AMES, Iowa – National Pollinator Week (June 20-26) serves as an important opportunity to highlight the essential role of pollinators in our ecosystem. Iowa is home to a diverse array of insect pollinators, such as butterflies, bees, beetles, moths and other insects.
Unfortunately, many of Iowa’s pollinators suffer due to habitat loss and would benefit from increased education and conservation efforts. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Extension Entomologist Randall Cass says pollinator week is a time to reflect on the importance of pollinators and learn more about pollinators and their conservation.
While pollinators play an important role in natural ecosystems, they are also essential in agriculture and help to supply most of the food that humans eat. “About one out of every three bites of food we eat was made possible by insect pollination,” explained Cass.
According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, pollination in Iowa is primarily done by insects, especially bees. While honeybees often serve as the posterchild of pollination, Iowa is also home to a wide variety of native bees, which play an important role in the state’s agriculture and ecosystems.
“Most people don't realize that in Iowa we have nearly 400 different species of native bees. Honeybees are just one type of bee, and they are not native to North America - they were brought over from Europe,” said Cass.
One great way to support the efforts of all pollinators is to plant a pollinator garden, since habitat loss has been a major factor in the decline in insect pollinators.
“One of the best things we can do for them is increase habitat - plant flowers that pollinators love, plant milkweed for monarchs, and leave more land undisturbed for ground nesting bees to make their nests,” Cass advised.
For those seeking to learn more about pollinators and get involved in conservation efforts, Pollinator Fest at Reiman Gardens is an excellent starting point. Pollinator Fest will be held June 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Reiman Gardens, which is a part of Iowa State University. The event is free for students and Reiman Gardens members, or the price of admission for all others, and requires no preregistration. Event details can be found on the Reiman Gardens website.
Other resources include the Extension publication Gardening for Butterflies, which highlights garden additions that can help to support pollinators. A YouTube video from Iowa Outdoors and Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium also discusses the role of pollinators in further detail.
Shareable photo: Monarch butterfly.