National Pollinator Week kicks off today for a celebration of the many critters that works so hard to keep our fruits, veggies, flowers and other plants going.
Without pollinators, the plants we rely on for food, medicine and agriculture (like alfalfa for feeding cattle) would disappear. Honeybees pollinate a wide variety of crops in the U.S. and provide services to our agriculture system valued at over $19 billion each year. In fact, 1 in every 3 bites of food we eat relies on pollinators like the honeybee.
While the honeybee is the most well known pollinator, there are actually over 4,000 species of native bees that contribute to our ecosystems and food systems across the country. From tiny solitary bees to those giant bumblebees that sound so menacing as they buzz by, each species plays a unique role in the natural world and can indicate the overall health of our ecosystems. In addition to bees, many birds, beetles, bats, and even flies act as pollinators as they move from plant to plant looking for food and shelter.
Unfortunately, pollinators are facing some big problems.
Beekeepers have reported losing over 40% of their hives over the past two years and population decline in native bees and other pollinators is accelerating too. While there are many factors contributing to these unprecedented deaths, pesticides (including herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides) play a major role.
One class of pesticides in particular is causing a lot of trouble for our pollinator pals. Neonicotinoids are a systemic pesticide, which means the chemicals can be found in all parts of the plant – seed, stem, leaves, and pollen – and can spread into nearby soil, water, and other plants. Exposure to these pesticides can weaken a bee’s immune system leading to bigger problems or can kill pollinators outright. One seed coated with a neonicotinoid pesticide is enough to kill a songbird.
The good news? It’s really easy for you to help!
Plant a pesticide free garden to give pollinators a safe place to eat.
Check out the Bee the Change Toolkit for tips on helping pollinators in your community.
Contact your local government and tell them to take action to protect bees in public spaces.
This week, let’s spread the word about pollinators, the many amazing things they do, and how we can help save them. #BuildtheBuzz