At this point most people are well aware of the predicament the country’s (and world’s) honeybee population is in, however, what doesn’t get enough attention is the status of wild pollinators like butterflies, moths and thousands of other bee species. While honeybees are heavily researched and managed for agricultural purposes, wild pollinator species are not, and the collapse of these communities would not only affect our food crops but our forests and landscapes as well. There are thousands of bee and butterfly species but only a couple are well known and documented, lack of baseline data and difficulty of data collection has made quantifying long term trends precarious. However, evidence from bumblebee and monarch butterfly research can be extrapolated to determine the probability that other species are experiencing similar progressions and now field studies have begun and anecdotal evidence is piling up.
There are various factors affecting the decline of wild pollinator populations, no one element can be attributed to the population collapse of all of these species. Like honeybees, wild pollinators are sensitive to insecticides, but the consequences of habitat loss may be equally as destructive. Habitat loss in the U.S., such as the elimination of wetlands and prairies especially in the Midwest, is occurring at a pace comparable to Amazonian deforestation. Urban and suburban development and sprawl with the associated inorganic surfaces and sometimes overly maintained landscapes are also contributing to extermination of beneficial species.
While losing one pollinator species in a thousand may not be the end of the world, the loss of many or all will be catastrophic. Since the factors behind colony collapse are similar almost across the board, measures to save and protect these species will also be similar. The public and homeowners can play an important role in conservation and preservation of our pollinator species, some small steps can make a big difference in the fight against the plight:
- Care for your landscape using integrated pest management, combine the responsible use of pesticides with cultural measures,
- Set aside part of your landscape as “non-lawn”, let it go to weeds, which can be attractive and will provide food and habitat,
- Install plant species attractive to pollinators.
Make sure to discuss your desires to plant a pollinator-attracting garden with your arborist, they can assist you with species selection, plant placement and and an integrated management plan. The value of your landscape will increase with the added beauty and scents of these alluring species and the community and planet will benefit from conservation of pollinator species and habitat. Every little bit helps!