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Pollinator Habitat

More than one-third of our food supply comes from plants pollinated by bees. In recent years, Colony Collapse Disorder has caused an annual reduction of 30%-40% of U.S. honeybee populations. In the last five years, this has led to a tripling of honeybee hive rental rates. To compensate, fruit and vegetable growers should consider planting pollinator habitats. Pollinator habitats can be used to attract some of the more than 4,000 species of native bees in North America. Pollinator habitat mixes help to increase native bee populations and diversity by providing food and nectar when the economic crop is not in bloom. Already, native bees are estimated to produce $3 billion worth of pollinator service in the U.S.

Pollinator habitats are typically composed of a variety of wildflowers, and sometimes native grasses. Typically, pollinator habitats will produce blooms for the majority of the growing season. They may be formulated to have minimal bloom when an economic crop is blooming, or to have continuous bloom. Pollinator habitats may be formulated to suit a site’s particular environmental conditions, such as having tolerance to moist soils or shade.

Some plant species in a pollinator habitat provide benefits beyond attracting native pollinators. Pollinator habitats may attract parasitoid and predator insect species that attack orchard pests, helping to control populations of some insect pests. In addition, pollinator habitat meadows can serve as foraging grounds for honeybees.

Ernst Conservation Seeds is the largest producer and distributor of native wildflower seeds in eastern North America. We produce wildflower seeds from states ranging from New York to Florida, and work with suppliers to increase the breadth of service area that we can supply. We are cooperating with NRCS, Penn State, and the Xerces Society to develop pollinator mixes for the Farm Bill’s Pollinator Conservation Program.

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

Liatris (Blazing Star)

Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot)

Penstemon digitalis (Tall White Beard Tongue)