Pollinators are hard-working animals responsible for over 80% of the world's flowering plants and nearly 75% of farm crops. Since one out of every three bites of food is attributed to the work of bees and other pollinators, without them, humans and wildlife wouldn't have much to eat or look at.
Often we may not notice the hummingbirds, bats, bees, beetles, butterflies, and flies that carry pollen from one plant to another as they collect nectar, but this week, at National Pollinator Week, is the perfect excuse to watch for them! National Pollinator Week, June 20-26, is a week when farmers and all nature carried people celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what we all can do to protect them. Worldwide there is disturbing evidence that pollinating animals have suffered from the loss of habitat, chemical misuse, introduced and invasive plant and animal species, and diseases and parasites (the U.S. has lost over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies over the past 10 years).
Nine years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. The growing concern for pollinators is a sign of progress, but it is vital that we continue to maximize our collective effort.
What Is Pollination?
Pollination is a vital stage in the life cycle of all flowering plants. When pollen is moved within a flower or carried from one flower to another of the same species it leads to fertilization. Successful pollination results in the production of healthy fruit and fertile seeds, allowing plants to reproduce. Without pollinators, we simply wouldn’t have these crops. Most pollinators (about 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths, and bees. There are also about 1,000 non-insect pollinators, including birds and mammals.
Why Are Pollinators Important?
Pollinators are keystone species, meaning that they are critical to an ecosystem. The work of pollinators ensures full harvest of crops and contributes to healthy plants everywhere. Worldwide, approximately 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the resources on which we depend. Foods produced with the help of pollinators include apples, strawberries, blueberries, chocolate, melons, peaches, figs, tomatoes, pumpkins, almonds etc.
What Do Pollinators Mean To the Farmland?
- Pollinating insects help to increase crop yields
- Inadequate pollination will reduce yields, result in inferior flavor, produce smaller, misshapen fruits with fewer seeds, slow fruit maturation and increase diseases in fruits
- Native insects act as a cushion when managed honey bees and bumble bees are in short supply
- It is estimated that beneficial native insects, which are in serious decline, can provide up to 30% of farmer's pollination needs
- Farm and ranch lands that support pollinators are disappearing at the alarming rate of 3,000 acres a day. The remaining farm and ranch lands lose pollinators' valuable services as their surrounding habitat declines.
What Can You Do For Pollinators?
- Reduce or eliminate pesticide use, increase green spaces, and minimize urbanization. Pollution and climate change affect pollinators, too.
- Plant for pollinators - create pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes
- Increase the numbers of pollinators on farmlands. This will support other wildlife such as birds and game animals, improve the quality of water runoff, decrease soil loss, and reduce the need for expensive pesticides.
- Restore pollinator friendly practices on the farm
- Renew forage and nesting habitats by adding flowering plants, hedgerows, butterfly way stations and other shrubs
- Use reduced-tillage practices (many native bees live in the soil). Start to develop riparian (streamside) zones for wildlife habitats and corridors. Allow crops to bolt to give these pollinators additional food sources and to encourage them to stay around for when you have need of them.
Pollinating animals, including bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, and others, are vital to our delicate ecosystem, supporting terrestrial wildlife, providing healthy watershed, and more. Therefore, Pollinator Week is a week to get the importance of pollinators’ message out to as many people as possible. It's not too early to start thinking about pollinators protection. Pollinators positively effect all our lives- let's save them and celebrate them!
Text source: Pollinator
Image source: Slide Share