The vital and precious process of pollination

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“If the bee were to disappear from the face of the earth, man would only have four years to live.”

There is one major flaw in this quote from Albert Einstein and that is that Einstein did not say it. The French poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck is believed to have done so and decades later these words have been mistakenly attributed to the famous physicist. However, it doesn’t matter who said this quote or that humanity’s post-bee survival period would likely be a little longer than 48 months: the all-important point she makes is precise and something humans need to remember. – bees and other pollinating insects are important. Therefore, it is equally important to have native plants which are essential parts of the life cycle of pollinating insects.

It’s hard to talk about the benefits of insects without mentioning pollination, a process essential to the life cycle of plants and the insects that pollinate them. If you want to imagine the process of pollination, imagine eating barbecued ribs that were so covered in sauce that after you finished the ribs, your messy fingers transferred chunks of sauce to the next things you touched. It’s similar to what happens in pollination. When it enters a plant to consume nectar and pollen, a pollinating insect picks up the pollen and carries these dust-like particles to other plants. When it receives pollen, the plant can complete its reproductive cycle and produce flowers, fruits, nuts, and anything else that is part of its annual life cycle.

In case you are wondering what benefit a small insect pollinator can bring, the answer is a lot. A 2010 Cornell University study showed that insect pollination activities contributed $ 29 billion to the U.S. agricultural economy. Bees alone accounted for $ 12.4 billion in directly dependent crops. Human foods that benefit from pollinating insects include apples, almonds, blueberries, cherries, and oranges.

In order to reap the benefits of pollination, we must have plants essential to an insect’s pollinating life cycle. Milkweed is a plant frequently associated with pollination. “Milkweed” is actually a generic term for a number of plants of the genus Asclepias. There are several species of milkweed: 16 species are native to Missouri. Many people are familiar with butterfly grass (sometimes called butterfly milkweed) and its clusters of small orange flowers. Another type familiar to many people is the common milkweed, which has pinkish flowers.

Milkweed receives a lot of publicity related to pollination because it is extremely beneficial for butterflies, especially monarch butterflies. However, it also attracts other pollinating insects.

However, planting milkweed does more than provide an opportunity to see pretty flowers and interesting insects. As humans put more pressure on the land, it alters or removes the natural vegetation that pollinating insects need to survive. Our efforts to improve existing natural habitats or create special habitats – even if it’s just a small butterfly garden up front – help ensure that important pollination activities continue. .

And you don’t have to limit your native plantations to milkweed. Other native plants also benefit pollinating insects. Planting a variety of native flowering plants provides a buffet for pollinating insects.

And that brings us back to the value of pollination. In addition to the financial importance of pollination related to food crops, there is another huge benefit that cannot be expressed in dollars and cents. The fruit and nut plants listed above are just a small portion of the large amount of plants that require insect pollination to survive. If pollinating insects disappeared, many types of plants would also disappear. Some experts believe that up to half of the world’s plant species would either disappear altogether or dramatically decrease in number if pollinating insects ceased to exist. Large-scale plant losses would lead to increased erosion and disruption of many insect and wildlife life cycles. It is impossible to predict the details of what would happen to our natural world if pollinators were removed from it, but it is safe to say that the negative impacts would be many.

So, as we begin to bring our winter gardening tools out of hibernation and think about the things we’re going to be planting in the coming weeks, put some native plants on your list. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has programs and information on its website that help educate people about native plants. MDC is hosting a virtual program on May 5 that will help people learn more about native plants. People can find out more about this program by going to mdc.mo.gov.

Grow Native !, which is a program of the Missouri Prairie Foundation and is supported by the Missouri Department of Conservation and other public and private organizations, is another great source of information on how native plants can fit in. in your backyard landscaping plans. Information about the program is available at www.grownative.org, your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office, or at mdc.mo.gov

Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the southwestern region of the Missouri Department of Conservation. For more information on retention issues, call 417-895-6880.


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