Could you imagine a world with no berries or melons? No pumpkins during the fall or chocolate to indulge in? Or what about a world with no coffee in the morning and no flowers to water? Unfortunately, this is most likely the path we are headed on due to the declining population of pollinators.
According to the US Forest Service, we simply could not live without pollinators. 80% of the crops we rely on would disappear without our pollinators. Understanding how pollination works, what animals partake in pollination, and what we can do to protect these beings can help the declining population rates.
Pollination is one of the most important parts of plant reproduction, and it is mutually beneficial to the pollinator. In simple terms, pollinators transfer the pollen from the male part of the plant to the female part of the plant, making fertilization possible. The male part of the flower, the anther, produces pollen. The pollen is then moved by the pollinator from the anther to the stigma, which is the female part of the plant. Once this process is finished, the plant can begin its fertilization and reproduce. Pollinators benefit from this practice by feeding off of the nectar and pollen that the plant produces, which provide energy and protein for the animal. Bees buzz to shake pollen out of fruits that produce their pollen in tiny pores. This mutually beneficial relationship between pollinators and plants is one of the most important processes in the environment.
We typically think of honeybees when we think of pollinators, but multiple species participate in pollination. Some important pollinators include carpenter and bumblebees, flies, butterflies, moths, wasps, birds, beetles, and even some unusual ones like honey possums and lemurs.
Unfortunately, many of these pollinators like wasps and beetles have rather negative stigmas against them that hold their population numbers back. Japanese beetles are invasive pests that can wreak havoc on your garden, but beetles like ladybugs, scarabs, and soldier beetles are incredibly important for pollination. Additionally, wasps get an incredibly bad reputation when in reality they have many benefits regarding pollination and pest control. Wasps are very important pollinators that are typically overlooked, and pollinate all 750 fig species! Wasps are crucial for natural pest control, and they help us reduce pesticide use . Without wasps, humans would have to use a lot more harmful chemicals to keep pest populations low. All of these pollinators are keeping our biosphere afloat, and the consequences of losing these animals are dire.
The population of our wonderful pollinators is declining at an alarming rate. This global trend can be attributed to several factors like pesticide usage, climate change, habitat destruction, and pollinator pathogens. A large portion of pesticides causes mortality and long-term complications in pollinators, climate change and habitat destruction are making the environment unusually unfit for our pollinators, and pollinator pathogens like varroa mites are killing off bee populations.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to help our local pollinators and avoid a world without pollinators! Putting up a hummingbird nectar bird feeder will attract beautiful hummingbirds into your yard and keep their bellies full. Consider planting pollinator-attracting plants in your gardens like butterfly weeds, a mix of wildflowers, and coneflowers. Avoid toxic pesticides as much as possible and consider using natural pesticides you can make at home, as pesticides will kill the beneficial animals that visit your property. Above all, be kind to every local pollinator you come across, as they are vital to maintaining a beautiful world, and we do not want to have to imagine a world without them.