The Plight of the Pollinator

two bees polinating lavendar flowers

It is estimated that almost 90 percent of wild flowering plants and 75 percent of food crops around the world depend on pollination for successful seed and fruit production. Pollinators are vital to our food security, economy, and overall environmental health. Pollinators include both vertebrate and invertebrate species, and studies show both groups are declining across the globe. Vertebrate species include birds and bats; invertebrate species include bees, butterflies, and moths. Invertebrate pollinators are also indicators of a healthy environment and ecosystem; their absence or abundance can indicate specific environmental conditions.

A recent United Nations-sponsored report estimated that 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and moths, and 16.5 percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with extinction. In 2009, the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) and the US Department of Agriculture Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) started an annual National Honeybee Survey (NHBS) to track the health and survival rates of honeybee colonies for both commercial and small-scale honeybee beekeepers. Numbers have been steadily declining and preliminary results of the 2015-2016 NHBS suggest a 44 percent loss of bee colonies across the nation.

Pesticides, mites, habitat destruction, land use change, climate change, and invasive species were all identified as threats to pollinator survival. In 2015, President Obama issued a memorandum calling for the establishment of a National Pollinator Health Strategy to expand federal efforts and help reverse pollinator losses. The strategy established a Pollinator Health Task Force that includes designated representatives from 15 government branches and taking immediate measures to increase and improve pollinator habitats. While the government and scientists continue to research new ways to protect pollinators from current threats, there are things concessioners can do to help protect pollinator populations:

  • Reduce pesticide use.
  • Plant pollinator gardens and cultivate native flowers and shrubs. Get your free Eco-regional Pollinator Planting Guides.
  • Replace turf with flower beds and native flowers.
  • Start a beekeeping colony.

Invertebrate pollinators are crucial to the overall health and well-being of our global economy and food security. Let’s work together to save the birds and the bees and ensure the survival of our species.