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How to help Vermont’s pollinators in peril

Many of Vermont’s pollinator species continue to remain in peril, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. But there are a few decisions people can make to benefit these essential species. 

“The majority of our flowering plants need pollinators in order to produce seeds,” Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Zoologist Mark Ferguson said.

Vermont is home to hundreds of species of pollinators — from bees to butterflies to beetles and other bugs — that play a vital role in pollinating the state’s flowers, trees and food crops. These insects are responsible for pollinating 60 to 80 percent of Vermont’s wild plants and play a critical role in the propagation of fruits and vegetables in gardens, wild berry patches, commercial berry farms and apple orchards. 

“Many pollinator species in Vermont are in trouble,” Ferguson said.  

Habitat loss, invasive species, single-crop farming, disease and pesticide use are a few of the threats affecting populations of these insects across the state. Vermont’s native bees, which include over 300 unique species and three that are threatened or endangered, are among the pollinators being impacted the most. 

A recent examination of Vermont’s 17 different bumble bee species concluded that several species have drastically declined, or even disappeared from Vermont.

To better understand not only the number and diversity of Vermont’s native bee species, but also their distribution and population trends, the state and its partners are conducting a three-year study, surveying Vermont bees. 

Vermont Fish & Wildlife is working with the Vermont Center for Ecological Studies and is inviting members of the public interested in contributing to this data collection to email info@vtecostudies.org or visit www.val.vtecostudies.org/projects/vtbees/.

Vermonters can also make a difference in conserving native bees and other pollinators with a few household considerations:

— Provide a variety of vibrant flowers and native plants to attract pollinators to your yard and garden.

— Learn to live with wildflowers and weeds growing in your yard and fields. Pollinators prefer a variety in their habitat, even if it looks untidy to humans.

— Keep an eye out for bare patches of lawn where ground-nesting bees may make their home.

— Use pesticide alternatives such as pollinator-friendly barriers to keep unwanted pests off your plants.

— Avoid using insecticides (especially those that contain neonicotinoids such as imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin).

— Reduce the amount of property that is mowed, mow less often and consider leaving fields un-mowed until October when most pollinators have finished their pollinating activities.

— Contribute to the state’s habitat conservation projects though the Vermont Habitat Stamp program.

To learn more about Vermont’s pollinators and additional ways to help, contact Mark.Ferguson@vermont.gov.

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