10 Buzzworthy Things to Know About Pollinators

by Megan Saynisch


Let’s spread the love for our pollinator friends! Without them, of course, there would be no honey — but our dinner table would also be pretty sad, indeed. Without bees and other pollinators, a lot of the food we eat would vanish into thin air.

Here are the top 10 things we think you should know about pollinators:

1. One-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees.

That’s right — without bees, there’d be a lot less food – and we mean a lot. Think: no berries, no tomatoes, no peppers, no watermelon, no citrus fruit … and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out this infographic from Earth Justice which shows what your summer picnic would look like without bee-pollinated foods. (Spoiler: Pretty boring.)

2. It’s not just our stomachs that would be affected by a loss of pollinators. It’s our wallets, too.

According to the Pollinator Partnership, pollination by honeybees and other insects produce $40 billion worth of products in the US.

3. Pollinators are more than just honeybees.

While honeybees represent the vast majority of food crop pollinators, other insects, like other types of bees, butterflies, moths and beetles, and animals, like hummingbirds, pollinate food crops, too.

4. Bees are in trouble.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a cause-still-undetermined syndrome that’s specifically defined as a hive with a live queen, honey and immature bees, but no live worker bees. The USDA reports that bee loss from CCD is on the decline, but that the loss of bees in general has continued to increase. The NRDC notes that 42 percent of bee colonies collapsed in 2015 alone.

5. The cause of bee loss is probably not just one thing.

Scientists have determined that bee loss is probably caused by a range of factors, possibly working in concert, such as pesticides (both direct loss from pesticide misuse and from what the USDA calls “sublethal” pesticide effects — and some studies show that a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids are particularly damaging), disease and loss of habitat. Even climate change might be a culprit: The NRDC says that warm winters can cause a shift in the schedules of flowers that bees need to feed on after coming out of hibernation.

6. Growing pollinator-friendly plants is one easy way to help bees and other pollinators.

Have a garden, windowsill or other patch of land? Think about growing pollinator-friendly plants. Here’s a short list: cosmos, sunflowers, marigolds, lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme, borage, bee balm (Monarda) — and here are way more ideas by your geographic region from the Pollinator Partnership. Here are some other tips on planting a bee-friendly garden from the Honeybee Conservancy.

7. Once you’ve planted for pollinators, register your pollinator-friendly area!

Check out this amazing map of pollinator-friendly areas all across North America as part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge! Once you’ve planted your own, you can register your site to be added to the map. You’ll get additional info from the Pollinator Partnership on how to help pollinators once you register.

8. Become a citizen scientist by helping count bumble bees — to help track and conserve them.

Arguably the cutest type of bee (also with the cutest name), bumble bees are important pollinators, but, like other bees, have seen declines in their numbers in recent years. Help scientists track them in North America by participating in Bumble Bee Watch. Just take a photo of an adorable bumble bee, log in and upload it to the site, and a bumble bee expert will verify your sighting! You can also help bumble bees by creating bumble bee habitats.

9. Avoiding pesticides and other chemicals on your lawn and garden is another way to help your local pollinators.

Avoid pesticides and other chemicals on your garden (and lawn) — especially on flowering plants and while bees are our foraging. You might want to put that weed killer down, too: Many so-called weeds, such as dandelions, are super pollinator-friendly (and delicious, to boot!).

10. Consider volunteering with a beekeeper, or apprenticing with one to become a backyard beekeeper yourself.

Into pollinators? You might want to consider calling up your local beekeepers’ association to see if any local beekeepers need help. Really, really into pollinators? Consider apprenticing with a beekeeper to learn all about the amazing art of apiculture and to become a beekeeper yourself!

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