What Is a Pollinator?

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This article was written by Matthew Clay, 2021 NC State University Summer Intern for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.

What is a pollinator? A pollinator is any insect or animal that helps transfer pollen from one plant to another. Pollinators play a vital role in agriculture because 85% of our food comes from pollinators. In addition, pollinators are essential for the survival of many different plants. The most common pollinators are insects. People tend to think of honeybees as the primary pollinators, but there are so many other insects that pollinate plants. Some insects, like bees, intentionally collect pollen while other animals, like birds, unintentionally pollinate plants.

With the continuing development of areas and other factors, pollinators are at risk from loss of habitat. One way to provide protection to pollinators is to plant a pollinator garden in your landscape. These gardens are landscaped areas that provide beauty to your landscape where the native flowering plants and wildflowers encourage pollinators to visit. Here in Lee County, we have a pollinator garden located at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Lee County office at 2420 Tramway Rd, Sanford, NC, with many native plants that attract pollinators.

If you do not have space for a pollinator garden, you can add one or more plants that will attract pollinators to your current landscape by placing them in pots. One plant that is typically added to pollinator gardens is the Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). It is a native wildflower plant that provides some bright, yellow-colored flowers with a black center to your garden and is a great pollinator attractor. Another plant that can be planted in a pollinator garden is a Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Coneflowers can tolerate the heat we have in North Carolina and provide purple flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinator insects. Also, there are other varieties of coneflowers that come in many different colors. Furthermore, another great plant one can add to a pollinator garden is Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). It has bright orange flowers that attract many different pollinators. For more information about pollinators and pollinator gardens, visit the Sustainability portal.

Matthew Clay is the 2021 Summer Intern for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.