I’m sure it’s not a question you think about often, but it is probably one that should cross your mind every now and again. You can thank a pollinator for three fourths of all food you eat. Plants are so incredibly smart that they created pollen to use animals to spread their seed (instead of waiting for water to do it). Granted, this happened 375 million years ago, so they’ve had plenty of time to perfect their game.
Let me drop some 2nd grade science on you. A pollinator is an animal that helps plants make fruit or seeds. The flowers feed the pollinators and the pollinators unknowingly move the pollen to another part of the plant, fertilizing it and allowing it to seed and/or fruit. Simple enough. Except, not so fast. It seems we’ve been experiencing a decline in our pollinating population for many years now and like all of our environmental problems, humans are most likely playing the biggest role in the decline.
And yet the question remains, why should we care? Haven’t we evolved to the point of getting machines to do the work of nature? Do we really rely on these tiny creatures for our wellbeing? The answer is a resounding yes. Although it may sound exciting and futuristic to have machines doing the work of our current declining pollinators (and there have been drones produced and studies done) the math just doesn’t add up. This from Dave Goulson, a biologist who studies bumblebees:
“Bees have been pollinating flowers for 120 million or more years, they’re extremely good at it. The idea that you could build something anywhere near a cost-effective replacement strikes me as slightly nuts. Think of it by the numbers; a bee feeds itself, reproduces relatively easily, and can visit about 1,000 flowers a day. There are about 40,000 bees in a hive, and about 80,000 honeybee hives around the world. That’s a lot of bees, and a lot of pollination.
And pollinators come in the form of bees, bats, birds, butterflies, moths and even mosquitoes (unfortunate, because mosquitoes are such pests!). So once again, move over technology and let nature do her thang.
So how are we contributing to the decline you ask? Well, I think you know the answer to this one. Industrial agriculture and all that entails plays a large role (looking at you neonicotinoids, simplified crop rotation, segregated crops and livestock, destruction of habitat to make room for more crops and on and on). There are others, but the general premise of each of the detriments is we know better than nature and are more concerned with our wallets than our future. How sad…
So of course the next question would be, how can we help? Planting nectar-rich flowers is one way. Or perhaps converting part of your lawn or back yard to a pollinator garden is another. Embracing weeds, as crazy as that may sound, can also support pollinators. Clover and dandelion are a pollinators dream. A water source is an important feature for pollinators to thrive, as well as avoiding pesticides in your garden and on your lawn. The pesticides interfere with the pollinators neurology and can do further damage to the ecosystem. Finally, buying organic cuts down on the demand for pesticide laden crops and supports those farmers who are nourishing pollinator communities.
And if you are looking for inspiration, please visit us at Snyder Park. We will be planting a showcase garden in the next few weeks and of course, there is an amazing butterfly garden to delight in, waiting to share its wisdom. It is so empowering to start taking back our place on our. Go ahead, get your hands dirty!