It's happening across the U.S. and, thanks to a proclamation from Governor O'Malley, it's Pollinator Week here in Maryland, too.  So in honor of this very special class of insects, let's review WHY they're so special.

- Pollinators play a critical role in the reproduction of 90% of all flowering plants. Even non-pollinating animals play a significant part in turning the soil, recycling wastes and seed without actors.

- Pollinators are involved in the production of about one out of every three bites of food that humans eat. Commodities produced with the help of animal pollinators generate significant income for agricultural producers. For example, domestic honeybees pollinate an estimated $14.6 billion worth of crops in the U.S. each year produced on more than 2,000,000 acres.

- Pollinators play a critical role in the production of many plants, and their fruits and nuts, which in turn provide essential food and cover for wildlife. Over 80% of the world’s flowering plants are pollinated by animals. Pollinators also serve as direct food sources for many wildlife species, in the form of eggs, larva, and insects.

Eastern Redbud (L) and Serviceberry (R)

And they're declining in numbers, which poses a significant threat to the integrity of biodiversity, to global food webs, and to human health. Factors which can contribute to pollinator declines include: habitat fragmentation, loss, and degradation, which is causing a reduction of food sources and sites for mating, nesting, roosting, and migration; improper use of pesticide and herbicides; aggressive competition from non-native species; disease, predators, and parasites; climate change; and lack of floral diversity.

From left: Purple Coneflower, Goldenrod and Monarda

But we gardeners can help.  Here's a comprehensive guide to pollinators and the plants they need here in the Mid-Atlantic Region (which they identify as "Eastern Broadleaf"), and throughout this post are some of the gorgeous plants they recommend for our gardens.  No problem!

From left:  Baptisias in blue and yellow, Crossvine

Plants in top photo, from left: Salvia, Black-Eyed Susans, Asters.

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