Partnership. “We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.”

Better yet, why not plan on developing a pollinator garden this week?

Pollinators Gardens Should:
Use plants that provide nectar and pollen sources — flowers
Provide a water source,
Be situated in sunny areas with wind breaks
Create large “pollinator targets” of native or non-invasive plants
Establish continuous bloom throughout the growing season
Eliminate or minimize the impact of pesticides.

Then once you’ve got that blooming garden up and running, be sure to join the millions who have already registered their garden, by adding your garden in this network. Go to: pollinator.org/mpgcmap/register Then you will have celebrated National Pollinator Week in a grand fashion.