It's National Pollinator week! Let's talk about what we can do to help pollinator plants and insects

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

Pollinators and pollinator plants are facing a major decline due to human activity and harmful farming, landscaping, and maintenance practices. Perhaps most notably, there has been a significant decline in Monarch butterflies (down 90% over a 20 year period) and several bee species. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to name the Monarch as a threatened species, a petition for which was submitted in 2014, but they are expected to make a decision this month. Several bee species are already listed under the Endangered Species Act, with others sure to join soon. The reason these declines matter to us is quite simple: Loss of life - plant, animal, insect - caused by human activity has a detrimental effect not only on the health of our ecosystems, but on our heath as well, as "the food security of humans is dependent on the ecological services that pollinators provide."₁ The sooner we are all able to connect the dots and see the harmful impact of our everyday actions, the sooner we can improve our practices and divert from the path of destruction.

Viceroy Butterfly, a Monarch look alike, on a Sedum plant in my garden. | © Morgan Barrett

Pollinator plants and insects have a beautiful symbiotic relationship - the plants offer food and shelter to the insects, and in return the insects pollinate the plants, facilitating their reproduction. One cannot survive without the other, so when one is affected, the other is, too. If these key pollinator insects go extinct (e.g. honey bees), we face a serious food crisis. By many accounts, the extinction of bees could send humanity into a downward spiral, as bees pollinate 30% of the crop species that feed the world population. ₂

According to the petition presented to the US Fish & Wildlife Service to list the Western Bumble Bee as endangered, "habitat loss is attributable to agricultural intensification, urban development, and fragmentation of landscapes, ...the recent introduction of non-native fungal and protozoan parasites, ...(and) pesticide application..." In short, human activity that disregards the importance of green spaces is seriously imperiling pollinators' future on earth.

Monarch butterfly feeding on a red clover in the ditch on the side of a dirt road. | © Morgan Barrett