Updated: Jan 16
"More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century." - Damien Carrington from The Guardian
It is good to be informed about the brevity of the situation we have found ourselves in, and to grasp the devastation of it. Only from a place of understanding and full comprehension of an issue can we begin to restore and heal that issue. We must see and own the power that we each have to take radical responsibility and care for the planet that sustains us. We each have unique ideas and creative ability to be able to come together and solve these issues head on with the brilliance of collaboration between ourselves and nature.
Sprinkled in the air are the softly buzzing, busy creatures and bright-winged, colorful wonders who we call bees, butterflies, birds, and moths. Tucked in the safety of their legs or beaks, or carried on their wings and backs, is the colorful powder that helps birth new seeds into the world; seeds that grow our beautiful flowers, countless crops, and half of the worlds oils, raw materials, and fiber.
Pollinators such as animals, insects, bees, and birds, play an extremely crucial role in our planet's ecosystem. There are over 400,000 species of insects, half of which belong to the pollinator insects who are responsible for the biodiversity and over-all food production that we heavily rely on for survival, nourishment, and life-force. These pollinators facilitate the reproduction of 90% of the world's flowering plants, and help pollinate 1/3 of the food we eat.
"Pollinators add 217 billion dollars to the global economy and honey bees alone are responsible for between 1.2 and 5.4 billion dollars in agricultural productivity in the United States. In addition to the food that we eat, pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife." - Pollinator Partnership
The processes that can happen during pollination are quite fascinating and require an intelligent relationship between pollinator and plant, pollinator and the planet. For example, on the pink gentian, which is pollinated by the furry carpenter bee, pollen is hidden within the anthers of the flower, and a very tiny hole at the top of the anther is where it can be extracted from. However, the bee has learned that the only way the pollen can be extracted is if it, upon arriving to the flower, lowers the frequency of it's buzzing wings until it falls to approximately middle C. This causes the anther to vibrate at just the right frequency needed to release the pollen and the grains spout out of the hole at the top in a yellow fountain.
The pollination we see during the day is only part of it. There are a few pollinators such as bats, who take over at night while we are sleeping. Bats are to be largely appreciated by any of us who buy groceries at the grocery store, as they are responsible for pollinating bananas, cashews, durian, figs, guavas, mangoes, peaches, avocados, carob, dates, cloves, and more.
What is happening to our pollinators?
Unfortunately, as of 2019, there are 8 different bee species and 24 butterfly and moth species who are endangered. As the population continues to severely and alarmingly decrease, in it's place rises the many issues that this devastation causes, including losing all the plants that bees pollinate, all the animals who eat those plants, and continued on up the food chain.
The increase in our use of pesticides, the ever-present reality of climate change, and malnourishment of the pollinators as a result of the chemicals used in modern day agriculture are studied to be some of the main causes of the decrease in both plant diversity, and therefore in our insect population. Milkweed is too toxic for the monarchs to eat due to harmful chemicals sprayed on our soils and plants, bees immune systems are compromised by parasites who weaken their defense system against harmful chemicals, and moths suffer from light pollution.
Many companies who produce and sell pesticides aren't required to monitor the toxicity of the ingredients that are in the products and the farmers who use them may not know any better than to routinely spray their crops like they do every year. However the consequences of not understanding how these pesticides work and how they are effecting not only bees, but the planet at large, are very serious indeed.
Malnourishment due to mono-cropping and the loss of plant diversity plays a factor in the declining health and well-being of our pollinator species, and not just for the insects. Habitat loss is a common experience for most of the creatures on the planet, which of course is due in large part to the forests who are cleared and destroyed to make land workable for our modern day practice's of agriculture.
What can we do to help our pollinators thrive again?
There is hope.
Fortunately, there are many people around the world who are working hard to spread helpful, practical information and steps that we can all take to help save our pollinator friends. We here at Terreplenish would like to help you learn what you can do to help save our pollinators, how to do it, and why. So, what can we do?
Ditch the pesticides, ditch chemicals! Many people casually spray roundup to get rid of obnoxious or inconvenient weeds, but what if this small act was affecting a GREAT deal more than that of our aesthetic preferences and tastes? You can learn more about RoundUp here.
Leave the weeds for the bees! Dandelions are the bees first food in spring, leaving your dandelions to the bees will help them get the nourishment and energy they need to start off the pollination season.
Re-iterating #2 - Grow gardens, not lawns.
Plant Milkweed. Milkweed is a monarchs only food. Milkweed that has been sprayed or treated with chemicals is not suitable for monarchs and are a large part of why they are dying off. Milkweed also feeds bees and hummingbirds! Buy organic milkweed seeds here: https://www.seedsofchange.com/seeds/flowers/milkweed
Plant Native Plants! Native plants are not only amazing to plants for the pollinators, but also for the soil health and biodiversity of your region! Click here to access a resource to discover pollinator-friendly plants in your state/region.
Check out this awesome, colorful pdf we found all about pollinators and how to attract them to your gardens: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/AttractingPollinatorsV5.pdf
Support your local beekeepers and buy local honey! Find your local beekeepers here
Visit www.pollinator.org for more ways to help!
We believe in the power of leading by example and the power of a ripple effect. Please help us by sharing this blog and sharing what you've learned here with your friends and family to ensure the planets health for generations to come. Happy pollinator saving!
Resources, Science, Articles
Plant Spirit Healing by Pam Montgomery
Paul Ciampanelli - 10 Animals That Pollinate Flowers
Damian Carrington - The Guardian