What are Native Pollinators (NPs)?
Native pollinators include numerous species of bees, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, bats and hummingbirds, native to any given environment, in this case, North America. These species are “wild,” meaning they are not domesticated or farmed. Honey bees are important pollinators of many crops and wild plants, but they are both domesticated and not native to North America.
Why are they important?
NPs are necessary for the reproduction of
- nearly 75% of the world’s flowering plants.
- more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species.
The annual economic value of insect-pollinated crops in the US was estimated at $20 billion in 2000, with native insects contributing at least $3 billion.
Are pollinators in trouble?
Yes. In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences detailed the decline of pollinators from habitat loss, alteration, and fragmentation, as well as pesticide use in the Status of Pollinators in North America.
What is happening to honey bees?
The number of managed honey bee hives has declined by 50% since the 1950s. Each year, the U.S. beekeeping industry loses more than 30% of hives from a variety of problems, including diseases, pests, and Colony Collapse Disorder.
Can native pollinators take the place of honeybees?
Yes, to some extent. Recent research has revealed that native bees also make a significant contribution to crop pollination, in some cases providing all of the pollination required – when enough habitat is available.
This habitat is more important than ever as honey bee hives become more expensive and difficult to acquire.
Will improving habitat for native bees help honey bees too?
Yes. Increased pollen diversity leads to higher fitness in honey bees; diverse wildflower plantings benefit honey bees, as well as native species.
What do farmers, ranchers and conservationists need to know about establishing NP habitat?
They need more information about:
identifying native plants and their pollinators for different regions and environments
where and how to incorporate plantings of diverse wildflowers, native shrubs and trees
how to prepare a site for planting and how to control unwanted grasses and weeds in herbicide use is limited (as it may be to preserve polycultures of forbs and grasses)
relationships between native plants and crops, whether native plants may harbor pests or diseases or compete with crops and crop bloom