Pollinators, Our Ecosystem, and the Threats They Face

 

Pollinated Strawberries in Hadley, Massachusetts. Credit: Megan Nagel/USFWS
Pollinated Strawberries in Hadley, Massachusetts. Credit: Megan Nagel/USFWS

Daisies in the Pollinator Garden at the Northeast Regional Office, Hadley, MA. Credit: Megan Nagel/USFWS
Daisies in the Pollinator Garden at the Northeast Regional Office, Hadley, MA. Credit: Megan Nagel/USFWS

Pollinators are a crucial part of our ecosystem and vital to both the human and animal food supply.  Most plants are unable to produce fruits and seeds without being pollinated by a pollinator. According to the Pollinator Partnership, pollinators are responsible for over $20 billion worth of products every year in the United States alone. Dr. Gabriela Chavarria, Science Advisor to the Director of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), said that for “Every third bite of food you eat, thank a pollinator.” There is an incredible diversity of pollinators including: bats, birds, invertebrates, insects (such as flies, ants, beetles, butterflies, moths) and bees, the most significant pollinator. Over 4,000 species of bees live in North America alone, with approximately 350 species in Massachusetts. Approximately 75% of plants are pollinated by insects, making pollinators essential to the ecosystem, according to the pollinator partnership.

Unfortunately, recent studies show that pollinators are diminishing and facing varied and increasing threats. Amongst these threats are invasive species, loss of habitats, changes in agriculture in the past two decades, pesticide use, disease, and changes in flowering patterns caused by climate change. Any place containing plants needs pollinators to thrive. This is particularly important for native pollinators who depend on native plants. The Service works to protect native bees and preserve their habitats through various restoration efforts.  In the Northeast Region, wildlife refuges with pollinator gardens provide habitats for native pollinators and provide opportunities for the local communities to learn about pollinators. For example, Assabet National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, MA worked with local school children to plant a native pollinator garden. 

Every third week of June is Pollinator Week which organizes events and activities highlighting the hard work and value of pollinators and emphasizing the importance of protecting them. The celebration of Pollinator Week started in 2007, when the U.S. Senate designated Pollinator Week in Resolution 580. This year, Pollinator Week was June 20th-26th, 2011, with events all over the country. The Northeast Region hosted several events:  two movies, “Honey for the Maya” and “Queen of the Sun,” a hands-on presentation with native bee biologist Joan Milam “Bees of the Montague Plain: Some of Our Native Pollinator,”, and the expansion of the Northeast Region Office Pollinator Garden. Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, MA held a Pollinator Festival in celebration of National Pollinator week.  The family friendly festival hosted several community organizations who taught attendees about the importance of pollinators. The festival consisted of many different events such as arts and crafts, face painting, story telling, waggle dancing like bees, and educational programs. The purpose of the event was to make pollination more fun and appealing to kids. It taught them about the pollination process and how insects, bees, bats, and birds play a huge role in our ecosystem.. Whether it be planting a pollinator garden, building a bee block home for native bees, avoiding or limiting the use of pesticides, or educating others about the importance of pollination, we can all do something to restore and protect our native pollinators. To learn more about how you can help pollinators, visit the Service’s pollinator website or watch this video about pollinators in the Northeast Region.

*This story was written by Samantha Derrick, the Science Applications Communications Intern and a part of the Northeast Region's Career Discovery Internship Program (CDIP).

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