What do pollinators do for humans?
Over 75% of all flowering plants depend on animals to pollinate them. That’s over half of our food source, and much more when you consider that we grow food to feed livestock which then become our food as well. In 2010, honeybees alone contributed to 19 billion dollars in pollinated crops. But honeybees aren’t the only pollinators in town. There are over 3500 different species of native bees in North America, as well as birds, bats, butterflies, moths, beetles, and other insects that all contribute to maintaining our flowering plants and trees. Habitat loss (deforestation) and the overuse of pesticides on crops, yards, and other green spaces are two major contributors to the decline of our pollinators.
So what can you do if you’re not a farmer or a real estate developer? There are many ways to help conserve our pollinating species and one of the easiest and most effective is to cease use of pesticides. Pesticide use (yes, even those falsely marketed as “organic”) is harmful to all pollinating species. In addition to killing butterflies and bees, residential pesticide use has been linked to “white nose disease” currently decimating bat populations, as well as documented negative effects to human health. Humans can come in contact with pesticides in many different ways, the most common being dermal and respiratory exposure. Most poisonings happen from inhaling the chemicals or coming in contact with them through the skin. Diseases like asthma, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Leukemia, and other harmful cognitive effects have been observed in humans through contact with pesticides. A recommendation from the CDC for avoiding ticks and mosquito borne illnesses is to simply apply a bug repellant (there are many effective, all natural, DEET-free options out there) directly to your skin before spending time outdoors.
Another way to help our pollinating species is to change your buying habits from conventional produce to local, organic farms. Organic produce may not different from conventionally farmed produce by the time the fruit or vegetable hits your plate, but by choosing a product that has not been sprayed with pesticides, we can send a message to food producers that creates change beneficial to us all. Remember, not all organic foods are created equal. Learn where your food comes from so you can make the best decision possible for your health and the environment!
US Fish & Wildlife Service:
Natural Resources Conservation Service- U.S. Department of Agriculture:
Ki-Hyun, Ehsanul, Shamin “Science of the Total Environment”: