Organic Farming Conference focuses on pollinators

Organic Farming Conference focuses on pollinators

Stephanie Frischie, native plant materials specialist at The Xerces Society, will speak on the importance of pollinators at the fifth annual Organic Farming Conference this fall.


Stephanie Frischie, native plant materials specialist at The Xerces Society, will speak on the importance of pollinators at the fifth annual Organic Farming Conference at the Event Center in Mt. Hope on Nov. 7 and 8.

Frischie provides pollinator habitat expertise to farms in Canada and the U.S. She also works with the native seed industry and researchers to plan and develop seed supply of important plant species for restoration of insect habitat. Before joining Xerces, Stephanie conducted research on the potential of native cover crops in Spanish olive orchards.

Her talk will be on native pollinator diversity, importance and the threats they face. She also will cover planning for pollinators and pollinator habitat on one’s farm and in one’s gardens. With her knowledge about the life cycles and habitat needs of native bees and other pollinators, learn how to grow and manage habitat areas to help promote pollinators and other beneficial insects in organic farming systems.

Pollinators are insects that move pollen from male structures (anthers) of flowers to the female structure (stigma) of the same plant species. Movement of pollen to a flower’s stigma results in fertilization of the flower’s eggs. An adequately fertilized flower will produce seeds and the fruit surrounding seeds, ensuring a new generation of plants can be grown so there are seeds to sow and food to eat.

An apple, for example, has 12 seeds, and if all parts of the flower are pollinated, all seeds in a ripe apple will be dark and the fruit will be round and plump. If not, the fruit will be misshapen and the seeds light colored.

Usually people think of pollinators as honeybees, but they are only a part of the many pollinators active in fields, orchards and gardens. There are over 4,000 species of native bees in North America. Of course not all of those are prolific pollinators, but many are. The mason bees (members of the genus Osmia) are all known for visiting fruit trees such as apples, plums, pears, almonds and peaches. There are 140 species of Osmiain North America.

Mason bees are said to be much better pollinators than honeybees because they seek only pollen and not nectar and pollen as does the honeybee. It is claimed 50 mason bees will do as much pollinating as 250 honeybees. But mason bees are active pollinators only for around six weeks in the spring. Then they are gone for the year.

While mason bees do an outstanding job of pollinating spring orchards, other bees, especially honeybees, are needed for late-spring and summer-flowering crops.

Not every species of plant requires insect-mediated pollination services. For example wheat is wind-pollinated. However, the majority of crops people eat and that provide most of people’s nutrition need to be insect pollinated. Without pollinators diets would be severely limited, and it would be more difficult to acquire the variety of vitamins and minerals people need to stay healthy.

Guy L. Denny from Fredericktown also will speak on how to improve habitat for pollinators on the homesteads. Denny, former director of the Ohio Biological Survey; retired chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves; and current president of the Ohio Natural Areas and Preserves Association, is considered one of the Midwest’s leading naturalists and prairie experts. He has gone beyond advocating for the protection of natural habitat and has created his own 24-acre prairie on his property in rural Knox County.

Whether a farmer or homeowner, there are many ways to learn about pollinators and help them prosper by enriching native pollinator habitats and protecting against pollinator declines.

For more information visit, call 330-674-1892 or mail OFC at P.O. Box 214, Millersburg, OH 44654.

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