Searching for something productive to do this weekend?

How about saving the planet?

You can do it by helping the pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. They play a crucial role in keeping the environment healthy and helping produce food.

Conservation experts estimate that one out of every three bites of food you eat exists because of the efforts of pollinators, including many fruits, vegetables, and seeds. They also support the food and habitat of animals.

Healthy ecosystems depend on pollinators, according to the U.S. National Park Service. At least 75 percent of all the flowering plants on earth are pollinated by insects and animals. This amounts to more than 1,200 food crops and 180,000 different types of plants — plants which help stabilize soils, clean air, supply oxygen and support wildlife.

Pollinators also play an economic role as well, contributing more than $24 billion dollars to the U.S. economy. Honey bees alone account for more than $15 billion dollars through their role in keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets.

But pollinators are in trouble. Their populations are declining around the world because of a variety of reasons – pesticides, loss of habitat, parasites and diseases.

During National Pollinator Week June 22-28 – and year-round – the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is encouraging Minnesotans to appreciate and help bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.

Not only are pollinators essential to the environment, they also help maintain the health of the many plants that stabilize the soil and prevent erosion, DNR leaders said. These plants also buffer waterways, store carbon and provide habitat for other wildlife.

Plus, flowering landscapes are beautiful, the DNR noted. Without pollinators, the environment would look very different.

They pollinate plants that provide Minnesota food crops, according to the DNR. Some of these foods can be important for wildlife, too. Black bears, for example, eat raspberries that are pollinated by bumble bees, the DNR said.

So how can you help the humble honey bee?

“There are many simple things Minnesotans can do to help pollinators, which are so important not only to flowers or food but to our whole environment,” said DNR invertebrate ecologist Jessica Petersen.

Petersen shared these tips to help pollinators:

  • Plant a variety of flowers, especially those that are native to the area.

  • Keep your garden blooming all season long by choosing plants that provide pollen and nectar in the spring, summer and fall.

  • Provide nesting sites by allowing dead branches and logs to remain, leaving bare earth for ground-nesting insects, or installing bee nesting blocks.

  • Reduce the use of pesticides.

  • Become a community scientist and help researchers collect data about pollinators and their habitat.

  • Tell friends and family about pollinators and inspire them to take action.

A list of pollinator resources and more details about how to help are available on the DNR website.