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Celebrating Pollinator Week in Oklahoma: Addressing the Crisis and Taking Action


Every June, Oklahoma joins the nation in celebrating Pollinator Week (June 17 - 23). This is a time to recognize and address the critical role that pollinators play in our ecosystems and agriculture. This week serves as a vital reminder of the intricate relationships between pollinators and native plants, as well as the urgent need to protect these essential species.


The Importance of Native Plants and Pollinators


Native plants are foundational to Oklahoma’s natural ecosystems. They have co-evolved with native pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths, and birds, forming mutually beneficial relationships. These plants provide essential nectar and pollen that sustain pollinators, while pollinators facilitate plant reproduction by transferring pollen from one flower to another. This process is crucial for the production of seeds and fruits.


Pollinators are not only vital for maintaining biodiversity but also for supporting agricultural productivity. Globally, approximately 75% of flowering plants and 35% of food crops depend on animal pollinators. In Oklahoma, crops like melons, squash, and berries heavily rely on pollination.


Current Issues in Oklahoma Derived from Declining Pollinators


Despite their importance, pollinator populations are in steep decline due to several factors:


Habitat Loss: Urbanization, agricultural expansion, and land development reduce the natural habitats available to pollinators. In Oklahoma, the conversion of prairies and grasslands into agricultural fields and urban areas has significantly impacted pollinator habitats. Frequent mowing along roadsides has converted much of pollinator habitat to grassy areas that lack shelter and food for wildlife. Although some states have started to increase the diversity of plantings (including milkweeds) along roadsides, these programs are small.


Pesticide Use: The widespread use of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, poses a significant threat to pollinators. These chemicals can be lethal to bees and other pollinators, even in small doses. Widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans has resulted in the loss of more than 100 million acres of monarch habitat in recent years. The planting of these crops genetically modified to resist the non-selective systemic herbicide glyphosate (Roundup) allows growers to spray fields with this herbicide instead of manually controlling weeds. This habitat loss is substantial since these croplands represent a significant portion of the summer breeding area for monarchs.


Climate Change: Changes in temperature and weather patterns disrupt the synchrony between pollinators and flowering plants. In Oklahoma, erratic weather events and shifting seasons can affect the availability of floral resources for pollinators.


Disease and Parasites: Pollinators, especially bees, are susceptible to diseases and parasites like the Varroa mite, which weaken their populations.


The decline in pollinator populations has tangible consequences for Oklahoma:


Reduced Crop Yields: Lower pollinator numbers can lead to decreased crop productivity, affecting local farmers and the economy.


Biodiversity Loss: A decline in pollinators results in fewer plants being pollinated, leading to reduced plant diversity and affecting entire ecosystems.


Ecosystem Imbalance: Pollinators play a crucial role in maintaining the health of ecosystems. Their decline disrupts these systems, leading to long-term ecological consequences.


How Oklahomans Can Help Restore Pollinator Populations


During Pollinator Week, you can take several steps to support and restore pollinator populations:


Plant Native Species: Incorporate native plants such as milkweed, coneflowers, and asters into gardens and landscapes. These plants provide essential resources for pollinators.


Create Pollinator Habitats: Leave some areas of your garden wild and undisturbed. Install bee hotels and butterfly houses to provide shelter for pollinators.


Eliminate Chemical Pesticide/Herbicide Use: Eliminate the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides in your garden. Opt for organic and natural pest control methods.


Support Local Conservation Efforts: Get involved with local organizations and initiatives aimed at conserving pollinator habitats. Volunteer for habitat restoration projects and support policies that protect pollinators. (check out the links in the references to learn more!)


Educate and Advocate: Spread awareness about the importance of pollinators and advocate for their protection. Educate friends, family, and community members about the steps they can take to help.


Provide Water Sources: Pollinators need water to survive. Place shallow dishes of water with pebbles or stones for them to land on and drink.


By taking these actions, Oklahomans can make a significant impact in supporting pollinator health and ensuring the sustainability of our ecosystems and agriculture. Celebrate Pollinator Week by making a difference for the pollinators that contribute so much to our environment and food supply. Check out the referenced links to take action today!


Fun Fact: Lady Jane's Naturals has a registered Monarch Waystation. Check us out on the Monarch Watch Registry! (link in references)





References


- Pollinator Partnership. (n.d.). Pollinator Week. Retrieved from https://www.pollinator.org/pollinator-week

- U.S. Forest Service. (n.d.). The Importance of Pollinators. Retrieved from https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/importance.shtml

- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. (n.d.). Pollinators. Retrieved from https://www.wildlifedepartment.com

Monarch Watch. (n.d.). Create & Certify a Monarch Waystation. Retrieved from https://monarchwatch.org/waystations/



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