Climate change, pesticides, and habitat loss put pollinators –
and our food supply – at risk. Here’s how you can help protect
Birds, bees, bugs, bats and hundreds more creatures big and
small are vitally important to our food system, planetary
biodiversity, and healthy ecosystems. The National
Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) shared some important
news last week about why we need to protect pollinators in the
face of climate change.
NEEF reports that about 1,000 plants we depend on for food and
products need to be pollinated by animals, including coffee,
tasty snacks like melon, chocolate and almonds, and even
tequila. Hummingbirds, bats, beetles, bees, ants, wasps,
butterflies, and other small animals help plants reproduce by
transporting pollen within a flower or between flowers,
resulting in healthy fruits and fertile seeds.
Why are pollinators important?
About 75% of all plants, including those in our yards, gardens,
and parks, depend on pollinators. Home gardens in urban,
suburban, and rural areas play an important role in providing
habitat for pollinators and protecting them from threats. Honey
bee populations alone add more than $15 billion in value to US
agricultural crops each year through pollination.
Due to human influences, including pesticide use and
habitat alterations, as well as natural causes such as
parasites, honey bee colony sizes are steadily decreasing
and in 2014 reduced by 40%. One of the reasons this is
colony collapse disorder, and while it likely pesticides
that cause this damage, much is still unknown.
How Climate Change Harms Pollinators
A changing climate is posing another challenge for honey
bees and other pollinators. The warming of the earth’s climate
has caused plant species to
bloom an average of a half-day earlier each year. In total,
that can result in the growing season of some species now
beginning up to a month earlier compared to 45 years ago.
At this rate, there is a risk that pollinators such as bees can
end up out of sync with the plants that they’ve historically
pollinated. As a result, some plants don’t get pollinated and
the bees are left hungry.
Modern farmers rely on pollinators to stimulate the growth of
their crops just as much as they rely on fuels to run their
tractors. It is important to understand the relationship
between climate change, earlier growing seasons and pollination
to ensure food on the table and profitable crop yields.
6 Ways to Protect Pollinators at Home
Plant a variety of plants that bloom from early
spring to late fall. Planting in clumps will help
pollinators find plants. Learn more about
Choose plants that are native to your
region. Enter your zip code here to find regional planting guides),
meaning that they are adapted to local climate, soil, and
pollinator species. Including plants that bloom at night will
attract bats and moths.
Reduce or eliminate pesticide use. If you
must use a pesticide in your yard or garden, use the least
toxic product possible. Pesticides can be particularly
harmful to bees, so read the product label carefully and
apply it at night, when bees and many other pollinators are
Create bee habitat. Leaving a dead tree or
tree limb in your yard provides nesting habitat for bees
(make sure dead trees/limbs are not safety hazards for people
working below them). You can also create a “bee condo (link
is external)” by drilling holes of various sizes about three
to five inches deep in a piece of scrap lumber. Mount the
lumber to a post or under eaves with southern exposure.
how to make a Mason bee house
Provide nectar for hummingbirds. Make nectar
by combining four parts water to one part table sugar (do not
use honey, artificial sweeteners, or fruit juices). Add
something red to the feeder to attract hummingbirds, and be
sure to clean the feeder with hot, soapy water twice a week.
Fight climate change.
For an in-depth look at the science behind how climate change
is affecting pollination, check out the video below from
Content adapted from NEEF; images from
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