This week (June 22 – 28, 2020) is National Pollinator Week to honor the tiny creatures that help produce our food and power the eco system.
Throughout the spring and summertime in Florida we see these creatures hard at work. Bees zip from flower to flower collecting the perfect pollen for honey. Butterflies flutter around for a tasty snack. Hummingbirds, beetles, ants and bats dine on the vast array of luscious flowers.
All of these animals play a part in creating new plants by moving the pollen from the anther to the stigma which is the first step in creating new seeds. Their work accounts for more than $200 billion dollars a year in ecological services.
Over the years flowers have matured to attract the optimal pollinator. The sweet smelling red, orange and purple flowers attract the butterflies while the white and green flowers which smell slightly rotten attract flies and beetles.
A majority of the foods we consume on a daily basis need a pollinator. The coffee you drink in the morning, the spices you add to an omelet, and the veggies you munch on for lunch are just a few of the plants that need our hard working friends. In fact, more than 80% of all the world’s flowering plants need a pollinator to reproduce.
These creatures also help power the ecosystem by feeding more than 80% of birds in the U.S. and fueling some amphibians, reptiles and mammals. By fostering plant populations, pollinators also help keep soil healthy and water clean. Their hard work in ecological services is estimated at a value of $200 billion each year.
Unfortunately their populations are dwindling as their food and habitats disappear. The more than 4,000 bee species in North America have decreased alarmingly like other pollinator populations. The monarch butterfly which had a population of one billion 25 years ago has dropped to just 34 million due to a decrease in native milkweed plants.
Thankfully, private landowners are beginning to implement sustainable agricultural practices and protect our pollinators.
One practice discovered at Montana State University found that pastures undergoing rest-rotation grazing provide a better habitat than pastures without livestock.
The USDA offers dozens of conservation activities through the 2018 Farm Bill that benefit both pollinators and producers by creating healthy, profitable crops and environments.
We are all in this together, one step at a time we can save the planet and its inhabitants, and make a Positive Difference in our world.