Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute supporting National Pollinator Week

COLLEGE STATION — National Pollinator Week is June 17-23, and the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, NRI, in collaboration with other organizations is continuing its efforts to promote statewide land stewardship relating to pollinators.

“Our institute and other like-minded organizations have been collaborating to bring awareness to the importance of voluntary land stewardship in Texas through a statewide campaign emphasizing the role of pollinators in the environment,” said NRI associate director Dr. Jim Cathey.

Bees are among nature’s best-known pollinators. (Texas A&M AgriLlife Communications photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Cathey said some of the organizations involved in the statewide initiative to increase public awareness of pollinator benefits include the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Texas Wildlife Association and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

“Pollinators, like birds, bees, butterflies, bats, beetles, moths or even small mammals, play a vital role in production agriculture, ensuring the food supply and preserving natural resources,” Cathey said. “They also play a significant role in natural rangeland ecosystems by helping to keep plant communities healthy and reproducing.”

Cathey said while some pollinator populations in Texas and elsewhere have been declining, many landowners recognize the importance of pollinators and employ voluntary conservation practices on both private and public lands to help support and grow their populations.

“Habitat enhancements like rangeland restoration provide a benefit by increasing biodiversity — an essential component for all wildlife, including pollinators,” he said. “Because so much of the land in this state is privately owned, this makes it even more important for landowners to implement voluntary conservation activities to help keep our soil and water resources healthy,”  

Cathey said taking steps to help conserve, protect and improve pollinator populations is an important adjunct to good land stewardship and natural resource protection.

For pollinator-friendly landscape plants around homes, schools and businesses, Cathey suggested  the AgriLife Extension and City of Austin publication “Native and Adapted Landscape Plants of Texas” as a resource. It can be found at https://tinyurl.com/NativeAdaptedPlants.

For plant identification, he suggested Texas A&M University’s department of ecosystem sciences and management publication “Plants of Texas Rangelands” as “a virtual herbarium for  landowners” found at https://rangeplants.tamu.edu/.

Pollinators such as butterflies are of vital importance to agriculture and for maintaining plant health. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“For larger working lands like ranches, weeds or forbs make pollen, nectar, fruits and seeds that are valuable to wildlife from butterflies to bobwhites,” he said. “Native forbs can be promoted with soil disturbance such as shallow disking to 2-4 inches deep. Often this is done from January to March to encourage pollinator plants to mature as butterflies and other insect populations increase through the summer months.”

Cathey said there is an opportunity for habitat work in the yard or on the ranch to assist pollinators, but to make haste as rain will likely play out in late July and August.

“It is still worth the effort to be able to send migrating insects back home with nectar-filled stomachs,” he said. “And given the work these pollinators do for us, it’s also a smart investment.”

For more information on the pollinator initiative, go to: https://www.tsswcb.texas.gov.

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Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Dr. Jim Cathey, 979-458-2565, james.cathey@ag.tamu.edu

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