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Thank a pollinator during National Pollinator Week

Anyone who enjoys sipping a cup of coffee or biting into a juicy strawberry can thank a pollinator for the pleasure.

June 21-27 is National Pollinator Week, an annual event designated by the U.S. Senate to highlight how essential pollinators are to the production of food and fiber. According to the nonprofit Pollinator Partnership, more than 75% of all flowering plants on Earth need help with pollination — plants that are responsible for U.S. food and half of the world’s oils, fibers and raw materials.

“Pollinators are vital to reproduction for many plants including most fruits, vegetables and legumes produced on Virginia farms,” Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, said. “Without pollinators, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for plants like watermelon, peaches or peanuts to fruit or establish in the flower.”

While honeybees are paramount in pollination — responsible for $1.2 to $5.4 billion in U.S. agricultural productivity — other essential pollinators include ants, birds, bats, beetles, butterflies, wasps and small mammals.

However, many pollinator populations are changing. In the past 20 years, the monarch butterfly population has declined by 90%, and 25% of bumblebee species are considered in serious decline.

“Fewer pollinators in a field are likely to result in some plant flowers not being pollinated, which could reduce the size of the crop and, therefore, less income for farmers,” Banks said. “Farmers have to manage farms and activities to minimize impacts on pollinator species, including maintaining pollinator habitat and foraging areas and applying pesticides properly and according to the label to reduce any potential negative effects.”

Virginians can help encourage pollinators by planting a window box or small garden or buying local honey to support area beekeepers.

If planting a garden, here are some tips from the Pollinator Partnership and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

Use native plants, and plant in clusters that serve as a target for pollinators and increase their efficiency.

Choose plants that bloom in the spring through the fall so pollinators have a continuous food supply.

Select a diverse variety of plants, with multiple colors, shapes, heights and fragrances.

Provide a water source with sloping sides, such as a bird bath, and change the water frequently to avoid mosquitoes. Birds prefer deep water, while butterflies and bees like shallow water.

Reduce pesticide use.

Check out pollinator. org/guides for area-specific planting guides.