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Smart Planting Can Attract, Protect Pollinators


Michigan State University (MSU) entomologist David Smitley has spearheaded a multistate collaboration to create a new online publication offering tips on how best to protect pollinators in urban landscapes.

The document encourages planting of trees, shrubs, plants and flowers that research has shown are highly attractive to pollinators. The guide, “Protecting and enhancing pollinators in urban landscapes for the U.S. North Central Region,” is available to download here.

“The guide provides information for landscapers and gardeners who want to attract pollinators and protect them during pest management tactics or pesticide applications,” Smitley said.

This 30-page resource includes information on:

  • Plants, shrubs and trees known to improve habitat for pollinators.
  • How to select plants so that you are providing blossoms for pollinators throughout the season.
  • Problem-prone plants you may want to avoid.
  • Best management practices to protect pollinators and other beneficial insects during pest management.

“The plants and trees in our cities, towns and yards make up an urban landscape that can be designed to welcome pollinators,” he said. “Which flowers, shrubs and trees we select and how we care for them can make a difference in supporting bees and butterflies.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the total number of managed honeybee colonies has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to about 2.5 million today. Declines in honeybee colony health heightened in the 1980s with added stress from the arrival of new pathogens and pests.

“Planting pollinator-friendly plants with good sources of nectar and pollen and other native plants is one of the best antidotes that homeowners can provide to help in light of colony collapse disorder,” Smitley said.

Research led by the University of Vermont in conjunction with MSU shows that wild bee abundance between 2008 and 2013 declined in 23 percent of the contiguous United States. The study also shows that 39 percent of U.S. croplands that depend on pollinators – from apple orchards to pumpkin patches – face a threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a falling supply of wild bees.

Bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop production value each year.

– Holly Whetstone, AgBioResearch

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