Bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators play a crucial role in growing our state’s food crops. But, Sheldon Owen, West Virginia University Extension Service associate professor and wildlife specialist, reminds us that populations of these important insects have declined across the nation and need to be protected. As part of National Pollinator Week (June 21-27), Owen challenges residents to learn more about the pollinators found in West Virginia and their important role in nature. Owen provides helpful information about insect pollinators and how people can help sustain their populations.
“West Virginia’s insect pollinators include bees, butterflies and moths, plus some wasps, flies, beetles and ants. While the non-native, European honeybee is an important crop pollinator, native bees, such as bumblebees, mining bees, carpenter bees, long-horned bees, squash bees and sweat bees, are critical, too. These native bees specialize in foraging on the flowers of native plant species and specific crops, resulting in more effective pollination and larger, more abundant fruit.”
“Our pollinators have declined due to a number of factors, like habitat loss, use of pesticides, invasive species, climate change, pathogens and diseases. At least 25% of our North American bumblebee species, including West Virginia's federally listed rusty-patched bumblebee, are at risk of extinction. Crops like tomatoes, peppers and blueberries that rely on buzz pollination, a special pollination behavior honeybees cannot perform, for optimum fruit set also could be at risk. More than 17% of our North American butterflies also face extinction, including our beloved state butterfly, the monarch.”
“To help protect West Virginia’s pollinators, residents can reduce or eliminate pesticide use, provide foraging habitat for adult pollinators, and create habitat for pollinator nesting, larval development and overwintering. Planting a pollinator meadow near your home can provide an array of pollen and nectar options for pollinators.”
“For those who want to learn more about pollinators, WVU Extension Service has been partnering with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and West Virginia Department of Natural Resources to deliver pollinator workshops to landowners across the state and to develop pollinator habitat management strategies for private lands. In addition, we are excited to be partnering with the West Virginia Department of Highways to create pollinator plantings along many of our state’s roadways. We look forward to seeing beautiful, pollinator-friendly flower meadows ushering travelers along our West Virginia highways and byways in years to come.” – Sheldon Owen, associate professor and wildlife specialist, WVU Extension Service
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