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In recent years, we've heard more and more about bees dying through what is called colony collapse disorder. Likewise, climate change and habitat loss are blamed for threatening monarch butterflies with extinction.

Both species are pollinators, along with birds, flies, bats, bumblebees, butterflies and other animals.

Why should we care about the plight of these species? Simply put: No bees, no food.

Many of the crops we grow are dependent on pollinators. Without them, our crops — and our food supply system — would be decimated.

June 22-28 is National Pollinator Week, an opportunity for more awareness of pollinators and the challenges they face.

Government agencies at all levels, along with private agencies have worked with farmers and other landowners on the problem.

What can you do to help Missouri's 450 species of native bees and other pollinators? Here are a few ideas from the Missouri Department of Conservation:

- Get floral. Grow native companion plants, especially ones with colorful blossoms, which attract bees.

- Companion planting, in which one plant helps the growth of another, can help the pollination of fruits and vegetables. Planting bee balm, for instance, can help pollinate tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Other examples of flowering companion plants include sunflowers, wild hyacinth, blue wild indigo, purple prairie clover and common milkweed.

- Flowering trees/shrubs, including redbud, American plum and golden currant, are great for pollinators.

- Delaying mowing or mowing higher can help bees by letting the plants grow.

- Be careful in using pesticides, herbicides and insecticides to keep your garden pollinator friendly.

If we all take a few small steps toward supporting pollinators, we can make a big difference in protecting them.

News Tribune

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