By Laura Turner Seydel

As we enjoy the fall weather, it’s hard not to notice the buzzing bees and insects sharing our space. Known as pollinators, these bees, wasps, butterflies, hummingbirds and other insects we see buzzing around are more important than they might seem.

Did you know that 70 percent of our country’s crops are created from our pollinators? Without them, produce sections of our grocery stores would cease to exist, we couldn’t enjoy our morning cup of coffee and some of my family’s favorite flavors of Haagan Dazs ice cream wouldn’t be around anymore (check out their campaign to save the Honey Bee at www.helpthehoneybees.com).

Up until now we’ve taken these pollinators for granted, but over the past few years we’ve seen a global decline in their populations, which poses a great threat to our current life support system.

Luckily, there are many things we can do to help keep the bees buzzing here in Atlanta. Dennis Krusac, endangered species specialist with the USDA Forest Service (www.fs.fed.us), says that habitat restoration is critical and planting pollinator gardens is one way to help.  He advises that a successful garden should provide native, blooming flowers from spring through fall and include a variety of different colors.

Fall is a great time to start planning your spring garden and a valuable resource to help you get started is www.pollinator.org, which gives planting guides for your specific zip code to help you pick the perfect plants for your backyard garden.

Also, avoid using pesticides in your garden and consider warding off pests with an all-natural pesticide from ecoSMART (www.ecosmart.com) or introducing beneficial predatory insects like praying mantis, lady bugs or spiders.

Thanks to organizations like National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org), U.S. Forest Service and Captain Planet Foundation (www.captainplanetfoundation.org), which have recently partnered to create pollinator gardens in schools in Metro Atlanta, we will see an additional increase in Atlanta’s pollinator population, while raising awareness and educating our youth on this important issue.

For more information, visit www.lauraseydel.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.