Why are we concerned and feel the need to take action?
There are many factors contributing to our concern for pollinators as well as for people. Most of the challenges for the health of pollinators also affect people and in fact, the potential decline of pollinators has direct consequences for human survival as well.
Let’s first start with what are pollinators? They are a broad set of species – mostly insects, but also birds, bats and other species – that are responsible for a great deal of plant reproduction. Many plant species require an external organism to move pollen from the male part of the plant to the female part in order to reproduce. This organism is often an insect that is feeding on the pollen and in the process is moving some of that pollen around enabling the plant to reproduce.
The most well-known and iconic species that perform this service for plants are the honey bee and various butterflies, especially the monarch. However, there are thousands of native bees, many hundreds of species of butterflies and many other insects and birds that also do this both in our agricultural production and in our natural ecosystems. Honey bees are typically managed in hives by people and in the U.S., are an introduced species from Europe. The other species are typically less social and nest in various types of locations and are not usually managed by people. Often this distinction between their “lifestyles” is framed as managed pollinators that can be thought of as more similar to livestock versus native ones that are wild.