Why do we need pollinators?

Why do we need pollinators?

One of the goals of the Butterfly Highway is to promote stewardship of native plant habitats for pollinators. 

Importance of Pollinators

  • Global food crops are dependent on pollinators and more than 70% crops either require or have a higher production because of pollinator insect visit
  • It has been estimated that native pollinators are responsible for pollinating almost $3.07 billion of US produced fruits and vegetables.
  • Only 2% of wild bee species do 80% of the pollination
  • Conservation of wild pollinator habitat in agricultural areas can provide several economic benefits in addition to increased crop production these include reduction in area of cultivated land and reduced rental of cultivated honeybees. Farms that include pollinator conservation practices may be eligible for subsidies or receive a premium price for produce that is organic or “environmentally friendly”.
  • In a 1996 study, Americans reported that they spent $33.8 billion on wildlife and bird watching. Insects, including pollinator larvae, are an important food source for birds and provide protein that is vital to young chicks. Pollinator larvae are an important source of this protein. Calculations based on the number of insectivorous birds, places an estimated annual economic value insects to wildlife watching at $19.8 billion.

Threats to pollinators

  • Native pollinator habitat loss, limited floral resources
  • Invasive plants
  • Landscape fragmentation due to urbanization
  • Parasites
  • Diseases
  • Overuse of pesticides and fungicides
  • Introduced bee species, feral domesticated bees

Native plants should be used in habitat restoration and pollinator gardens

Natives typically:

  • Do not require fertilizers.
  • Require fewer pesticides for maintenance.
  • Require less water than other nonnative plantings.
  • May function to inhibit nonnative weed encroachment.
  • Provide permanent shelter and food for wildlife
  • Are less likely to become invasive than nonnative plants
  • Promote local native biological diversity.
  • Are preferred by native pollinators.

References:

Connelly, H., Poveda, K. & Loeb, G. Landscape simplification decreases wild bee pollination services to strawberry. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 211, 51–56 (2015).

Garibaldi, L. A. et al. From research to action: enhancing crop yield through wild pollinators. Front. Ecol. Environ. 12, 439–447 (2014).

Goulson, D., Nicholls, E., Botias, C. & Rotheray, E. L. Bee declines driven by combined stress from parasites, pesticides, and lack of flowers. Science (80-. ). (2015). doi:10.1126/science.1255957

Greenleaf, S. S. & Kremen, C. Wild bee species increase tomato production and respond differently to surrounding land use in Northern California. Biol. Conserv. 133, 81–87 (2006).

Hogg, B. N., Bugg, R. L. & Daane, K. M. Attractiveness of common insectary and harvestable floral resources to beneficial insects. Biol. Control 56, 76–84 (2011).

Jones, G. a. & Gillett, J. L. Intercropping With Sunflowers To Attract Beneficial Insects in Organic Agriculture. Florida Entomol. 88, 91–96 (2005).

Losey, J. E. & Vaughan, M. The Economic Value of Ecological Services Provided by Insects. Bioscience 56, 311 (2006).Menz, M. H. M. et al. Reconnecting plants and pollinators: challenges in the restoration of pollination mutualisms. Trends Plant Sci. 16, 4–12 (2011).

Morandin, L. A., Long, R. F. & Kremen, C. Hedgerows enhance beneficial insects on adjacent tomato fields in an intensive agricultural landscape. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 189, 164–170 (2014).

Morandin, L. A. & Winston, M. L. Pollinators provide economic incentive to preserve natural land in agroecosystems. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 116, 289–292 (2006).

Potter, A. & Lebuhn, G. Pollination service to urban agriculture in San Francisco, CA. Urban Ecosyst. 885–893 (2015). 

Saunders, M. E., Luck, G. W. & Gurr, G. M. Keystone resources available to wild pollinators in a winter-flowering tree crop plantation. Agric. For. Entomol. 17, 90–101 (2015).

Winfree, R., Williams, N. M., Gaines, H., Ascher, J. S. & Kremen, C. Wild bee pollinators provide the majority of crop visitation across land-use gradients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, USA. J. Appl. Ecol. 45, 793–802 (2008).

Wratten, S. D., Gillespie, M., Decourtye, A., Mader, E. & Desneux, N. Pollinator habitat enhancement: Benefits to other ecosystem services. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 159, 112–122 (2012).

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