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Stop to think about pollinators

Pollinators are incredibly important to our daily lives, but often we do not even stop to think about them. Not only do they help provide food like tomatoes, avocados, watermelon, or even almonds, but they each fill some vital role in the reproductive cycle of their ecosystem. Pollinators are so important to their ecosystems that 80-90% of all flowering plants rely on them to reproduce. Collectively, pollinators are responsible for one in three bites of food we eat today and contribute over half a trillion dollars to the global economy each year. Still, despite their ecological and economic importance, you will find that a majority of them are under threat.

Although we don’t often think about their plight in the same light as we do for animals like giant pandas or elephants, bees and other insects are also in danger of extinction. A 2017 report, one of the largest to date, found that we are at risk of losing 25-50% of native bee species in North America if something isn’t done to help them. Today, bees face a wide variety of human-driven threats including deforestation, habitat loss, changes in the environment, and toxic pesticides. Ironically, many of the challenges they face stem from our ever-industrializing agricultural sector. While most of us can’t change the agriculture industry overnight, it’s not too late for you to make a difference at home!

First, try to eliminate the use of pesticides and chemicals from your lawn care regimen. These kinds of toxic chemicals, while effective at controlling mosquito populations, are indiscriminate when it comes to insects and other animals that help our ecosystem, such as bees, butterflies, moths and frogs. Instead, try using non-toxic alternatives like insect repellent or citronella candles while you are outside. You can even consider installing a bat-house outside to help control mosquito populations while you sleep. A single bat can eat up to 8,000 mosquitoes in one night.

Next, try to increase the pollinator-friendly green space in your yard and turn it into a pollinator paradise. Bees typically need two things to thrive: food and shelter. Try planting a diverse range of native plants in your yard to provide your pollinator neighbors with some nutritious food. Not every bee is well suited to pollinate every flower, so the diversity will make sure there is something for everyone, and planting native flowers will help favor pollinators that are already filling a role in your local ecosystem. To help with shelter, make sure you have some good nesting areas in your yard. Most bees nest in either bare dirt or small cavities, so leaving some exposed dirt and natural debris can help provide winter homes for pollinators. If you want to take your bee shelter to the next level, try building or installing a bee hotel in your yard!

Finally, whether you have a yard or not, you can still help save pollinators through science! Consider helping researchers gather meaningful scientific data through a citizen science project. Insight Citizen Science is an easy-to-use iPhone app that allows you to collect data to help scientists study bees and other pollinators across North America. Performing an observation only takes five minutes of your time and can take place anywhere that you find blooming flowers. The data you gather through the Insight Citizen Science app will help scientists assess pollinator health and density across different environments in ways that wouldn’t be possible with out your help.

We will be celebrating Pollinator Day a little bit differently this year. So, if you want to learn more about what you can do to safeguard these amazing insects and other pollinators, be sure to follow Zoo Atlanta on social media all day on June 20 as we kick off National Pollinator Week with lots of bee-focused content!

Chris Philpott
Animal Immersion Programs Supervisor

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl