This week is all about the birds and the bees — it’s National Pollinator Week. Just how important are pollinators? Without them, we don’t eat, and they help our state thrive.
“Without their presence, you’re probably going to see a reduction in yield. When you’re in a garden aspect, that yield is, ‘What is the number of tomatoes I might be getting on one particular plant versus one that might not be pollinated?'” said Travis Prochaska, crop protection specialist, NDSU Research Extension Center.
Right now, pollinators like bees, butterflies and even beetles are hard at work pollinating your gardens and the farmers’ fields. But, the drought in western North Dakota isn’t making it easy.
“Many plants will go into conserving energy to protect themselves. So if you’re conserving energy to keep the plant healthy, you may not get that blossom on the plant. So, if you don’t have the blossom, you may not have that food source available for the insects to interact with,” said Prochaska.
Drought doesn’t just affect the crops, it also affects the pollinators.
Robert Kibler has been beekeeping for the last 18 years. His son, Julian, helps him with the four hives.
“Sometimes here, we have to set water out for the bees if it gets too dry. Otherwise, they’ve got nothing to do. Got no work,” Robert said.
There are some things you can do to try to keep your plants from conserving energy. Watering your garden is a good way to ensure the plants don’t dry out. Or you can try what gardeners at the Master Garden in Minot have done. A butterfly box, birdbath and a bee hotel to help pollinators at your home. You also need to be aware of what it is you’re planting.
“You might see soybeans on one side, wheat on another side, but if that’s all you have, you’ve really developed what we call a ‘Monoculture-type crop.’ Where you don’t have a variety, so if you just get one or two food choices, they cannot necessarily come up and thrive like they can when you have a variety of plants in an area,” said Prochaska.
“Be cognizant of the landscape, the world they create because it’s habitat that bees need,” Robert said.
Kibler said yellow bees like yellow things and canola is one of the best crops for bees.
According to the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, in 2018, North Dakota alone produced 38 million pounds of honey which is worth around $71 million.