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  • Writer's pictureJenni Foshey

Why You Should Care About Pollinators

Pollinators play a crucial role in ecosystems worldwide. Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds, transfer pollen from one flower to another, allowing that flower to reproduce and create seeds and fruit that humans and wildlife can eat or utilize. Unfortunately, many species of pollinators are declining.

The federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee. Photo by Jay Watson. Image Retrieved From: https://www.wisconservation.org/about-us/wi-pollinator-protection-fund/


Causes of Pollinator Declines

Habitat Loss

Pollinators, like bumble bees, rely on a wide variety of wildflowers and plant life. Each pollinator has specific plants they like, so having an ecosystem of diverse plant life is important to ensure their survival, activity, and success at pollination. When there are not enough native plants, pollinators cannot do their job to pollinate and their populations will eventually die off. Industrialization (building more suburbs and expanding cities) and the increase of expansive agricultural areas (farm fields and crop lands) have taken pollinator habitat away. It’s important that we try to implement more green spaces and plant more native plants for pollinators in urban spaces, like cities or parks.


The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is the first bumble bee to be listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 2017. They are important to midwestern states because they pollinate important crops such as tomatoes and peppers. They also help maintain healthy ecosystems. Protecting them is important to crops (and therefore the economy) and ecosystem health (because they help maintain biodiversity in an ecosystem; a variety of plant life). The image below shows the habitat range of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee over time. See how it has decreased in size from the left map to the right? Crazy!


Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee Range Changes over time. Image retrieved from: https://wisconsinbumblebees.entomology.wisc.edu/about-bumble-bees/bumble-bee-declines/#climate-change


Pesticides

Pesticides that are used in farming and landscaping can be harmful to pollinators. Insecticides are a type of pesticide that targets insects, like bees. One popular insecticide that is applied to plants is called neonicotinoid. Neonicotinoid enters the plant’s vascular system and makes the plant tissues (the pollen and nectar) toxic, directly killing the pollinator that approaches it.


Pathogens and Parasites

Quite simply, there are many pathogens and parasites (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) that can harm both the wild plants and the pollinators themselves. Many bacteria, viruses, and fungi thrive in warmer environments, so it is likely that as global temperatures rise due to climate change, pathogens and parasites will become more prevalent and have more of an impact on pollinators.


Climate Change

Climate change causes many changes to ecosystems worldwide. Some regions will experience warmer temperatures and other regions will experience cooler temperatures. Both will impact the activity of pollinators, their survival, and how they interact with other species.


For example, when temperatures increase, bees may emerge earlier in the season than normal. However, the plants that they typically visit to pollinate may not have bloomed yet. Now there are bees (for example) that are buzzing around without any flowers to go to. This will cause many of the bees to die off.


How You Can Help Pollinators

  • Report Rusty Patch Bumble Bee Observations to the Wisconsin Bumble Bee Brigade http://wiatri.net/inventory/bbb/

  • Become Involved with Citizen Science Projects such as the Bumble Bee Watch to help scientists understand where bumble bees are http://www.bumblebeewatch.org/

  • Eliminate or limit your pesticide use

  • Don’t buy plants that were pre-treated with pesticides or insecticides

  • Plant native plants in your yard

  • Consider leaving patches of grass longer in your yard to give pollinators the opportunity to nest

  • Share this article with others to spread awareness!

  • Learn more about pollinators by checking out the resources listed below!

Other Resources to Check Out!




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