Praise the Ways of Pollinators!

By: Blair Wojcik

Did you know that without the presence of pollinators, many of our favorite plants, flowers and foods could not exist or be enjoyed as we know them today? Nearly 90% of all flowering plants rely on animals for pollination, and there are over 200,000 species of animals who pollinate our plants! Ants, beetles, bees, butterflies, wasps, moths, hummingbirds, bats and other small mammals all act as pollinators in the web of life.

According to our friends at honeylove.org, bees alone pollinate 80% of the world’s plants, including 90 different food crops, and one out of every three to four bites of food we eat is in thanks to bees. The honey bee is also personally responsible for $15 billion in US agricultural crops each year.

Pollination is the process which allows plants to reproduce and bear fruit, transferring pollen from the male (anther) to female (stigma) of each plant, and is a vital part of fertilization. While pollination is often an unconscious act on behalf of these creatures – they typically collect pollen on their bodies while stopping to nourish and consume the protein or nectar from these plants and flowers –  everything from avocado, coconut, chocolate, peppermint, tequila, blueberries and macadamia nuts are produced through the help of pollinators. Allen Young, a leading cacao expert states, “A tiny fly no bigger than the head of a pin is responsible for the world’s supply of chocolate.” Incredible!

But beyond delicious food, pollination is also important for the health and vitality of our air and soil. The United States Department of Agriculture shares that flowering plants produce breathable oxygen for our environment through carbon sequestration, and help purify our water and prevent the erosion of our soil through their root systems. The water cycle greatly depends on these plants to return moisture back into the atmosphere, but for the flora to survive and multiply, we need pollination.

The problem for these plants and pollinators, though, is often caused from our own two hands: pesticide. In combination with insecticides, environmental stresses and other components of chemical agriculture, many of the pesticides we regularly use are lethal to pollinators, especially our bees. Some pesticides create dangerous performance disorders and alter the bees’ ability to carry out normal tasks, forage for food or reproduce, thereby greatly hindering the hive’s survival rate. Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, is a phenomenon that occurs when honeybees disappear rapidly, leaving a disparaged hive to fend for the queen with almost no capable caretakers.

So, what can we do? We must protect our pollinators! There are many ways to get involved and engaged in this process. From avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides, to growing organic foods in your garden that attract and nourish them, to exploring urban beekeeping and beyond, the symbiotic relationship we choose to cultivate with these creatures will define the future. Without our help, pollinators will no longer be able to exist, and without their presence, the way we live will never be the same. In short, the world as we know it could not survive.

Discover even more ways to support, attract and protect pollinators here:

http://blog.nwf.org/2015/06/10-ways-to-save-pollinators/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/05/150524-bees-pollinators-animals-science-gardens-plants/