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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Florida Native Pollinators Week

Gov. Charlie Crist has declared June 22-28 Pollinator Week. Worth a chuckle? Nobody's laughing -- at least no one who knows the truth about Florida's vanishing native pollinators. Jim Thomas of Biosphere Nursery in Winter Garden has witnessed the problem first-hand. For years he had harvested paw-paw seeds from the pasture next to his nursery. Now gets little, if any, seed. The plants "just don’t make viable seeds. We just no longer have the bug itself" to pollinate the plants. Yes, certain plants must have certain pollinators. And when they are gone, the system breaks down. What's pushing pollinators out? In Florida, civilization takes the most of the blame. As the state increasingly loses native habitat, the insects that thrive in them often are lost, too. And practices such as mosquito spraying can finish off the wasps, bees and other pollinators that manage to survive habitat displacement. Tracey McCommon of Nature Wise Inc., who is producing a film called "Gardening For Native Pollinators," writes, "Florida has more than 2,000 species of native pollinator insects that are responsible for pollinating our native wildflowers, keeping our ecosystems healthy and pollinating our crops. This includes more than 200 species of native bees, hundreds of species of wasps, and numerous species of beetles, moths, butterflies, mosquitoes and bee flies. "The majority of our flowering plants here in Florida must have these pollinator insects to survive and reproduce year to year. This means that if plants, including food and forage crops, must have pollinator insects to survive, then animals, including human beings, could not survive without pollinator insects as well. And not just one kind of pollinator insect, like bumble bees, but an enormous variety and number of pollinator insects." McCommon's television film, which is supported by a Florida Wildflower Foundation grant, will introduce viewers to the vast diversity of native pollinators we have in Florida. It also will explain how pollination works to enable flowering plants to reproduce and give tips that gardeners use in their landscapes to help attract and sustain our native pollinator populations. For more information about Nature Wise, Inc. and how you can contribute to this TV program and others, visit the non-profit corporation's website at www.naturewisetv.org. Meanwhile, help support native pollinators by using native blooming plants in your landscape. To see Biosphere's plant list, go to biospherenursery.com. Or check the Association of Florida Native Nursery's Web site for a nursery near you.

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