It's impossible to overestimate the importance of pollinators — to plants, animals, people, ecosystems — to the survival of the planet as we know it.
Many pollinators are small insects, easily overlooked in our day-to-day lives. However, were they to disappear, we'd surely notice then. We'd say goodbye to apples, blueberries, cucumbers, kiwis, squash, and many more of our favorite foods, as well as the meats we get from livestock that eat forage crops, such as alfalfa, that depend on pollinators. Pollinators bring us an estimated 1 out of every 3 bites of our food!
There are about 300,000 species of flowering plants worldwide. About 90% of them depend on pollinators to transfer pollen among flowers, a critical step in the process of fertilization, and the subsequent development of the fruits and seeds necessary for reproduction. Pollinators also help ensure a plant species' genetic diversity, increasing the likelihood that some plants will be able to withstand extreme weather and other challenges, as well as to adapt to changes in climate.
Most of us recognize honey bees as important pollinators, and the plight of beekeepers battling mites and diseases in their hives has been widely publicized. But did you know that there are 25,000 known species of wild bees, many of which are are also critical pollinators? Now add in the many thousands of species of butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, and and other invertebrate pollinators and the scale of their collective work inspires awe. Even some bats, birds, monkeys, and lizards pollinate specific plants!
What many of us don't know is that more than 40% of invertebrate pollinator species — particularly bees and butterflies — are facing extinction, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations*. Forty percent!
Acting alone, a gardener using pollinator-friendly plants and practices can create a safe haven. Imagine if the estimated 95 million households nationwide that do some type of gardening followed suit. Collectively, we can create huge swaths of healthy habitat for pollinators of all stripes!
Gardener's Supply advocates for pollinators with tips like these:
Last updated: 4/1/20