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A Different Kind of Essential Worker

We hear a lot about pollinators these days. So, who are these pollinators? With a few clicks of my mouse and some fast typing, I can pull up pictures of bees, wasps, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths (even hummingbird moths!), bats, beetles, wasps, and flies. I’ve been doing a lot of computer-based learning lately, and perhaps you have too. But the great thing about living pollinators is that you aren’t limited to going online to see them, these animals can be found all over – in your yard, a Metropark, even a forgotten sliver of plants growing along the parking lot. Living pollinators perform their essential work of moving pollen from one flower to another while going about their daily lives, ensuring that seeds and fruits are produced. Pollination is essential!  The whole ecosystem would break down without them.

Your Metroparks are in the business of restoring and protecting natural areas, refugia for these “essential workers”, while being a respite for everyone in Southeast Michigan.  Natural areas in the Metroparks have resident pollinators “taking shifts” during different times of the year. Spring in the forest is when ants and flies pollinate the early wildflowers like trillium and skunk cabbage.  In the summer bumblebees and butterflies are on the job throughout the prairie, visiting milkweed, coneflower and coreopsis.  When autumn arrives, beetles perch on goldenrod, eating, while unknowingly doing their critical job of pollination. Without native pollinators, there would be no plant seeds, and no new plants.  The landscape color and function would be diminished.

We need biodiversity – a big mix of living plants to ensure a healthy future for these pollinators – and for ourselves! Wander the Native Plant Garden at Indian Springs Metropark to see this in action.  Increase the biodiversity of plants near your home by allowing clover to grow in your lawn, include plants native to our region in your landscaping, or simply add a container garden with a variety of flower types to your front step.  Skip the pesticides and allow leaves and stalks to stay in your garden during the winter to shelter overwintering pollinators. Simple actions by all of us add up to a lot of support for these other “essential workers”. To find out more about pollinators visit Pollinator.org.

Jill Martin, Interpreter at Indian Spring Metropark

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