Environmental Insights: Pollinators

Take a closer look at the world around you and understand how it's connected through our Environmental Insights series.


Written by: ELC Junior Interpreter, JoSea Martin

bee on a purple flower
Bee on Clockvine. Photo by: JoSea Martin

Pollinators and Paradise are in Peril


Pollinators are the key to a healthy web of life. Without pollinators, there is no food and no paradise. According to scientists and researchers, such as Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (1) and Robert Gegear of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Department of Biology and Biotechnology (2), pollinators are dying.

Every day, pollinators like bees, butterflies, and other insects such as ladybugs, as well as birds and bats, fly around and help pollinate different flowers allowing them to grow into fruits. This helps plants to spread their seeds and grow new plants in new places (reproduce). Sadly, due to human activities such as increasing pollution in the world, pesticides and chemicals being sprayed to keep out unwanted pests (which happen to keep out and kill beneficial pollinators), and homeowners who choose lawns or concrete surfaces instead of natural plant areas and wild flowers, the plants and healthy environment essential for pollinators’ survival are destroyed.


Dr. Ramaswamy also states that, “During the past 30-plus years, our nation’s pollinator populations have suffered serious losses due to invasive pests and diseases….exposure to pesticides and chemicals, loss of habitat, loss of species and genetic diversity, and changing climate. Numerous species of butterflies, moths, and native bees are either extremely rare or are extinct .”


These threats to pollinators are reported by other researchers as well including the National Park Service scientists (3) and Florida experts, Dr. Rachel Mallinger (4) and Ms. Janice Broda (5) from the University of Florida.

How does the web of life work?


As Robert Gegear states in a 2018 Newsweek interview, “The bees visit the plants; the seeds and fruit feed the birds; they feed small mammals, and so on……When we start to lose species in that context, we’re talking about extinction and the loss of components which will eventually lead to ecosystem collapse.”



girl on paddle board with dog
JoSea paddling in paradise

As you can see, pollinators and paradise are in peril. How can you help save paradise and pollinators?


According to Dr. Rachel Mallinger, Assistant Professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Entomology and Nematology, “The number one thing you can do to help pollinators survive is to plant flowers or let flowers be. Mow your lawn less often. Bees love weeds, Spanish Needles, Dandelions, Thistles and Clovers. Plant sunflowers. Add pots of flowers if you don’t have a yard or garden. Plant native plants such as Blanket flower, Coreopsis, Purple Salvia, Contadina and Asters. Plant flower clusters to give a dense floral image to attract pollinators.”

Just like how ants work together to lift a heavy load, every person can make a difference in helping pollinators and paradise.


Ms. Janice Broda shared additional advice for what to plant: “Native plants with nectar and pollen are the best choices. Native insects co-evolved with these plants. European honeybees, the pollinators of commerce, are important, but we also need to provide nectar and pollen resources for native bees and other pollinators. Florida is home to more than 300 species of native bees. Native wildflowers are beloved by pollinators and can easily be incorporate into existing yards, public landscapes, and even planters in small spaces.”

The number one thing people can do to help paradise and pollinators is to be aware of how their everyday actions affect the planet. Be mindful of the little things. To paraphrase Astronaut Neil Armstrong, “One small step for each citizen, when combined, is a giant leap for all humankind and life on earth”.





Resources:

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2016/06/24/reversing-pollinator-decline-key-feeding-future

https://www.newsweek.com/wild-bees-are-dying-and-ecosystem-collapse-will-follow-nobodys-taking-notice-1232793

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/pollinators/pollinators-in-trouble.htm

Personal Interview on February 4, 2020 with Dr. Rachel Mallinger, Assistant Professor, University of Florida, Department of Entomology and Nematology, Lab Website: www.rachelmallinger.com, rachel.mallinger@ufl.edu, Office Phone: 352-273-3962

Personal correspondence, February 2020, with Janice Broda, Coordinator, Volunteer Nature Stewardship Program for the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Science



The ELC Junior Interpreter program is designed for 6th-8th graders who are passionate about the environment and interested in developing their communication skills to advocate for our natural resources.


Last year, with support from Tyler Treadway of the TC Palm, the Junior Interpreters wrote newspaper articles highlighting areas of concern in our local environment. Although only a few of them were officially selected for publication, we are excited to release their hard work through our Environmental Insights series.



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