National Pollinator Week is a celebration supporting pollinator health, raising awareness for pollinators, and taking steps to protect them, according to the Pollinator Partnership website. The official resolution by the United States Senate in 2006 states the importance of both managed (honey bees, primarily) and native pollinators to our food systems, biodiversity, and the people’s health. As you may remember from previous blog posts, I grew up in a household that had a bent toward an appreciation of the natural world. This included honey bees in our yard next to a large garden and frequent hikes in the woods looking for wildflowers. Now with a family of my own living in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and tending a farm with many honey bee colonies, my appreciation for and ability to protect pollinators continues to grow while I pass these values along to my family and anyone we cross paths with. For the remainder of this blog post, I want to recall a few pollinator observations from my breakfast nook this week (ok, just a table and chair on my front porch!).
What do I see? Just off the porch in the front yard are the blueberry bushes with ripening blueberries. These were pollinated back in April by a whole host of native pollinators, including carpenter bees, bumblebees, and wasps, along with our honey bees. I picked a few this morning to top my granola for breakfast, and the local songbird population is making frequent snacks of the berries – although I would prefer they eat less, of course.
White dutch clover is also blooming in the front yard, providing nectar for the bees while improving soil health. I can also see the big maple tree is now full of seeds, the result of early spring pollination by the honey bees, which will provide food for the birds and renew growth for future generations of trees. And as the sun is rising and light filters through the pine trees, I see the outlines of honey bees making beelines back and forth to Chinese chestnut trees in my neighbor’s front yard. I know they are gathering fresh pollen and nectar to keep the hives healthy and strong with a high honey bee population to support in mid‑summer. In the fall, the chestnuts from these trees provide food for the local whitetail deer and turkey populations. My eyes are drawn just beyond the chestnut trees and Big Laurel creek, where the hillside rises and the telltale signs of the Basswood (or Linden for our European friends) getting ready to bloom are appearing, the light‑colored underside of the leaves as they curl up ahead of the bloom. The nectar flow from Basswood is our area’s primary summer nectar flow and provides another opportunity for honey production. A flash of movement nearby and buzzing bring my gaze back to the big white hydrangea blooms and the ruby-throated hummingbirds hovering back and forth, another one of the amazing pollinators that are fun to watch.
While my observations here are mostly visual, they are supported by smells (the chestnut blooms have a very distinctive smell, not very appealing to most!) and sounds (lots of buzzing) and tastes (blueberries), and touch (seeds, berries, and an occasional sting). And remember that these are just my observations in a small time window with human sensory limitations, imagine the millions of interactions happening around me out of my sensory range to keep this ecosystem humming! A lot is going on in my little corner of the world as there is in yours. Now I invite you to take a little break to observe from wherever you live or work or happen to find yourself and participate in National Pollinator Week! Take a moment to raise your own awareness, to think, reflect, and observe how pollinators impact your life and those around you through the food you eat, the air you breathe, and the flora and fauna you encounter, and then tell others to raise awareness of our beloved pollinators!