One of the most critical functions of insects is their ability to pollinate plants. Many of our fruits and vegetables are dependent upon them to transfer pollen from flower to flower for the plant to produce fruits or vegetables.

Examples include apple, peaches, blueberries, squash, tomatoes, beans, and peas or among those that require pollination. In recent years, habitat destruction has put a strain on pollinators and in many places caused their numbers to plummet.

On Aug. 23-24, the University of Georgia Extension will sponsor the Great Georgia Pollinator Census where individual citizens monitor pollinating insects, make counts and upload the data to a website. The purpose is to assess the population of various pollinator species and to develop ways to conserve them.

First, here is a little information about the importance of pollinators. Many falsely assume that only honeybees pollinate. True, they are one of the main species doing so. However, honeybees originated in Europe and brought to the United States by colonists during the early years of our history.

An abundance of other insects performs this vital function. Bumblebees, which are black and yellow with fuzzy hair, are one of the most common. Carpenter bees, which are dreaded by homeowners since they bore holes into the wooden parts of their homes to lay their eggs, also are essential pollinators. They can be distinguished from bumblebees with a hairless shiny black abdomen, black and yellow hairy upper body, and a large head and body.

Many wasps and bees are pollinators. Examples of bees include leafcutter bees, with black and yellow stripes, sweat bees with their metallic bodies of varying colors, and mason bees that are metallic blue or black. Squash plants have their species of bees that pollinate only them and no other plants.

Multiple species of wasps pollinate plants. Paper wasps, which are known for building their nests around homes and in shrubs and the dreaded yellow jackets, which are ground-dwelling, are important pollinators. If the insects are not where they can hurt people, you should leave them alone. Potter wasps are black and can be up to one inch long. They form mud pot-like nests on sides of buildings and other structures.

Many butterflies, moths and even flies are pollinators in addition to some beetles. Even bats and hummingbirds assist in pollination in some plants.

A multitidue of plants attract pollinators. They include yarrow, hyssop, asters, butterfly bushes, fennel, and abelias. For more information on pollinators and the plants that they prefer, please refer to the following weblink to the UGA Extension publication The Eco-Friendly Garden: Attracting Pollinators, Beneficial Insects, and Other Natural Predators at tinyurl.com/yy8xrzbx.

The Great Georgia Pollinator Census will help researchers to develop a better understanding of the numbers and distribution of several important pollinators in the state. You can learn more about it and sign up at www.ggapc.org. You will select a pollinating plant, which can be any blooming flowers, shrubs, trees, and other plants, count and categorize the insects that land on that plant for 15 minutes and then record your data on the website.

You do not need to be an entomologist or have specialized training. The census is excellent for school projects, STEM programs, and other youth educational activities. Please consider taking part in this worthwhile endeavor.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett. He can be contacted at 678-377-4011 or tdaly@uga.edu.