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Program focuses on pollinators
It may not be evident in every bite, but one of every three mouthfuls of food a human consumes is made possible by pollination.

"We all depend on the services pollinators provide, and regretfully, they are disappearing," said Keren Giovengo, manager of the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service's Coastal Sustainable Communities program.

The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign estimates pollination is responsible for more than $20 billion worth of American products annually. Additionally, it estimates around 75 percent of all plants rely on animals to move their pollen for fertilization.

Whether it's bees, beetles, bats, birds or butterflies, populations of animals that carry pollen from one plant to another and keep annual crops growing are declining due to habitat loss, disease, parasites or environmental contaminants, Giovengo said.

Many chemicals, like the sprays used by Glynn County to fight mosquitoes, are designed to kill one type of bug but often kill others as well, Giovengo said.

She said it is clearly marked that mosquito sprays are harmful to bees and do have an effect on local populations of native pollinators.

"It is a quandary because having too many mosquitoes poses a real human health issue," she said.

Glynn County bee keepers can ask Glynn County Mosquito Control to skip spraying properties where hives are kept, she said. Wild bees, on the other hand, are subject to the sprays.

The widespread collapse of bee colonies has received much international attention from biologists recently because bees are one of the most prolific pollinators, Giovengo said. They are not the only vital pollinator, though, she added.

Giovengo used chocolate to prove her point.

"The cocoa flower is very small and is pollinated by a cousin of the no-seeum bugs we have here," Giovengo said. "If we don't have that tiny midge fly, we wouldn't have chocolate."

Although the issue of declining pollinator populations is of immense international importance, Giovengo said there are several steps people can take in their own backyards to promote healthy environments for pollinators.

Paramount among them is installing plenty of native plants.

"Native plants are four times more likely to attract bees and three times more likely to attract butterflies and moths," Giovengo said. "They have evolved together and the native plants really help to reduce the need for any chemicals."

Having more native plants will help the population of bees and butterflies recover more quickly after a mosquito spray, Giovengo added.

Refraining from the use of chemicals in a garden also makes a friendlier place for pollinating animals, she said.

The international decline in pollinator populations has forced some Chinese apple farms to begin using people to hand pollinate, an example of how serious the problem can become, Giovengo said.

If you go:

The University of Georgia Marine Extension Service and the Georgia Sea Grant will celebrate National Pollinator Week today from 9 to 11 a.m. at the extension service's office, 715 Bay St, in Brunswick. The presentation will include tips for planting native gardens and how to promote a healthy pollinator population.

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