Why Are Pollinators Important for our Survival?
The number one reason that pollinators are important to the world’s survival is that pollination is vital to plant reproduction. This includes not only pollination services for agriculture which provides the world’s food supply but also the world’s ecosystems. The US Forest Service says it best.
It is an essential ecological survival function. Without pollinators, the human race and all of earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive. Of the 1,400 crop plants grown around the world, i.e., those that produce all of our food and plant-based industrial products, almost 80% require pollination by animals.US Forest Service
It’s staggering to think that not only our food supply but also the habitats that support our ecosystems depend on animal pollination and insect pollination. Without pollinators, the life cycles in all ecosystems would begin to collapse.
Line Up: Who are the Top Pollinators?
A pollinator is simply an animal or insect that spreads pollen from plant to plant. Some plants are self-pollinating and don’t require pollinators to reproduce. For other plants, pollinators play a vital role for their survival. Pollinators visit plants for a variety of reasons, searching for bites of food, mates, possibly shelter, or nest-building material. As they move about meeting their basic survival needs, they spread pollen grains as they go from flower to flower. Pollinators cover a pretty impressive lineup of animals and insects that are vital to the pollination of plant life.
This group actually covers a pretty big group of pollinators. Bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, mosquitoes, and wasps are all pollinators. I’m going to share just a few of these valuable insect pollinators below.
Bees are the most effective pollinators and are usually viewed as the most important pollinators. As they search for nectar and pollen, their low-profile bodies put them in the thick of the pollen. While many insects are transferring pollen that sticks to their bodies accidentally, solitary bees actually collect it to take it back to the hive. Honeybees have “saddlebags” where they can store balls of pollen. These saddlebags are called corbiculae.
Since honeybees can be easily raised and moved from location to location using bee hives, they are perfectly suited for commercial crop pollination. Commercial pollination services bring bee hives into agricultural fields by the truck load to provide adequate pollination of important crops. The saturation of pollinators increase crop yield rather than depend on the native bees in the area. Unfortunately, habitat loss has led to decreased species of bees. The importance of bees for our food production is largely underestimated. They are vital to our food security.
To see honeybees bring pollen back to the hive, check out this video on YouTube. Use the chapter menu to jump right to Bringing Home the Pollen. See if you can count the bees bringing home the pollen.
Butterflies are also a pollinator species. They search for nectar as they travel from flower to flower. Their long legs keep them high above the pollen and they lack a place to store pollen for transportation. Still, they assist in the pollination of plant life and contribute to the world crop production.
The insect that most surprised me of all the insects on the pollinator list is mosquitoes. Mosquitos’ primary food source is actually nectar, making them a pollinator. Some types of orchids are exclusively pollinated by mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes use blood for their own reproduction not as a food source.
Bats are important pollinators in some tropical and desert climates. Since bats are active at night, they are crucial to the pollination of flowering plants of tropical crops that bloom only at night. Due to their size, they pollinate larger flowers, as they seek out larger amounts of nectar. Some of the crop species that depend on bats for pollination are guava, bananas, and mangoes.
Probably the most commonly known bird in the United States that is an important pollinator is the hummingbird. In other parts of the world, Sunbirds, Honeyeaters, and Brushed-Tongue Parrots are important wild pollinators. In fact, there are over 2000 species of birds that depend on nectar for their food source. Flowers typically pollinated by birds, have strong branches for birds to perch on and tubular flowers.
We do have hummingbirds on Kowalski Mountain. We most often see them near the creek. They are extremely difficult to photograph.
What Can You Do to Protect Pollinators?
The importance of pollinators is undisputed, however as we have disengaged from the production of our food, we have also disengaged from the importance of pollinators. In your own home gardens, you can support healthy pollination and contribute to the survival of pollinating animals.
Grow a Pollinator Habitat
Plant flowers in your yard that pollinators are attracted to. Depending on where you live will determine the best flowers for your area. Planting a variety of plant species that bloom throughout the year provides a constant food source for pollinators. Consider plants that bloom in different seasons. Plant flowers in succession rather than single crops, so that the plants won’t bloom all at once, but will bloom over a period of time.
Pollinators Need Water
Provide multiple water sources throughout your garden. Include pebbles or rocks in the bottom of shallow bowls that will allow a means of escape for bees if they fall into the water bowl. Bird baths and fountains also add to the ambiance of a garden. Not to mention it’s enjoyable to watch the birds come and go throughout the day.
Minimize the Use of Pesticides
This is probably one of the most important things you can do to protect pollinators. Honeybees especially are dying in huge numbers due to the use of insecticides in commercial agriculture and also backyard gardens. Limit your pesticide use to protect native pollinators in your back yard.
Provide Food for Larvae
Provide plants that can be used as food for butterfly larvae. As a vegetable gardener, this is a hard one for me. If you wish to attract monarch butterflies to your garden, you need to provide the food they need to raise their young. Nothing is more disheartening than finding your vegetables demolished by larvae, but planting certain plans for larvae specifically is a way you can help pollinators in your own backyard.
What We Are Doing at Kowalski Mountain?
As beekeepers, Philip’s primary goal is to raise bees! By providing optimal conditions the bees reproduce and grow in numbers. He manages those numbers by creating splits and additional bee colonies.
Philip rescues swarms and through his tree service company, he relocates bees that he might encounter on the job. As fellow tree service companies become aware of his work with bees, he gets calls from other tree surgeons to remove the bees that they encounter as well.
At the homestead, a large number of wildflowers grow on the property. We have even planted a wildflower field in close proximity to the apiary. All of the photos other than the cover photo were taken on the homestead. That photo was taken here in Florida.
Happy Pollinators Month homesteaders! Show your love to pollinators today by choosing just one thing you can do to make your yard more inviting to pollinators!