Happy Pollinator Week! This week we are celebrating our favorite birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, and bats that help keep our food growing and environment thriving. Ready to celebrate? Let’s go!
It’s mid-summer. You’ve been invited to a friend’s house for a party and asked to bring a fruit tray with a cream cheese dip. Carefully, you cut up the strawberries and apples. You wash the blueberries and raspberries and put them neatly on the tray. Last, you quickly whip up a cream cheese dip and your tray is ready.
At the party, you set your fruit tray on the serving table and look around. There is fresh guacamole, cooked asparagus, and a veggie tray with broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumbers. The main course is a juicy cheeseburger or veggie burger, with tomatoes and pickles. Before you sit down to eat you grab a glass of sweet cranberry juice and an almond cookie for dessert. This sounds like a pretty awesome meal, doesn’t it? Well, this meal would not have been possible without pollinators. When we say pollinators are important, we mean it!
Pollinators are crucial to our survival. Without them, we would not be able to grow the crops we need to survive, along with the crops needed to sustain the lives of cattle, goats, and sheep. The economy would take a hit as food supplies would become more complicated to maintain and produce. There would be fewer plants and trees that produce oxygen for us to breathe and fewer natural resources that we use to survive. With the development of more land and the use of harsh chemicals on our lawns and on crops, pollinators are struggling to exist.
Luckily, there are ways we can all help. In this post we’ll be discussing the history of Pollinator Week, why pollinators are important, and how educating the younger generation about bees and other pollinators may be the most important step in helping our little winged friends not only survive but thrive.
We can’t fully understand Pollinator Week without first getting to know Pollinator Partnership. They are an organization that has been dedicated to educating the United States on pollinators since 1997.
They provide educational resources for both young and old, because they know that proper education is like teamwork, similar to how pollinators work together. Pollinators help maintain part of the environment, like trees and crops. Pollinator Partnership educates us on how to maintain our part of the environment, like making sure there are plenty of pollinator-friendly flowers and an abundance of natural habitat.
Their website has a variety of educational resources to help us understand pollinators in our everyday lives, like beekeeping, golf courses, and pesticide use. Most importantly, they have resources and curriculum available for schools to help teach young people about the benefits of pollinators and how they are at risk.
Pollinator Partnership understands that while they can convince some adults to make changes to support pollinators, raising a generation that fully understands the delicate balance pollinators bring to the world is more important. Students can learn about pollinators in school, but dedicating a week to our pollinating friends can open a student’s eyes and help them realize that pollinators are to be celebrated and protected.
In 2006, Pollinator Partnership helped pass a bill through the Senate to declare that every June, there be a week designated to pollinators. The resolution, as put forth by Senator Saxby Chambliss and the Senate, would help with:
“Recognizing the importance of pollinators to ecosystem health and agriculture in the United States and the value of partnership efforts to increase awareness about pollinators and support for protecting and sustaining pollinators.”
We celebrate Pollinator Week in numerous ways. Some cities light up bridges and buildings with yellow and orange lights to show their support. Others hold parades or host seminars and lectures to help with pollinator education. Many organizations dedicate their social media to pollinators for the week, another great way to educate the public.
What started out as a national celebration of pollinators is now recognized around the world as both France and Canada also celebrate Pollinator Week!
Those near Beepods HQ in Southeastern Wisconsin will be pleased to know that three Wisconsin cities are celebrating Pollinator Week. Journey North is an organization in Madison that tracks the migration of certain pollinators, like butterflies and hummingbirds. Follow along with them on their social media this week for activities and resources.
Closer to Milwaukee? The Mitchell Park Domes will be lit up yellow and orange every night in celebration. Lastly, the group Pollenablers of the Fox Cities area will be celebrating and raising awareness around the Oshkosh and Appleton areas.
Beepods will be hosting a Pollination Nation Summit. This will include online interviews with
gardeners, beekeepers, state officials, and more! Access to the summit is free during Pollinator Week so don’t miss out!
To find out more about what events are happening in your area, check out the Pollinator Week event list or visit their website for an interactive map.
We’ve mentioned before that pollinators are essential, but we only briefly mentioned why. We can grasp the idea that yes, without bees there would be less food for us and less money circulating the economy, and let’s not forget the impact on the environment. But here is some actual data to help put pollinator importance into perspective.
In a study conducted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service Pennsylvania, a branch of the USDA, in the United States,“one third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators,” along with 35 percent of the world’s food crop. According to the American Beekeeping Federation, certain crops like “blueberries and cherries are 90 percent dependent on honey bees.” While crops like almonds depend on pollinators 100 percent.
There are said to be nearly three million honey bee colonies in the United States, and of that, two-thirds of those colonies are transported around the country to help with pollination. The California almond industry requires nearly 1.8 million hives alone!
Alright, you’ve read about the crops pollinators help, but which crops are they? We’ve compiled this easy list for you:
Imagine, a world where there is no coffee to wake up to, no apples for apple pie, no fruit for your fruit salad, no cotton to make clothing or sheets with, and no alfalfa to feed livestock. Pollinators provide us with some products we use daily, it is hard to imagine a world without them.
Domestic honey bees contribute nearly $15-$20 billion to the value of US crop production. Other domestic pollinators contribute about $4 billion to the US economy, meaning domestic pollinators are responsible for nearly $24 billion in revenue. Wild and native pollinators are responsible for another $9 billion.
In a study done by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center, “the U.S. honey industry in 2017 was responsible for more than 22,000 jobs and its total economic output was $4.74 billion.”
Globally, bees and other pollinators make up about $235 and $577 billion (US) worth of annual
While the appeal in being a farmer is starting to decline, it is important to educate the youth on the importance of farming for the well being of people and the global economy. After all, they will be the farmers some day, and they will have the responsibility of providing the world with food and to help keep the economy going.
From the data above we can see that these little pollinators are crucial to our food supply and worth a lot of money. So why are their numbers decreasing?
What Is Causing the Decline
So, what is the number one cause of pollinator decline? The answer may not surprise you: It’s humans. We rely so much on these creatures, yet our actions are harmful to them. When we clear land for farming and development we take away valuable sources of forage and habitat.
According to Kimberly Gorham of the Rocky Mountain Telegram, for pollinators such as monarch butterflies, “Development is consuming 6,000 acres a day, a loss of 2.2 million acres per year.“
Clearing land for farm fields isn’t the only harm that farms can cause pollinators. Even though our farms depend heavily on bees, the way we utilize them can be detrimental. And to be clear, when referencing farms, we mean large, commercial farms.
According to One Green Planet, domestic bees used in farming are transported all over the country during different seasons to help with pollination. There are two major problems with this. First, transporting bees makes it difficult for colonies to stay healthy. Bees have trouble consuming food, preventing valuable nutrients from getting to the colony. When the bees are weak, they are more susceptible to fungal diseases and other illnesses.
The second issue is that bees are taken to farm lands that are mostly monocultures, meaning there isn’t a variety of food sources, and the bees can starve.
Another issue with farming is pesticides and herbicides. When we use pesticides and herbicides, we are poisoning and killing our pollinators, let alone ourselves.
According to Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation “More than 90% of pollen samples from bee hives in agricultural landscapes and more than 90% of stream samples are contaminated with more than one pesticide.” Pesticide use doesn’t just contaminate the pollen source itself, but other food sources and habitat as well.
It is important to educate students on the harm we cause to our environment, because when students are educated, they can help teach others. Here is an example of a college freshman helping to spread awareness of the harmful effects of pesticides on bees. Eighteen year-old Helen Buchanan received a Gold Award from her Girl Scout troop after she led a lecture series on bees and pesticides for fourth and fifth graders.
When kids grow up aware of the importance of pollinators and how humans are one of their biggest threats, they won’t have to think twice about making changes, because they will know and understand that that is best.
You’ve heard the age-old cliche that young people are the future. As much of a groaner as that phrase may be, it is 100% true. While pollinators affect all of our lives, it is the younger generation that will inherit the Earth in whatever way we leave it. They will then, in turn, pass it down to the next generation.
Like we mentioned before, today’s young people will become the farmers that feed the world. They will also become the people who depend on that food. It is vital we educate the younger generation to understand that all creatures, big and small, need to work together in order to sustain life on this planet.
This is obviously easier said than done. Luckily, a lot of hardworking people at Beepods, Pollinator Partnership, and across the globe have put together valuable resources and tools to help educate future generations about pollinators.
Types of Bee Education For Young and Old
It’s important for the youth to learn about pollinators, but someone has to teach them, right? If you’re a teacher or a parent, check out Pollinator Partnership’s extensive collection of bee curriculum, lesson plans, activities, and educational tools. These are great resources for all ages.
Looking for a more hands-on approach? Contact local apiaries and nature centers and see what they offer in terms of pollinator education. It’s a great way for adults and kids to learn, and it gets you outside!
Beepods also has a ton of educational resources through their blogs and through their Beepods member’s lab. These resources will help adults understand the pollinators around them so they can pass the information down to the next generation.
If you’re near Beepods HQ, you can request to visit their apiary in Milwaukee! Or head on over to Honey Acres and go through the pollinator museum.
Learning about bees and other pollinators is only the first step to creating meaningful change. There are plenty of actions you can take to make a pollinator’s world a better place.
Ways We Can Help
Students might be wondering, “Well what can I do to help?” It is fair to say that it may be easier for adults to help pollinators, because they are able to plant their own gardens and have the means to buy their own food. Younger people have a few more barriers to cross, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help.
Beepods has numerous blog posts on ways to help pollinators. Specifically, the blog post about planting a pollinator-friendly garden is a great place to start. Bees are attracted to a wide variety of flowers and trees, which helps them produce honey and propolis.
Prairie Nursery, an organization near Beepods HQ, released this video that explains how planting native flora in your gardens is beneficial because they don’t need fertilizer or pesticides to grow. They’ve survived for thousands of years without chemicals. Plus, these native flora are easy to grow and bloom all season long, providing an excellent source of forage.
Students can also start a beekeeping club at their school. What better way to spread awareness and help bees than hanging out with your friends? This Beepods blog talks about how high school students can help bees in their area, have a hive at their school, and harvest and sell the honey to support it.
After talking with Beepods Beekeepers, Sam Joseph and Alyssa Hartson, there are two things they want young people to know about pollinators.
-Bugs are not the enemy and they’re not gross.
-That we can connect with them like we do with pets, and we can care about them, too.
As the American Beekeeping Federation states, “A healthy beekeeping industry is invaluable to a healthy US agricultural economy.” While this is true, we need to realize that beekeeping and pollinators are invaluable to the world.
Through Pollinator Week, Pollinator Partnership has helped to raise awareness and educate the public on the importance of pollinators. The main concept that Pollinator Partnership wants the public to know is that pollinators need us and we need them. We need pollinators to help grow our crops for food and our trees for fresh air and raw materials. Pollinators need us to keep them safe from pesticides, deforestation, and sustainable development.
What young people should take away from this is that pollinators matter. Think of all the things we wouldn’t have without them. Imagine the quality of life we would have. There is only so much that machines and labs can do to create the everyday things we need. Pollinators were keeping the environment alive long before we started using them in commercial farming. It is important to our survival that pollinators survive.
The preservation of pollinators starts with us. We need to take action. Plant pollinator-friendly gardens, use fewer pesticides, respect the environment, and raise the next generation to keep pollinators a priority. The future is up to them, but we can help give them the tools they need to make it brighter.