Pollinators are and always have been incredibly important to humanity, but we don’t treat them way. It’s time to wake up and give pollinators the respect and protection they deserve.
If you’re one of the many who think of butterflies as something cute that lands on Bambi’s nose, and birds as creatures to decorate your feeder, well … you’re not alone.
And to be fair, they are those things. But they’re also critical to the overall health of our environment, as well as a crucial link in the human food chain.
Why? Because they’re pollinators.
Despite all the fuss on the news and in scientific journals over the last several decades, though, too many laypeople are still left scratching their heads and wondering, “What is a pollinator?”
Those who do have an inkling usually associate the word with bees, having no idea that the category is so much larger than that. But don’t feel bad; you’re not alone.
That said, it’s time we do something about this misunderstanding. Because while we think bees rock, they are show-stealers. If we’re to heal the environment and bridge the gap between city and nature, answering the question “What is a pollinator?” should be at the top of the list.
What Is a Pollinator? A Much-Needed Definition
First and foremost, let’s just tackle the question of what is a pollinator before jumping into why they matter and what we can do to help keep them alive and kickin’.
“A pollinator is anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma),” explains the National Park Service, adding that “The movement of pollen must occur for the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds, and young plants.”
Animals may intentionally collect pollen, or they may simply pick it up without meaning to while flitting from flower to flower drinking the nectar.
Again, the image of the fat bumblebee is the one that pervades our modern conception, but that’s far too limited. Pollinators also include:
Yes, even bats! These nocturnal pollinators are critical in the production of many plants we enjoy, such as mango, banana, cocoa, durian, guava and agave (hello, tequila!) – in addition to about 500 other species.
Which hints at the next question ...
Why Do Pollinators Matter So Much?
Simply put, pollinators matter because they’re inextricably intertwined with the reproduction of many species.
According to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, a solid three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators. Plus, they add, “Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and beetles and other insects.” Other sources put that number significantly higher.
So why are pollinators in danger in the first place? The answers are myriad, with pesticides and disappearing habitat prime among them.
We also actively try to destroy many species of pollinators, from wasps to flies to many types of bees. Even when we don’t, we’re mowing down the native environments on which many pollinators depend and replacing them with impermeable surfaces, useless (from a pollinator’s perspective) lawns and toxic trash heaps.
So what can we do?
What Can We Do to Help Pollinators?
If we want healthy urban ecologies, healthy wild areas and healthy people, we need to take steps in defense of the birds and the bees. That means:
- Designing green roofs that provide habitat and food for our pollinating friends
- Subbing in nectar- and pollen-rich species in favor of lawn grasses, which provide neither nutrition nor habitat
- Planting pollinator gardens with native species that give pollinators the foods they evolved to eat
- Using any and all available surfaces to create new green spaces within urban environments
- Limiting pesticide use and taking natural approaches to landscaping and gardening whenever possible
If you’d like to learn more about the above approaches, or have ideas of your own, we’d love to speak with you today. Please get in touch to set up a consultation.