Have you hugged a pollinator today? Here at Wellness Warrior we’re helping celebrate Pollinator Week, and you can get involved in three ways: learn more; take action in your own backyard/garden; and sign a petition. It’s easy. Let’s get started.
Who’s behind Pollinator Week?
The Pollinator Partnership (a nonprofit that has built the largest group of advocates supporting pollinator health) has organized this week to educate and raise awareness of all insects, birds and mammals that keep so many plant species on this earth alive and happily reproducing by blundering around inside said plants’ sexual organs (aka flowers!).
Why are pollinators so important?
While it may turn out to be difficult and potentially painful (!) to try to physically “hug” these creatures (especially bees and bats), we can certainly sing their praises.
Roughly 80 percent of all flowering plants need pollination (35 percent of food crops), making pollinators one of the most essential ecosystem service providers on the planet.
In addition, a recent research paper out of The University of Padova shares the discovery that insect pollination can helps reduce the need for fertilizer applications. Emily Nink of Food Tank explains:
We have identified actual options for reducing inputs that are already in the hands of farmers. Insect pollination is 100 percent sustainable and reduction of [fertilizer] inputs can mitigate the negative effects of agriculture on the natural environment."
Then of course, there’s honey. To get sweetly lost in the wonders of honey, check out this recent Civil Eats article on Amina Harris, Director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis.
How serious is the threat to pollinators?
As we are all too aware, the story of pollinators is not all flowers and rose petals. A recent study from University of Maryland and the Bee Informed Partnership found that beekeepers as whole lost 40 percent of their hives in the last year starting in April, 2014. This number is only slightly larger than the losses in the last five years, which shows that the colony collapse disorder trend is continuing. Bobby Doherty of New York Magazine recently gave a fabulous and at times rather funny recap of the history of CCD, and he contends along with varroa mites and neonicotinoid pesticides, the big challenge is the compounded effects of these and all of the other hazards faced by these insects:
The common element with each factor was stress on the bee. So what we were seeing with bee death, the authors wrote, was stress synergy — stresses piggybacking on one another, the way that stresses do."
What’s the good news, if any? The Federal Government is stepping in to help. After a year of task force deliberation, the White House announced (last month) its national plan for helping pollinators, and its three main goals:
Reduce honey bee colony losses to economically sustainable levels;
Increase monarch butterfly numbers to protect the annual migration; and
Restore or enhance millions of acres of land for pollinators through combined public and private action.
Dubbed the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Bees and other Pollinators, it hinges on interagency cooperation, public-private partnerships and building public awareness through education. The plan has received a lot of praise from federal agencies, farmers and conservation groups. Though there have been other federal initiatives for pollinator health in the past, this one is clearly the most ambitious and broad reaching.
Great. But is it enough?
The plan is facing heavy criticism from environmental and anti-pesticide groups because it does not properly address the use of pesticides, namely neonicotinoids or neonics, which have been shown to be highly destructive to bee health. Wenonah Hauter, Executive DIrector of Food and Water Watch, expressed this opinion with no minced words in a recent EcoWatch piece.
The White House must stop favoring corporate interests by protecting the pesticide industry rather than the pollinators on which our food system depends. The task force’s reliance on voluntary proposals to pollinator protections is an unacceptable concession to pesticide industry interests. We have seen these types of loose standards fail to protect human health and environmental well-being before."
As awareness of the importance of keeping Mother Nature’s pollinators robust and active continues to grow, and the National Strategy gets put into action, we are eager to the resulting benefits. Progress is being made.
CAN YOU HELP?
Sure. It’s as simple, on one level, as reordering your own garden’s planting plan via your new awareness that it can be a pollinator-friendly habitat where bees and butterflies may buzz and flutter to their hearts’ content. Here’s a planting guide app from the Pollinator Partnership:
And more from the US Department of Agriculture: How Gardeners Can Help Pollinators and a previous story here at Wellness Warrior: Help Save the Pollinators by Planting a Bee Buffet
Sign our petition to the EPA urging them to take further measures to protect our pollinators.
Pollinator garden image courtesy of the USDA
MORE OF OUR FAVORITE “LEARN-MORE LINKS”
Pollinator Week via Pollinator Partnership
Amina Harris: You’re Tasting Honey All Wrong via Civil Eats
Nation's Beekeepers Lost 40% of Bees in 2014-15 via Science News
The Blight of the Honey Bee via New York Magazine
Announcing New Steps to Promote Pollinator Health via WhiteHouse.gov
National Strategy to Promote the Health of Bees and other Pollinators via WhiteHouse.gov
How the White House plans to help the humble bee maintain its buzz via Washington Post
Obama Unveils Plan to Reverse Alarming Decline of Honeybees via National Geographic
3 Problems With Obama’s Plan to Save the Bees via EcoWatch
Our Future Flies on the Wings of Pollinators via the US Department of Agriculture
Not Just the Birds and Bees – 6 Fast Facts About Pollinating Bats via National Wildlife Federation
Colony Collapse Disorder via Wikipedia
A Federal Path To Save the Monarch Butterflies and Our Food Supply via Wellness Warrior
Mushrooms May Be The Key to Saving the Bees via Wellness Warrior