Protecting our pollinators
Most people are affected by pollination every day, and many don’t even think about it. Almost everyone realizes that honey is the direct result of bees, but what about apples? What about avocados? Almonds? All of these foods and so many others are the literal fruits of pollinators’ hard work. In fact, animal or insect pollination is a key part of the successful production of about 35 percent of the food we eat today, or in other words: one in three bites of food. It’s not just honeybees doing all the work, either. There are over 20,000 different species of bees helping pollinate the planet today, with each species helping fill some vital role in the reproductive cycle of their ecosystem. Bees are incredibly important to our way of life, yet they are in decline from a wide variety of threats including habitat loss, intensive agriculture, disease, pests and more. In a 2017 assessment by the Center for Biological Diversity, it was reported that an estimated one in two of the over 4,300 native bee species here in North America are in decline, and an alarming one in four are approaching extinction. However, it’s not too late to help them.
First, consider changing up your lawn care practices at home by stopping or limiting your use of pesticides in your yard. Many common pesticides are very effective at eliminating unwanted insects like mosquitoes, but they are also indiscriminate when it comes to other insects like bees, butterflies and moths. By eliminating your use of pesticides, you will help create a safe space for pollinators to visit and live. If you really need to keep the mosquitoes away, you can try non-toxic deterrents instead the next time you are outside. Citronella candles and insect repellent should give you similar results without the unfortunate elimination of the native pollinators in your yard.
Next, try creating new foraging and nesting space for the pollinators in your yard. This is one of the easiest and most helpful things you can do to help bees. With habitat loss looming as a major issue for bees and other pollinators, they need every safe space they can get. By adding diverse native flowering plants to your backyard, you can create a habitat that is rich in food and favors pollinators that are already filling an important ecological role in your area. Also, consider leaving a little natural clutter. While honeybees build hives high in trees, many solitary bees build their nests in logs, leaves and the dirt. By leaving some natural debris or bare dirt, you are creating nesting space for many solitary bees and helping ensure that the bees in your area have what they need to complete their life cycles.
Finally, try to reduce your footprint and impact on the planet. A team of researchers recently replicated the temperature conditions we expect to see by 2040 and found that as those temperatures rise, we could see mortality rates reach over 70 percent for some bee species if they are unable to adapt. Additionally, as the temperatures rise, we could see variances in seasonal flower blooms, causing them to be out of sync with native pollinator life cycles and leading to compromised health and nutrition for surviving species. 2040 is still a long time for now though, so it’s not too late to make a difference. You can help bees and the planet by reducing your consumption of plastics, fossil fuels, energy and even meat—all main contributors to greenhouse gases.
If you want to learn more about bees and pollinators in general, be sure to visit Zoo Atlanta on Saturday, June 22 as we celebrate National Pollinator Week with engaging education stations and activities. Be sure to follow us on social media for the latest news and updates.
Animal Immersion Programs Supervisor