Pollinators & Beneficial Insects
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Photo credit: Ron Spendal.
Photo credit: Alex Pajunas.
Photo credit: Andy Bauer.
Why pollinators and beneficial insects are important:
Insects, birds, invertebrates, and mammals all play important roles in our terrestrial landscape.
Wildlife actively shapes the habitat around it – keeping ecosystems in balance, cleaning up nature’s waste, and contributing to the food web. Humans are dependent on the activities of many of these critters, particularly pollinators and beneficial insects.
While insects often get dismissed as pests, most of them help ecosystems remain healthy!
They provide immense benefits for our yards, farms, and community spaces by pollinating plants and preying on pests. Get to know the pollinators and beneficial insects in your area so you can better appreciate all the valuable work they do.
Pollinators are animals that move from plant to plant searching for protein-rich pollen or high-energy nectar to eat. As they go, they are dusted by grains of pollen and transport that pollen to other flowers. Spreading pollen allows a plant to reproduce and form seeds, berries, fruits, and other foods that are the foundation of the food chain.
When people think about pollinators, they commonly think of honeybees. Honeybees are essential to crop production, but they aren’t the only ones working hard to pollinate.
- Fun fact:
There are over 500 bee species in Oregon! Many of them are native to the Pacific Northwest (unlike the honeybee) and are extremely efficient pollinators.
While honeybees are social creatures that live in a hive, many of our native bees are solitary, creating their nests in the ground or in crevices. Learn more about the most common bees for crop pollination in Oregon.
Other pollinators include:
Some of the many pollinators of the Tualatin River watershed:
Why are pollinators so important?
What are beneficial insects?
Other beneficial insects help keep our gardens, farms, and natural areas healthy in many ways:
While there are some harmful pests, most insects are beneficial to the environment.
There are two main categories of beneficial insects:
These types of insects help protect gardens and crops by preying upon harmful pests. Often, beneficial insects are used as a biological control methodThe practice of using a pest organism’s natural enemies to control its population size. in integrated pest management programs.
Curious about who these beneficial insects are?
Ladybugs are predatory – feeding on aphids and other insects that are pests in gardens, agricultural fields, and orchards.
- Hover flies
Hover flies are attentive pollinators that also eat aphids and other plant pests during the larval stage. They often get confused with bees or wasps because of their yellow and black markings.
- Parasitoid wasp species
Parasitoid wasp species control pest populations by laying eggs in the body of their hosts. As the larvae develop, they feed on the host, eventually killing it.
How you can help:
Here is how you can help pollinators and beneficial insects that are in decline due to habitat fragmentationThe process of dividing up a naturally occurring landscape into smaller, disconnected pieces., disease, climate change, and the widespread use of pesticides:
- Create a pollinator garden
Create a pollinator garden to provide an abundance of year-round flowers, shelter and nesting sites, and protection from pesticides.take the million pollinator garden challenge
- Make a pollinator bath
Provide a water source by creating a pollinator bath. Arrange rocks in a shallow dish with water so insects can perch on the rocks as they lap up water.Learn how to make a bee bath
- Allow for mud puddles
Let shallow mud puddles form in your yard. This is a great way to invite butterflies over for a drink! They can get important salts and nutrients from puddles.Learn about Making Mud
- Let leaves provide winter cover
Provide winter cover in the form of leaves and dead plant material. The debris creates important shelter for insects, and the fallen leaves offer an added benefit of suppressing weeds and fertilizing the soil. Find out more about the Xerces Society’s Leave the Leaves campaign.Learn about Xerces Society’s Leave the Leaves campaign
1. Mader, E.; Shepherd, M.; Vaughan, M.; Black, S.; & LeBuhn, G. (2011). Attracting native pollinators: protecting North Americas bees and butterflies: The Xerces Society Guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub.
2. University of California – Berkeley. (October 2006). Pollinators Help One-third of the World’s Food Crop Production. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 20, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061025165904.htm
3. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/...