Lately there seems to be a lot of talk about honeybees and other pollinators, for the last few years especially. What is a pollinator? What is all the talk about?
A pollinator is an animal, often an insect, which causes plants to make fruit or seeds. Local pollinators can range from bees and butterflies to hummingbirds, bats, moths, beetles and more. Most of the attention seems to stem from the concern that over the past 10 years the United States has lost over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies, according to Pollinator.org.
Honeybees and other pollinators make 70% of our fresh food (think: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila, to name a few) able to fruit. Simply put: No bees = No food. Without honey bees, the world will essentially become a plastic covered desert. To postpone this fate, people worldwide are talking about honey bees and other pollinators and how to help them, and us, continue in healthy ways, for generations to come.
There are a few major factors at play and a few simple ideas anyone can do to help create big change. Since the end of WWII, chemical use in agriculture has skyrocketed. All the pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides turn out to be really, really bad for people, pollinators, and the soil. A simple solution to restoring healthy balance is to avoid or limit pesticide, herbicide, and insecticide use. Use effective, natural solutions (cinnamon powder, lemon oil, vinegar, table salt) when possible and resort to chemicals only when absolutely necessary.
Another way to promote pollinator friendly agriculture practices is to support organic farms.
These farms choose to avoid chemicals and GMO use and as a result they create a healthy environment for friendly pollinators as opposed to industrialized agriculture which uses chemicals and GMOs constantly, resulting in the death of most local pollinators and loss of nutrients in the soil.
A great way to support a healthy ecosystem is to plant a pollinator garden and provide nesting places for pollinators in your yard if possible. Ideally, a pollinator garden always has something in bloom for pollinators to eat. This could be a small space with a lilac bush for spring food, sunflowers for summer pollinators and goldenrod for fall foraging. Other popular planting choices include echinacea, black eyed susans, daisies, fennel, bee balm, butterfly bush, and many more wildflowers and perennials. It is important to note that one should purchase heirloom and/or organic plants or seeds for their pollinator garden because pollinators will die when harvesting pollen from GMO plants and flowers.
Overall, if we all make a few simple changes with our yard care and daily purchasing choices, we will have a good chance at helping to reverse the negative trend towards pollinator extinction. Without pollinators, we won’t have fresh foods to eat resulting in food shortages over time and sadly, starvation.