Bees, Other Pollinators Need Protection
BOISE, Idaho - As we enjoy the late-summer crops produced in Idaho and around the country, environmental advocates are hoping everyone will take time to appreciate the little creatures that pollinate plants.
About three-quarters of the more than 240,000 species of the world's flowering plants rely on pollinators, which include bees, birds, bats and other animals. Not only should pollinators be acknowledged for the role they play in agriculture, said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, senior food campaigner with Friends of the Earth, but the peril they're in needs to be recognized as well.
"Bees are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat, and they're also an indicator species," she said, "so if bees and other pollinators are declining at such an alarming rate, it's telling us that there's something more serious going on in our environment and we're seeing wider-spread contamination that's going to create a problem for us."
Bee decline is being blamed on habitat loss, parasites and pesticide use, and a Canadian study published this summer found that the same pesticides contributing to the drop in bee numbers are likely also contributing to hummingbird declines.
Finck-Haynes applauded states that are taking steps to protect pollinators. Maryland became the first state to ban neonicotinoids, which are widely used in both agriculture and in backyard gardens and landscapes. She said seeds pre-treated with pesticides are used to grow many of our big crops such as corn and soybeans.
"If states were to work to reduce their use as a seed application and then just generally in agriculture, and work with farmers to employ alternative pest-management strategies that are better for the environment," she said, "it would go a long way in helping to really protect pollinators."
Finck-Haynes said businesses, cities, universities, garden retailers and homeowners around the country have committed to using pollinator-friendly plants and seeds, but added that she feels there's been a lack of action by the federal government to protect the birds and bees.
The study is online at science.sciencemag.org.