[X] CLOSEMAIN MENU

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (8)
    • Announcements (604)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (41)
    • Antimicrobial (18)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (37)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (52)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (34)
    • Biomonitoring (40)
    • Birds (26)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Cannabis (30)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (9)
    • Chemical Mixtures (7)
    • Children (113)
    • Children/Schools (240)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (30)
    • Climate Change (86)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (6)
    • Congress (20)
    • contamination (155)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • diamides (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (19)
    • Drift (16)
    • Drinking Water (16)
    • Ecosystem Services (15)
    • Emergency Exemption (3)
    • Environmental Justice (167)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (534)
    • Events (89)
    • Farm Bill (24)
    • Farmworkers (197)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (6)
    • Fungicides (26)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (16)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (43)
    • Holidays (39)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (6)
    • Indoor Air Quality (6)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (71)
    • Invasive Species (35)
    • Label Claims (49)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (250)
    • Litigation (344)
    • Livestock (9)
    • men’s health (3)
    • metabolic syndrome (3)
    • Metabolites (4)
    • Microbiata (22)
    • Microbiome (28)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (3)
    • Occupational Health (15)
    • Oceans (11)
    • Office of Inspector General (4)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (163)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (10)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (13)
    • Pesticide Regulation (782)
    • Pesticide Residues (185)
    • Pets (36)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (2)
    • Plastic (8)
    • Poisoning (20)
    • Preemption (45)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Reflection (1)
    • Repellent (4)
    • Resistance (119)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (33)
    • Seasonal (3)
    • Seeds (6)
    • soil health (17)
    • Superfund (5)
    • synergistic effects (23)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (16)
    • Synthetic Turf (3)
    • Take Action (596)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (12)
    • U.S. Supreme Court (1)
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (1)
    • Women’s Health (25)
    • Wood Preservatives (36)
    • World Health Organization (11)
    • Year in Review (2)
  • Most Viewed Posts

Daily News Blog

23
Jun

Ecosystem Critical to All Pollinators: Popular and Unpopular Pollinator Guide

Save our Pollinators sign and drawing! Tree and lawn in the background.

(Beyond Pesticides, June 23, 2023) Pollinators are especially important to the ecosystem. They pollinate plants by going from flower to flower and transferring pollen. Without pollinators, availability would be severely limited or cut off to many delicious foods, such as apples, almonds, cherries, blueberries, pumpkins, and many others. Many types of pollinators, like honey bees, bumble bees, and butterflies, are declining due to loss of habitat, widespread use of toxic pesticides, parasites, and disease.

Help these important beneficial creatures by

  1. Not using toxic pesticides
  2. Planting pollinator habitats, like colorful flowers, gardens, and trees
  3. Telling your friends and family all about the importance of pollinators.

Wild and Managed Bees

Wild and managed bees play a crucial role in the global food system. About two-thirds of the world’s most important crops benefit from bee pollination, including coffee, cacao, and many fruits and vegetables. Wild pollination is becoming increasingly important with the growing instability of managed honey bee colonies. According to one study, wild bees’ agricultural value is now similar to that of honey bees, which are no longer considered wild in many regions due to their intense management. While many may prefer butterflies and birds to pay a visit to their gardens and backyards, bees should also be welcomed since they are such important pollinators of many crops in the food supply. Most bees are not aggressive and rarely sting, and once this fear is overcome, many find bees a welcome addition to their backyards. If you are interested in encouraging bees to visit your yard, the following tips will ensure that you and your bees live happily together.

Mounting scientific evidence points to the role of pesticides in bee declines across the globe, especially to neonicotinoid insecticides, which, even at low levels, have been shown to impair foraging, navigational and learning behavior in bees, as well as suppress their immune system to the point of making them susceptible to pathogens and parasites. Other recent research finds that as pesticide use on farms has increased, wild bee populations have plummeted. Thus, bee-friendly practices for farmers and gardeners, including maintaining wildflowers and grass strips, utilizing hedgerows, organic farming techniques, and limiting the use of pesticides and other chemicals, allow all bee species to flourish. Beekeepers looking to organic beekeeping, without the reliance on the above-mentioned practices, manage their hives sustainably and successfully. By practicing organic beekeeping, and thus minimizing stress on the bees, organic beekeepers can maintain their hives.

For a hands-on approach to how you can protect biodiversity, see Do-it-Yourself Biodiversity. Declare your garden, yard, park, or other spaces as pesticide-free and pollinator friendly. The Bee Protective Habitat Guide identifies which native plants are right for your region to create the perfect pollinator habitat. Attracting and keeping bees in your backyard can be easy, especially if you already enjoy gardening. By providing a bee habitat in your yard, you can increase the quality and quantity of your garden fruits and vegetables. With one in three bites of food reliant on bees and other insects for pollination, the decline of honey bees and other pollinators due to pesticides, and other man-made causes demands immediate action. For more on this and what you can do to protect pollinators, visit Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective webpage and buy a Pesticide-Free Zone sign for your yard.

Butterflies/Moths

Butterflies and moths play an important role as both pollinators and prey. These insects pollinate as they feed on flower nectar. Butterflies, often regarded as mere ornamental additions to a landscape, are significant pollinators themselves. Monarchs pollinate many flowers, including calendula and yarrow. Other butterflies pollinate dill, celery, fennel, cilantro, lettuce, peas, and basil, among other important food plants. Butterflies are also known to be excellent indicators of ecosystem health, so if an environment has lots of butterflies it is reasonably robust. Moth pollination is important for night-blooming plants, which are not readily serviced by daylight pollinators like bees. Additionally, moths and their larvae are prey to birds, bats, small mammals, and even other insects.

Butterflies and moths belong to the order Lepidoptera and approximately 70 percent of agricultural pests—many of them moths at various life stages—also belong to this order. This puts butterflies smack in the bullseye for many pesticides. For instance, studies repeatedly report that neonicotinoid pesticides destroy insects’ nervous systems, and they are not selective as to species.

In nature, a range of organic flowers in one’s garden can ensure the availability of food and habitat for local species. The Butterflies and Moths of North America Checklist is a tool one can use to determine which species are common in the area while providing information on migratory schedule, preferred habitat, caterpillar host plants, and adult food plants. These pollinators typically like flowers exhibiting strong, sweet fragrance, long floral tubes, and large volumes of nectar. Additionally, take measures to ensure the garden contains no pesticide contaminants. Avoid introducing plants that have been treated with pesticides.

Birds (Hummingbirds)

Hummingbirds live on a diet of nectar from a variety of flowering plants, consuming up to twice their body weight in nectar each day. This requires constant foraging for sources of nectar and the birds spend most of their day flying flower to flower in search of this food source. They are equipped with a long, skinny modified beak that allows them to access nectar, as well as a long tongue that can further be extended into the flower. While foraging for nectar the hummingbird simultaneously contaminates itself with pollen particles from the flower. The pollen sticks to the birds’ feathers and beak, allowing the bird to transport it to the next flower it visits. Once that pollen comes into contact with a new flower, the plant is inadvertently cross-pollinated, allowing the plant to reproduce. The abundance of various hummingbirds makes them an integral pollinator to ecosystems across the eastern United States and parts of Canada.

Pesticides implicated in the worldwide decline of insect pollinators also present significant risks to their avian counterparts, hummingbirds. For instance, the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds display unique reactions to toxic pesticides. Research by scientists at the University of Toronto finds that exposure to systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, for even a short period of time, can disrupt the high-powered metabolism of hummingbirds.

Fortunately, there are steps one can take to hummingbirds like installing a hummingbird feeder in your yard or garden to attract the essential, charismatic pollinator. Supplying your hummingbird feeder with the right nectar solution is also important. So, be sure to use trusted nectar recipes, like the ones recommended by the Smithsonian National Zoo, but ensure to use organic sugar in the mix. It will guarantee that the nectar solution is free of pesticides and additives. Planting the flowers preferred by hummingbirds is another way to preserve hummingbird populations, as they require nectar for survival. Make sure that the plants are not treated with systemic, including neonicotinoids, and other pesticides. Maintaining biodiversity in your garden will nurture the pollinators, including the hummingbirds.

Bats

Pollinator bats, like the Mexican long-tongued bat and lesser long-nosed bat, feed primarily on the nectar and pollen of night-blooming flowers in tropical and desert climates, like agave and cacti. The United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service notes that bats primarily pollinate large flowers that produce strong fragrances and large volumes of nectar. Over three-hundred species of fruit-bearing plants depend on the Mexican long-tongued bat and other bat species for pollination, including mangoes, guavas, and bananas. In addition to their role in pollination, bats also contribute to the survival of cacti by dispersing their seeds.

However, the role of the bats in pollination has been diminishing through the expansion of agriculture using lands to cultivate agave, actively pruned to prevent flowering. Thus, pollinating bat species do not play a primary role in producing commercial agave “nectar,” which is not floral nectar, but a synthetic syrup made from the sap of the agave plant. So, the destruction of habitat to create commercial agave fields may be hurting the bat populations. In addition to danger relating to the availability of agave, bats are subject to the loss of nesting sites. Caves that harbor bats are becoming increasingly inhospitable as miners and caving tourists disrupt the very sensitive ecosystem of the bats, who respectively abandon their nesting site. Additionally, insect-eating bats can encounter food (insects) exposed to pesticide treatments and these pesticides can diminish their ability to echolocate, thus traveling on less established paths and frequently becoming lost while hunting. Since bats’ rate of reproduction is slow, it can be difficult to access specific concerns for chemical exposure patterns that can lessen bat population fitness and increase vulnerability.

Preservation of habitats frequented by bats, including scrub and saguaro desert, deciduous, pine, and oak forests, canyons, and food sources is imperative to protect the future of all bat species. Even if a certain bats’ range doesn’t reach a local region, there are many other species of bats that act as beneficial pollinators. Consult these species profiles to determine which bats contribute to pollination in the local area. It is also critical to avoid planting any seeds or flowers treated with pollinator-toxic pesticides as these chemicals can undermine the intent to provide habitat for wild pollinators. In addition to actively opposing the destruction of habitat and food sources, one can provide personal support to local bat populations by installing a bat house or ordering one online to provide non-traditional habitat for your region’s species. Further, many pollinating bat species visit hummingbird feeders, so supplying a hummingbird feeder with the right nectar solution is also important. Be sure to use trusted nectar recipes, like ones recommended by the Smithsonian National Zoo. However, use organic sugar in the mix to guarantee that the nectar solution is free of pesticides and additives. Additionally, it is important to educate others to dispel the myths surrounding bats in your community. Bats are an important part of local ecosystems and play a large role in pollination and control of insect populations. The organization Bat Conservation International has more information on bat myths here.

Beetles

Beetles are frequently overlooked in the world of pollinators. Gardeners are often familiar with the beneficial pest-control services provided by ladybugs and predaceous ground beetles, but flower-visiting species like soldier beetles, scarabs, long-horned beetles, sap beetles, and checkered beetles all provide important pollination services that complement the work of other pollinators in the landscape. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the beetles were some of the earliest insects to utilize flowers for food and habitat. In doing so, these ancient pollinators began an important collaboration between flowers and beetles which continues today. Mature beetles feed on the pollen of flowering plants. They pollinate as they feed, transporting pollen on their body from a previous flower to successive locations. Idaho State University notes that beetles play a more important role in the pollination of tropical regions than in temperate ones. Even so, there are approximately 50 native plant species in the U.S. and Canada that depend upon beetle pollination.

Although most beetles are not in immediate danger, there are still hundreds of species that are vulnerable to extinction according to the International Union for Conservation’s Red List of Threatened Species. Beneficial pollinator beetles, like tumbling flower beetles, do little to no damage to crops and are not considered pests. However, their larvae do bore into stalks and may be grouped with other stalk-boring insects which collectively cause crop damage. The crops which house the tumbling flower beetle larvae may be. The stem-boring habit of the larvae protects them from non-systemic pesticides, but treatment with systemic pesticides (e.g., neonicotinoids) targeting more destructive insects will also cause detriment to beneficial beetle populations.

Luckily, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that beetles continue to thrive. Planting preferred varieties of flowers is a great way to support beetles, using the plants’ stems to host their larvae and their pollen as a food source. Additionally, avoiding the use of pesticides is paramount in protecting local, beneficial pollinators. These ground-dwelling beetles can encounter harmful chemical exposure by interacting with plants, soil, or air subjected to pesticide treatments.

Beneficial (Wasps)

Pollinator wasps, like Pollen and Fig Wasps, differ from their omnivorous Vespid wasp relatives by rearing their young in plants, rather than other insects. Fig wasps’ nests include a mixture of soil and nectar to an egg, nectar, and a small pollen patty. Pollen wasps then seal their nests with mud. Once the female wasp larvae hatch, she makes her way through one of the escape tunnels dug by the males, picking up pollen from the male fig flowers in the process. With pollen now in tow via her body, the female emerges in search of a new fruit to lay her eggs in, pollinating another fig in the process and starting the cycle all over again. This process highlights the symbiotic relationship between the life cycle of the fig wasp and the fig tree. Pollen wasps are known to specialize in foraging on specific flowers, including beardtongues, borage, and tansies, though there are also reports of the insects feeding on mallows and marigolds. These wasp pollinators have long proboscis (nose-like structures) that allow them to reach the nectar in their preferred flower species.

Fig wasps may seem like a menial pollinator given that they only pollinate one type of plant, but that is far from the case. The fig wasp is an integral species, as the fig tree has been identified as a keystone species in tropical rainforests where they help maintain the population and diversity of a variety of species. The Encyclopedia of Life defines a keystone species as “a species within the ecosystem that exerts a major influence on the composition and dynamics of the ecosystem of which it lives.” This means that the fig tree is a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment, relative to its abundance within the ecosystem. Although pollen wasp flower preference may be a strain of beardtongue planted, establishing a diversity of flowers in one’s garden will foster a diversity of pollinators.

One of the most important actions one can take to protect pollinating wasps is eliminating the use of pesticides that can harm these unique insects. Neonicotinoids, once applied, will make their way into a plant’s vascular system, and express themselves in pollen, nectar, and guttation droplets, putting these wasps at risk. Other insecticides, like synthetic pyrethroids, are acutely toxic to many nontarget pollinators and may leave harmful residue on plants and their flowers once applied. Since there is little data on the range and distribution of these wasp species, encouraging public land managers to forgo the use of insecticides and herbicides in natural areas can make an important impact on the availability and quality of forage for pollinating wasps. Additionally, some scientists are concerned that climate change and global warming could have a negative impact on wasp populations. If the changes in temperature take place too quickly for these adaptations to occur, it could threaten the existence of pollinating wasps.

Beyond Pesticides has long advocated for organic management practices as a means to foster native pollinator health and broader biodiversity. Instead of prophylactic use of pesticides and scheduled sprays, responsible organic farms focus on fostering habitat for pest predators and pollinators alike, set action levels for pests based upon monitoring, and only resort to judicious use of least-toxic pesticides when other cultural, structural, mechanical, and biological controls have been attempted and proven ineffective. To learn more about the benefits of organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ webpage.

For more information on the impact pesticides have on non-target organisms read Beyond Pesticides’ report on Bees, Birds, and Beneficials, which can be found here. Switching to organic means of pest control around your home and garden is the best way to protect the health of pollinator populations in your community. For more information on how you can get involved in pollinator conservation throughout the nation, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective webpage. See Beyond Pesticides’ Pollinator Friendly Seed and Nursery Directory to source safe seeds. For more information, see the webpage on Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind.

Advancing Policy

This past May, Nevada passed A.B. 162, sponsored by Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow, prohibiting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and continued momentum for targeted, common-sense restrictions. While Nevada joins California, Minnesota, New Jersey (the first state to curtail neonics’ nonagricultural uses), and New York in leading the way, this incremental approach does not go far enough as it does not address the holistic combination of environmental stressors leading to pollinator declines, exacerbated by the health, biodiversity, and climate crises.

To promote transformational change and “shift the needle,” it is vital to reestablish a national strategy to work across agencies to eliminate our reliance on toxic pesticides and assist in the transition to organic land management—in the interest of protecting ecosystems against the ongoing dramatic destruction of biodiversity and the insect apocalypse. Only by eliminating all pesticides and treated seeds that harm pollinators—from neonicotinoids, fipronil, synthetic pyrethroids, organophosphate insecticides to the herbicide glyphosate—and assist land managers, from farmers to landscapers, to transition to organic practices that prohibit these deadly chemicals’ use, will a broad systemic transformation be possible.

Beyond Pesticides’ nationwide Parks for a Sustainable Future program supports this long-term vision of adopting organic practices; relying on working models that support soil biology and soil health, the program strengthens the grass plants’ ability to stand up to use-associated stressors and eliminate toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers detrimental to pollinator health. For example in New York City, Beyond Pesticides partnered with the Eco-Friendly Parks for All (EFPA) coalition of environmental, public health and political action organizations, the Parks and Recreation Department, and Stonyfield Organic Yogurt to pilot organic land management programs at eight sites across the five boroughs in compliance with Intro 1524, which restricts land management products to those compatible with organic systems.

Envision an organic community where local parks, playing fields, and greenways are managed without unnecessary toxic pesticides, children and pets are safe to run around on the grass, and bees and other pollinators are safeguarded from toxic chemicals. At Beyond Pesticides, this is the future we envision and are working to achieve.

To work with Beyond Pesticides and develop an action plan for transitioning your community to organic land management, please send us an email at [email protected].

Stay tuned to TAKE ACTION this Saturday online!

In view of EPA’s failure to protect pollinators from pesticides, the lives of those essential insects, birds, and mammals are increasingly dependent on state and local laws.

Stay tuned tomorrow, Saturday, June 24th for Beyond Pesticides’ “Action of the Week” to preserve and promote local pollinator protections with a click of the mouse!

For more information and to stay in the loop, click here to subscribe to our Weekly News Update and Action of the Week listserv!

Thank you for joining the Beyond Pesticides team for the 2023 National Pollinator Week, during which time we recognized—and took action to protect—this important ecosystem link. Pollinators—bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other organisms—make a critical contribution to plant health, crop productivity, and the preservation of natural resources, but their existence is still threatened by pesticides.

For more on pollinators and pesticides year-round, follow us and like our page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.  

Image Credit: Lyndsey Marston, 3Legged Dog Ink, “Save Our Pollinators” and Akayla Bracey, “The Bee and the Flower.” Check out our Art Page for more!

Share

Leave a Reply

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (8)
    • Announcements (604)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (41)
    • Antimicrobial (18)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (37)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (52)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (34)
    • Biomonitoring (40)
    • Birds (26)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Cannabis (30)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (9)
    • Chemical Mixtures (7)
    • Children (113)
    • Children/Schools (240)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (30)
    • Climate Change (86)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (6)
    • Congress (20)
    • contamination (155)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • diamides (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (19)
    • Drift (16)
    • Drinking Water (16)
    • Ecosystem Services (15)
    • Emergency Exemption (3)
    • Environmental Justice (167)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (534)
    • Events (89)
    • Farm Bill (24)
    • Farmworkers (197)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (6)
    • Fungicides (26)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (16)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (43)
    • Holidays (39)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (6)
    • Indoor Air Quality (6)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (71)
    • Invasive Species (35)
    • Label Claims (49)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (250)
    • Litigation (344)
    • Livestock (9)
    • men’s health (3)
    • metabolic syndrome (3)
    • Metabolites (4)
    • Microbiata (22)
    • Microbiome (28)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (3)
    • Occupational Health (15)
    • Oceans (11)
    • Office of Inspector General (4)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (163)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (10)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (13)
    • Pesticide Regulation (782)
    • Pesticide Residues (185)
    • Pets (36)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (2)
    • Plastic (8)
    • Poisoning (20)
    • Preemption (45)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Reflection (1)
    • Repellent (4)
    • Resistance (119)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (33)
    • Seasonal (3)
    • Seeds (6)
    • soil health (17)
    • Superfund (5)
    • synergistic effects (23)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (16)
    • Synthetic Turf (3)
    • Take Action (596)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (12)
    • U.S. Supreme Court (1)
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (1)
    • Women’s Health (25)
    • Wood Preservatives (36)
    • World Health Organization (11)
    • Year in Review (2)
  • Most Viewed Posts