Monday, June 19, 2017

What is a Native Pollinator? By Ed Powers

Courtesy Living on earth/Male Broad throated Hummingbird visiting Colorado Flowers
Native pollinators are those species that are native to a specific region. To the Native Pollinators in Agriculture Project, that region is North America. The Leafcutter bees, Digger Bees, Acute-Tongued Burrowing Bees Sweat Bees and more than up to 24 species of bumble bees are a few of the native Pollinators in Colorado.

Pollinators include bees, insects, birds, and other animals that move pollen from one flower to another, thereby fertilizing plants and allowing them to reproduce.  The Leafcutter bee and numerous bumble bees are examples of native pollinators. Native, or “wild”, bees are distinct from managed bees, which were introduced to North America and are kept today by beekeepers in the United States for their honey, beeswax, and pollination services. The European honey bee is the primary managed pollinator in the U.S. today.

Courtesy of bee on sunflower
Though bees are the most common group of pollinators, other insects and animals, including wasps, butterflies, flies, beetles, bats, hummingbirds, and even man are significant pollinators as well.  There are 946 species of native bees, 250 species of butterflies, 1000 species of moths, 4 common species of migrating Hummingbirds, and numerous, wasps, beetles, flies and bats in Colorado.
 Native pollinators also play a critical role in the production of certain fruits, vegetables, and forage crops. Native bees and numerous bumble bees are significant pollinators, and on a bee-per-bee basis, can be more effective than honey bees.

Pollinators may be our planet's most ecologically and economically important group of animals. They provide stability for every terrestrial ecosystem in the world, because wild flowering plants depend on these native bees, flies, butterflies, beetles, moths, bats, birds and other animals to reproduce. Other wildlife then eat the fruits and seeds that result from pollination, spreading the seeds that in turn give rise to future generations of plants. Most of the world's other wildlife (including insects) — and more than 250,000 wild flowering plants — need native pollinators to exist. And of course that's not counting us humans.

Courtesy of Tagawa Gardens/Denver
Attract bees and butterflies with perennials at Tagawa
 Significant portions of the world's human food supply rely on the health of native pollinator populations — particularly those of bees, one of the main groups of pollinators. But despite pollinators' vast importance, amazing diversity and frightening imperilment, these special creatures are often overlooked and misunderstood. Many people simply don't comprehend or appreciate the complex ecology of wild plant reproduction.

And perhaps most importantly, we don't sufficiently value native pollinators, whose health is imperative to the health of every natural ecosystem on every continent.  It is of the utmost importance that we do whatever we can to save our native pollinator population


CSU Fact Sheets pollinators in agriculture
Center for Biological diversity/native pollinators