Just as important as the pollen itself are the amazing members of the animal kingdom who move pollen from one plant to another, allowing the plants to make seeds that then help create some of your favorite products. In fact, we have pollinators to thank for up to 30% of what we eat! So next time you pour maple syrup on your pancakes, chow down on some chocolate, devour ice cream, or use tasty spices for dinner, know that all of these items exist because of pollen!
How You Can Help
- Donate to the Zoo’s Conservation Fund to help pollinators and other animals in the wild:
- Plant native pollinator friendly plants no matter where you live! Whether you have a large yard out in the country that you can plant a backyard garden or in an apartment in downtown with just a few potted plants on your balcony, you can plant pollinator friendly plants to help attract and support pollinators. Follow our Pollinator Friendly Plant Guide to help find those plants just right for you! Plant Shopping Guide Houston Zoo
- Limit the use of pesticides and find pollinator friendly alternatives to use in your gardens! The use of strong chemical pesticides directly affects the health of our pollinators, so make sure what you use and purchase is pollinator safe.
- Buy organic! 95% of our food crops are treated with pesticides – these fruits, vegetables and grains may be a little cheaper than their organic counterparts at the grocery store, but there are hidden costs like health risks to you and your family, and environmental damage that negatively affects all of us. Frequent your local Houston Farmer’s Market for great organic produce!
- Learn more about pollinators so you can tell your friends and family why it’s important to keep these special creatures around for the long haul. Learn all you can about our fascinating native bees, the Monarch Tagging program at monarchwatch.org, and visit the pollinator.org website for tons of information on all things pollinator! Spread the word to friends and neighbors – every little bit of habitat helps!
What is a Pollinator?
A pollinator is an animal that transports pollen from one plant to another – as plants cannot walk, run or fly; this is an extremely valuable service! Without pollinators, most plants would not be able to reproduce. A wide variety of animals are pollinators, including insects (beetles, flies, butterflies and the most expert of them all – bees!). Birds and bats are also pollinators along with a few unusual pollinators like lizards, slugs and even lemurs! We have most of these amazing pollinators in Texas including bats, bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles and hummingbirds! Hummingbirds are a favorite for most people and are key to wildflower pollination!
Here’s How to Get Started: Create a Wildlife Friendly Backyard
No matter where you live, or how big or small your backyard is, you can set up areas of it to help out local wildlife.
Step 1: Make a list of the species that currently live in your backyard, including animals and plants, noting the time of day, season, and temperature – what you see will vary depending on these factors!
Step 2: Take pictures of your existing backyard before you make any improvements.
Step 3: Think about the basic things that wildlife needs to survive (food, water, shelter, and poison-free areas). For areas that are lacking in your backyard, figure out what you can add to help wildlife (e.g. planting trees, adding water features, birdhouses, feeders).
Step 4: Pick a day to plant and install all the elements you chose. Take pictures of your newly spruced up area and compare with the “before” pictures.
Step 5: Become familiar with some of the new species that might be coming to your backyard by looking through field guides. Each week, record the animals you see through photos or descriptions as your habitat grows.
Step 6: Take your pictures and collected information on your Pollinator garden to the Houston Zoo and visit the Naturally Wild Swap Shop. With this you can join our Pollinator Pals Program which will not only earn you extra points but it will register you as Pollinator Saving Conservation Hero!