According to the USDA Forest Service, honeybees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and various insects are responsible for the growth of three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and 35% of essential crop plants that provide food, fuel, and medications to people around the world. This invaluable work is done by some of our smallest "neighbors" through a natural process called pollination. For Fort Lauderdale's trees and native plants to remain healthy, and for our ecosystem to remain in balance, we need to work together to protect these tiny creatures.
While some pollinators may be seen as annoyances, they are vital in the agriculture process. Particularly in Florida, we need bees and other insects to ensure the health and productivity of our citrus industry. Yet some of our most productive pollinators are in danger. Habitat loss, disease, temperature and other climate changes, chemical usage, and invasive plant and animal species are threatening and wiping out populations of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Bees in particular have seen a sharp decline in population due to Colony Collapse Disorder, which occurs when the majority of a colony suddenly dies.
How You Can Help
One of the most important things we can do is to create safe habitats for pollinators. Follow these guidelines:
Plant a wide variety of native, Florida-friendly plants in your garden, on your patio and in your business landscape. There are many Florida Friendly Plants that attract pollinators. Many of them do not need a lot of space and can even be grown in flower pots. By introducing a variety of plant colors, sizes, and scents you can attract many different kinds of pollinators.
Reduce or eliminate pesticides that are used to keep away certain pollinators. You may be trying to get rid of fire ants or whitefly, but if you use the wrong product, or use it incorrectly, you could harm innocent insects as well. First, get to know the good guys. Not all bugs are bad. Many helpful insects live in your yard. Listen to a podcast about Beneficial Insects from the University of Florida's Gardening Solutions.
If you are sure you've got pests, speak with your garden center or exterminator about the specific ones you have in your landscape and treat ONLY for those. The EPA are encourages professionals and others to use the Ecological Pesticide Incident Reporting Portal if they suspect pollinators or other animals in their area are being harmed by exposure to pesticides.
Think about specific creatures when gardening. Leave some damaged or dead parts of plants, and some ripened fruit, to create habitat for butterflies and moths. Leave a small water source for insects and birds. A birdbath, pond or even a tiny dish of water nestled into a single plant make great resting spots for a thirsty pollinator.