What’s the Difference between Pollinator and Pest?: Getting to Know your Neighbors

 by Diana Sette

In the City, many people can be put off by ‘bugs.’  Maybe it is because people think the bug may bite or sting you.  Or maybe they are just annoying and buzz.  Often people are simply flat out scared by something flying around them – even a beautiful butterfly.   While city culture may bristle at the thought of bugs, we must work to cultivate a vision that embraces bugs and can tell the difference between a pest and a pollinator, because our survival may depend on it.

How can that be so?  Well, three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators to reproduce.  Flowering plants equates to most of the fruit, vegetable, and seed crops we eat – and other plants that provide fiber, medicine and fuel we use; these plants are pollinated by animals.* 

What kind of animals you may ask?  Pollinators are not just bugs like bees (though this is an essential one!) and beetles, they also include bats, butterflies and birds.  These pollinators are by no means ‘pests,’  when we support them we can actually support the reduction or effect of pests in our garden and life (ie. Bats eat mosquitoes, parasitic wasps make their cocoons on the backs of tomato hornworms!).  For the sake of this post, we’re going to focus on just a few pollinators you may find in your garden- especially if you have some plants that provide them food and habitat.**

IMG_20571st photo: Goldenrod Soldier Beetle or Pennsylvania Leatherwing (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus) with two bees I’m not able to identify.

2nd photo: Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae) on tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
IMG_20613rd photo:Short-Horned Grasshopper (orthoptera caelifera)
IMG_20644th & 5th photos: Eastern Carpenter Bees – Xylocopa virginica
image16th photo: Locust Borer (Megacyllene robiniae), two bees, and one Eastern yellow jacket Vespula maculifrons or- wasp (most likely yellow jacket- but hard to tell)

Thank you for getting to know your neighbor pollinators!  Together we can support our long-term livelihood by supporting theirs!

*More information on pollinators at www.nrcs.usda.gov/pollinators

** Tips on how you can help support pollinators http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/pollinate/gardeners/