Dishing the dirt: Pollinators are vital to everybody

Published 5:56 pm Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pollinators are hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and other insects that feed from flowers, transferring pollen within flowers and from flower to flower in the process.

This pollination process is necessary for plants to produce full-bodied fruits and viable seeds. About one third of the food you and your family eats is dependent on these pollinators. Of the plant species grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices and medicines, approximately 1,000 out of 1,200 species are fertilized by pollinators. These include cucumbers, watermelon, squash, blueberries, melons, peaches, pumpkins, almonds and other fruits and vegetables. In addition to birds and other wildlife also dependent on pollinated plants for their food, our pollinators are crucial to the success of North Carolina’s $78 billion agricultural economy.

Unfortunately, many of our pollinators are suffering. Habitat loss, diseases and environmental changes all contributed to the decline of our pollinators. Over 50 percent of the U.S.-managed honey bee colonies have been lost over the last 20 years. At least four different bumblebee species have disappeared from their normal ranges, and monarch butterfly migration across North America is showing extremely low over-wintering numbers.

We need a multi-step approach to protect our pollinators and their habitats. We can all help in some capacity. One simple thing we can do is plant the type of plants that attract pollinators such as lavender, rosemary, sage, coneflower, sunflower, catnip, verbena, black-eyed Susan, aster and oregano.

Protect our Pollinators

Integrated pest management must be used in areas where our pollinators feed by using methods other than insecticides. When necessary, it is very important to pay close attention to labels for special precautions to protect pollinators. Manufacturers have added a new bee hazard icon (a honey bee) on certain labels to help protect pollinators from potential hazards to their health. Note that some products do not have the honey bee icon on the label, so be sure to read for restrictions for pollinator protection. Use proper amounts and at proper times for application when the pollinators are not active. Check if you should use the pesticide on pre-bloom or blooming plants (which includes all plants: garden crops, ornamentals, weeds and native species). Don’t spray when it is windy to avoid drift of insecticide. Also remember that butterflies start out as caterpillars and you don’t want to inadvertently kill butterflies or other beneficial insects.

North Carolina has the largest beekeepers association. They work together and collaborate with farmers to use integrated pest management methods to help protect and manage habitat areas. This includes identification of beehives and notification in advance of spraying farmlands so to avoid harming pollinators and their habitats.

For more information about pollinators go to the following websites: or

For beekeepers, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s latest bee registry form can be found at Registration Form.pdf or contact local NC cooperative extension staff.

This information is given courtesy of the Extension master gardeners who are volunteers under the direction of the Beaufort County Cooperative Extension. Volunteers are available through the hot line to answer your questions concerning lawns, vegetables, trees, ornamentals, fruits, plant problems and diseases, pests, soil and many other horticulture issues relating to gardening in North Carolina. The hot line telephone number is 252-946-0111 and the hours are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon. You can leave a voice message at that number or email the master gardeners your question at and a volunteer will return you call on the next hot line work day.

Roxanne Holloman is a certified master gardener volunteer.



Lawn Care

Now is the time to fertilize and lime your tall fescue according to the soil samples.

There is no need to fertilize warm season grasses.

Grubs in turf can be controlled with insecticides at the beginning of this month.



There are no fertilizing needs this month other then cool season grasses.



Vegetables to be planted in September: mustard, onions, radishes and turnips.

Set out new chrysanthemum plants this month.

Now is a good time to set out or transplant landscape plants. Be sure to “open up” the root balls of container plants.

Pansies can also be set out this month to add color to the landscape.



Long-blooming annuals and perennials can be cut back.

Late summer is not a good time to prune trees and shrubs because pruning will stimulate new growth.

Dead or diseased wood can be pruned out anytime of the year.

Weeds or unnecessary trees should be removed from the landscape.

Rootprune any plants you plan to move next spring.



Watch shrubs for the following insects: spider mites, scale and lace bugs.

Use recommended herbicide to control trumpet creeper and blackberry.

Continue with rose-spraying program.

Peach and nectarine trees need a trunk spray for peach-tree borers.

Insects and diseases can be more severe in the autumn, keep a close eye on your fall vegetables.

(Pesticides should be used sparingly! Use only when needed and always follow the label.)


Other Activities

Prepare houseplants to reenter your home. Check them carefully for insects.

Seeds can be saved from your summer vegetables.

Clean up and put away unused gardening equipment, so it will be ready for the spring.

Destroy any dead vegetable plants by chopping, burning or plowing under.

Start looking for spring flowering bulbs to plant in October.