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The Garden Scoop

A Primer on Pollinators, Part 1 - What are Pollinators?

A note from the author: This is the first part of a series of blog posts discussing pollinators. Check back weekly to read the latest entry.

Before you read any further, please indulge me for a moment. Close your eyes and take a few seconds to picture your favorite garden produce. Imagine the shape, color, and even fragrance of your chosen fruit or vegetable… Done?

It is highly likely that the crop you chose relies on a hard-working group of animals, called pollinators, to produce its fruit (and yes – tomatoes, peppers, and squash are indeed fruits, but that's a story for another time). In fact, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, nearly 75% of our crops are flowering plants that rely on pollinators for production.

Imagine a world without apples, peaches, and blueberries, a summer garden that's not overflowing with zucchini, or a Thanksgiving dinner without a pumpkin pie. Even our all-important coffee and chocolate depend on pollinators, so what exactly is a pollinator?

A pollinator is any animal that fertilizes a plant by moving the pollen (or male parts) of one flower to the stigma (or female parts) of another. Usually we think of bees and butterflies as the only pollinators, but moths, flies, beetles, and even some vertebrate animals like birds and bats can be pollinators.

Pollination allows plants, which aren't generally known for their ability to get up and move, to experience as much genetic diversity as possible. In fact, many plants have exclusive "relationships" and are only pollinated by a particular species of insect. We will take more in-depth look at this fascinating process next week.

Are you interested in learning more about attracting and supporting pollinators in your own garden? Join the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners in Ford-Iroquois Counties as they kick off National Pollinator Week 2015 with their Community Education Summer Series featuring programs focused on pollinators. Sandy Mason, Extension Horticulture Educator, will show you how you can plant a "Pollinator Pocket" of host and nectar plants that will provide food and shelter for bees and butterflies. To learn more about the Pollinator Pocket program, click here.

The Summer Series will be held at the following locations:

  • Monday, June 15 – 7:00 pm
    • Moyer District Library – 618 S. Sangamon Ave., Gibson City
  • Tuesday, July 14 – 6:00 pm
    • Watseka Public Library – 201 S. 4th St., Watseka
  • Tuesday, August 11 – 1:30 pm
    • Ford-Iroquois Extension Office – 916 W. Seminary Ave., Onarga

Each session is free to attend, but pre-registration is requested. To register, call our office at (815) 268-4051 or click here to register online. Do you want to promote the Community Education Series at a local business? If so, click here to download the series flyer.