Pollinator decline threatens agriculture

As president of the Somerset Beekeepers, people often ask me if it is only the honeybees who are in trouble, or is it all bees?

bumblebee on a coneflowerNot only is it all bees–it’s all of our pollinators, too!  Everything from bees to beetles and butterflies, even flies–are all at risk.  And a new study that was recently published in the scientific journal “Science” analyses the issue.

Scientists collected data from some 600 fields in 20 countries around the world to prove that native bees and insects are more effective pollinators than our domesticated honeybees.  Yet at the same time, these 50 scientists analyzed data from 41 crop systems and discovered that because of continued urban development and modern agricultural practices, populations of native pollinators are in decline world wide.

What’s more, researchers observed that using managed honeybees did not make up for the loss of the wild bees and insects.

Decreasing availability of fruits and vegetables will impact consumers.  Studies show that fewer than 10% of Americans meet the recommended daily consumption for fruits and vegetables, largely due to the cost of fresh produce, and that situation is only going to get worse as pollinator populations continue to decline.

sichuan chinaWith our industrialized agricultural practices and our modern world, we’ve effectively created a failing system for our planet’s ecology.  Already in Sichuan, China, farmers are forced to pollinate apple and pear trees by hand due to indiscriminate use of pesticides during the 1980s.

Furthermore, as the number and diversity of these insect pollinators decreases, flowering plants will receive fewer visits from insects, resulting in lower productions of key agricultural crops, such as tomatoes, melons, and coffee.

But there’s still hope.  New studies suggest that practices to preserve natural or semi-natural areas to support pollinators, as well as organic agricultural practices, benefit local ecosystems and help to promote pollinator populations and diversity.

Mankind’s profound impact on the planet’s ecosystems can be used for good if we make conscious choices to incorporate Earth’s natural systems with our agricultural practices.  By reducing pesticide use, and by promoting natural areas for wildlife, we can ensure the survival of pollinators as well as ourselves.  Protect this free service that nature offers, promote pollinators in your backyard starting today!

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