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Experts discuss how pollinators can be helped following winter storm

Posted at 3:55 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 16:55:14-04

BRAZOS COUNTY, TX — Bees and other pollinating insects are important for the health of crops and the local ecosystem. Mid-February was an exceptionally difficult time for many Texans, and Texas pollinators experienced some deaths as a result of winter storm Uri. Thankfully, many native species were able to stick it out.

"They [pollinators] have a lot of adaptations and mechanisms in order to avoid that cold weather," said Molly Keck, entomologist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. "Or even if they’re exposed to that cold weather, they have things like antifreeze in their bodies that keeps them from freezing,”

Keck stressed that while the insect death rate was not excessive, it’s important that those populations which survived have access to wildflowers. She expressed concern that she’s seen fewer food sources available for native honey bees.

"What we might see is, maybe this time next year, as our bees are going through the summertime and there's maybe not enough food that they’re bringing back in right now, there won’t be enough to store to get ready for the wintertime," Keck explained. "Then maybe we’ll see some losses of hives over next winter.”

According to Texas A&M horticulture expert Dr. Mike Arnold, wildflower season seems to be in full swing in the Brazos Valley region. The flowers didn’t all die off, he said; they just came to bloom later than usual.

"This year’s wildflowers, in the spring - especially early on in the season - are largely dependent on what the rainfall conditions were like the prior fall," he said,

Both Keck and Arnold note that it’s helpful to pollinating insects for humans to get planting. Keck pointed out that any colorful flower in a garden can be beneficial to a pollinator, and Arnold shared some suggestions for summer plants that would be most attractive to those insects.

"We’ll want to be planting things like milkweed and passion vine," Arnold said. "Those are both supportive of the caterpillars that are host plants for things like the monarch butterfly and the gulf coast fritillaria.”

Arnold stated that planting wildflowers during the fall season will also help ensure that next year’s blooms continue to emerge.