The plight of the pollinators on our planet was a resounding theme at the 2014 NM Organic Farming Conference I attended over Valentine’s weekend. Every single workshop I attended mentioned something about pollinators, how integral they are to our survival on this planet and how we can help them and turn things around.
I have written about honey bees several times in this space due to my love for my name-sake and our keeping of them in a Top-Bar Hive in our backyard (you can read some highlights here, here, here and here). However, given the profound importance of all pollinators, I want to take the opportunity to broaden the topic a bit based on the factoids and information gleaned from the conference.
Pollinators in General
- Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles, bats and hummingbirds
- Pollinators are essential to ~70% of the world’s flowering plants
- Pollinators are responsible for the survival of strawberries, apples, pumpkins, blueberries, tomatoes, eggplant and hundreds of other fruits and vegetables
- There are 4,000+ native species of bees in the US
- 1/3 of all of our food is dependent on bees
- Honey bees can travel up to 5 miles in search of pollen
- There has been a 96% decline in the abundance of bumblebees in recent years
- Monarchs solely depend on Milkweed for survival
- There has been a 58% decline in Milkweed between 1999 and 2010
- There has been a 81% decline in Monarchs between 1999 and 2010
Who’s to blame?
While it is impossible to blame one single thing on the extreme decline of our pollinators, neonicotinoids have raised a few eyebrows and are creating quite the controversy around the planet. Insecticides and herbicides, when broadly sprayed or when sprayed on the flowering plant, have shown to lower a pollinator’s ability to fight off disease and pests. By using these poisons we are, essentially, ruining their immune systems, which leads to their death.
Additionally, our attempts to control our landscape has become detrimental to the pollinators. Wild flowers are ripped out and replaced with parking lots or cash crops daily. Not only are we stripping our land of it’s beauty, we are stripping our pollinators of their food sources and habitats.
How can we help our pollinator friends?
Create Diversity – Pollinators need abundant supplies of pollen and nectar throughout the growing season and different colors appeal to different pollinators. Plant a diverse selection of native-to-your-area plants that will blossom over the greatest period of time possible. Pick seed mixes native to your area that contain different shapes, colors and bloom times. Bees love flowers in the white to lavender spectrum (including yellows), while Monarchs and Hummingbirds love reds. Plan carefully and enjoy the beauty while knowing the pollinators are grateful for your efforts.
Create and Maintain Habitats – Different pollinators enjoy different home sites. Some bees like to burrow in the ground or in old tree stumps, so leave a corner of your garden untouched and wild (or intentionally disorganized and messy). Mason bee homes or Bug Hotels are a fun way to help our pollinator friends as well.
Ban Pesticides and Herbicides in Your Garden – As mentioned above, these two can run a number on the pollinators by ruining their immune systems and by removing their food sources from our yards and landscapes. Reconsider what you consider a weed. Then, if you must have it gone, go out and pull it instead of spraying it. The pollinators will thank you.
These three actions alone will not turn around the mighty storm we have created on this planet for our pollinators, but they will help…and every single action counts when their lives, and our lives, depends on it!
Want to learn more about our pollinators and how you can help them? These resources might prove useful 🙂