By Trinity Smith
In the United States alone pollination is a several billion-dollar industry commonly focused on honeybees (Apis mellifera) an invasive species of pollinator originally imported to the United States from Europe to produce honey and pollination of fruits and vegetables. In 2006 there was a phenomenon discovered known as colony collapse disorder, CCD for short, which sparked an alarm in the beekeeping and agricultural communities.
While honeybees are undeniably important pollinators, there are arguments presented from scientists that honeybees are not as important or efficient pollinators as the four thousand plus species of native bees in the United States. They, too, are under attack from several factors causing their health and numbers to decline. Scientists have conducted studies on various agrochemicals and how they effect bumblebee colony development and not surprisingly they significantly reduce colony wide health and development.
All native pollinators need help so how can you help? You don’t need to get involved directly in beekeeping to do so. You can start by raising native plants in your garden instead of cultivating exotic plants native pollinators do not recognize and will be less likely to pollinate. Such as milkweed for the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) a common butterfly of the Americas. Goldenrod is highly nutritious for bees so maybe consider not spraying it with herbicides or mowing it down. You can do an internet search to see what types of native plants and pollinators are in your area to be able to create appropriate ecosystems for them to thrive. Next is to stop spraying agrochemicals such as: pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, miticides, and even rodenticides. All of which hurt native pollinators. In the rodenticides case we have a natural rodenticide known as: Owls. Owls hunt mice and rats but when you put out these chemicals you kill them as well by poisoning their food. Another way in the fall to help pollinators is to leave the leaves in your yard, many pollinator species such as ground nesting bees, fireflies, and several species of moths and even birds rely on these leaves to nest in, so removing them prevents this from being possible.
Lastly the most powerful way to help pollinators is to educate and spread the word. By sharing the importance of pollinators and how we can help them more people will be able to make better choices when shopping for plants for their gardens, when they are thinking about buying agrochemicals. All these choices have ripples of effects on the environment and ecology, so ask yourself: “to destroy or restore?”.
A lot of people want to help but may not know what to do to go about doing it, so we need to get the word out there. The more native plants we plant and the less and less chemicals we spray the better the ecosystems will become balanced and pollinator populations restored.
Trinity Smith studies ag science at Stephen F. Austin State University and is an avid beekeeper.