In case you had any doubts about why I’m doing this project, let’s chat about pollinators. Bees, wasps, butterflies, hummingbirds, these are just some of the hardworking pollinators that work tirelessly in our gardens, fields, orchards, and prairies. They’re a crucial element in these ecosystems, and they’re extremely important for our food production. In fact, in 2016, the United Nations reported that 75% of crops we eat require pollination. Without them, not only will our job security and wallets suffer, but our nutrition will as well.
But you probably know a bit about this by now. You also probably know that these laboring species are dying off, with the bumblebee being added to the endangered species list a couple of years ago. Pesticides, urban/ suburban expansion, climate change, mono-crop fields, they’re all contributing toward pollinator extinction.
So that’s why Meadow Restored and the Global Meadow Movement, Climate Offensive, and dozens of pollinator-focused organizations are trying to bring them back. Not just for our own species’ sake, but for the natural ecosystems surrounding us and the well-being of our entire planet.
We’ve got a ways to go, but society is learning about the importance of pollinators, and many are taking steps towards stopping the decline of their delicate numbers. This blog post isn’t supposed to scare you; quite the opposite actually. If we are to do something about these issues, we must first recognize them, then we must learn more about them (as this post in particular seeks to accomplish), and then we must act on them. Meadow Restored and the Global Meadow Movement are already in action, but it never hurts to learn a little bit more about our busy neighbors that we’re trying to save.
So without further ado, I present to you our first pollinator: the honeybee.
There’s a lot to love about these little guys, and a dive into their social structure and hive mechanics is fascinating. But I’m here to talk to you about ways that you can help this animal in particular. National Geographic has some interesting tips on saving honeybees that you can do in your backyard beyond planting a wildflower meadow. One interesting fact that I didn’t know is that bees get most of their nectar from flowering trees. In addition to ensuring there are plenty of trees around, ground nesting bees will also benefit from a patch of land that remains undisturbed. Bees are simple; they need a place to nest, food to eat (year round, just like you and me), and they don’t like being sprayed with chemicals. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to find many similarities between me and these insects. So while year-round flowers are important for these pollinators, there’s a bit more care we need to have when we look at their entire habitat.
Now let’s talk about the bee’s cousin who receives way more hate than they deserve: the wasp.
They’re a lot like bees, but they’ve got one massively overlooked skill that I think you’ll appreciate. “Essentially, they are master exterminators. While most wasp species are comprised of solitary types, the social species have a dramatic impact on insect populations. A single nest provides a windfall of ecosystem services, taking out tremendous numbers of spiders, millipedes and crop-chomping insects,” writes Melissa Breyer from Tree Hugger. What more do you need? Actually, there’s a bit more from Breyer. She writes that “they provide valuable, natural pest control to the agricultural sector – with their hunger for pests like caterpillars, aphids and whiteflies, without them, global food security might be a lot less secure.” With many of the same issues facing bees affecting these insects too, put down that flyswatter and learn to love these bugs.
Finally, let’s talk about butterflies.
These insects aren’t just excellent pollinators, they’re also an important part of the food chain, providing sustenance for other winged animals in your area. Everything I’ve said about the other pollinators is true for these beautiful bugs too. They hate droughts as much as we do. They love having places to stop for a snack and rest. One important point from the Global Guardian Project, a great resource for educators and parents to teach children about protecting this planet, that I haven’t detailed, is how to help when you don’t live in a rural or suburban area with lots of space to convert into a meadow. Their answer: “create a monarch butterfly waystation by growing container gardens on balconies, rooftops, and stoops.”
Any and all land, no matter how small, that we can convert back into natural habitats for pollinators will help save these species, and ultimately, ourselves. We’re not just doing this out of self-preservation though; there’s so much beauty to be enjoyed when we allow pollinators to flourish among us, and these ecosystems and food chains depend on a healthy population.
So, thank your pollinators. They’re working hard to help us out, even though we don’t show them nearly enough gratitude.