Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline. We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
A campaign to register a million public and private gardens and landscapes to support pollinators.
From individuals, to schools, community groups, and businesses – everyone can make a difference! Visit http://millionpollinatorgardens.org/ to see what you can do!
National Pollinator Week and Pollinator Commemorative Stamp
In 2006 the US Senate signed Resolution 580 designating June 24 – 30, 2007 as National Pollinator Week. The event was initiated in response to the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Service report, The Status of Pollinators in North America, with a goal of recognizing the importance of pollinators to ecosystem health and agriculture in the United States. The Secretary of Agriculture followed the resolution with a proclamation “calling on the people of the United States to join in celebrating the vital significance of pollinators”. Hundreds of activities took place across the county, from local community outings to a lecture by Pulitzer Prize winning biologist E. O. Wilson.
On June 29, 2007 the US Postal Service issued a Pollinator Commemorative Stamp series. Washington, DC Postmaster, Yverne Pat Moore, stated “These stamps are a special way to honor the beauty that is in our midst each day. The animals featured on the stamps are beautiful ambassadors of nature.”
During the 2008 National Pollinator week 30 governors took action to proclaim Pollinator Week in their States and local events occurred in at least 40 states.
The US Senate and the Department of Agriculture
The United States Post Office. 2006. The birds and the bees. Postal News, October 18, 2006. Online at http://www.pollinator.org/Resources/USPSsr06_048.pdf, accessed on May 5, 2008.
North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (www.nappc.org)
The Forgotten Pollinators Campaign
The Forgotten Pollinators Campaign was a ground-breaking initiative that was credited with a significant role in instigating the widespread efforts to protect pollinators currently being pursued by organizations across North America and elsewhere. Stephen Buchmann and Gary Nabhan recognized the threats facing pollinators and the subsequent dangers facing society. They launched the Forgotten Pollinators Campaign to bring attention to the critical role pollination plays in food production and in maintaining viable ecosystems. This international campaign was based in Tucson at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and aimed to inform scientists, conservationists, farmers, and the public about the animals that pollinate wild flowering plants and economically important crops. Using a book entitled The Forgotten Pollinators, museum exhibits, and an informative website, they also called attention to the many threats faced by all types of managed and wild pollinators, including habitat fragmentation and pesticide use.
In 1998, The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum restructured the campaign as the multi-institutional, binational Pollinator Conservation Consortium (PCC). The PCC collaborates with several U.S. and Mexican universities and nongovernmental organizations.
Buchmann, S.L., and G.P. Nabhan. 1996. The Forgotten Pollinators. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Migratory Pollinators Program. Online at http://www.desertmuseum.org/pollination/introduction.php, accessed on May 5, 2008.
Smithsonian Institute, National Zoological Park – Pollinarium Exhibit
The National Zoological Park’s BioPark program in Washington, DC is a series of exhibits focusing on the interdependencies between living species, earth’s elements, and human culture. In 1996 they opened their “Pollinarium” exhibit. The Pollinarium uses over twenty different plant and animal species to educate the public about the biological processes of pollination, the relationships between plants and their pollinators, and the significance of pollination to humans. Exhibit highlights include an area where the public can walk through and witness, first-hand, pollinators in action; large-scale interactive models of flowers and pollinators; a chance to view what flowers look like through the eye of an insect; and a seven foot tall living beehive.
Smithsonian Institute, National Zoological Park – Pollinarium Exhibit. Online at http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/Invertebrates/Pollinarium/default.cfm, accessed on May 5, 2008.
Conservation of Native Pollinators on Golf Course
Golf courses throughout the U.S. have been labeled “biological deserts” due to a perception of uniform vegetation and heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers. The U.S. Golf Association’s Wildlife Links program is trying to change this situation. The program supports research on a variety of wildlife issues. One of their projects was the “Conservation of Native Pollinators on Golf Courses,” a collaborative project between the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory in Logan, Utah.
The project was based in the Columbia Basin, east of the Cascade Range in northern Oregon and southern Washington. Pilot research projects were done on three golf courses where the owners had an existing commitment to minimize pesticide and fertilizer use. These three courses represented a range of environmental conditions: Wildhorse Golf Course in Mission, OR, on newly developed arable fields; Veterans Memorial Golf Course in Walla Walla, WA, an established park-like course; and Horn Rapids Golf Course in Richland, WA, with extensive semi-arid rabbitbrush habitat. A reference site was established near each course to provide an area of natural vegetation in which pollinator populations could be compared with those on the courses.
The golf courses were surveyed first for native solitary bee and wasp species. Following the survey, habitat enhancements were made in out-of-play areas. Native plants were planted to provide improved foraging, and several types of nesting sites were constructed, including sand pits and artificial trap-nests. In addition to the survey data, the project provided valuable information on practical conservation steps that could be done within a working golf course. Publications include, Making Room for Pollinators: How to Create Habitat for Pollinator Insects on Golf Courses and articles published in industry magazines, including Green Section Record and Golf Course Management.
This project ran from 1997 to 2000. Since then there has been a growth in interest and support for pollination conservation on golf courses. Both the U.S. Golf Association and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America promote pollinator conservation. Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program encompasses pollinators within its golf course stewardship guidelines. An increasing number of golf courses have been undertaking habitat improvements for pollinators. This work has been recognized in the National Research Council report, Status of Pollinators in North America (NRC 2006), which included a box highlighting the contribution golf courses can make to pollinator conservation.
US Golf Association Wildlinks Program. Online at http://www.usga.org/turf/environmental_programs/wild_links_program/wild_links_program.html, accessed on May 5, 2008.
National Research Council. 2006. Status of Pollinators in North America. Washington DC: National Academies Press.
Matthew Shepherd, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, personal communication (2007)
United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators, and Global Environment Facility Project
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) established a Programme of Work on Agricultural Biodiversity in 1996 and called for priority attention to components of biological diversity responsible for the maintenance of ecosystem services important for the sustainability of agriculture, including pollinators. As the outcome of a global focus on the need to conserve and sustainably use pollinators in agriculture, the Conference of the Parties [COP] to the CBD went a step further and established an International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators (also known as the International Pollinators Initiative – IPI) in 2000 (COP decision V/5) and requested the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to facilitate and coordinate the initiative, including the development of a plan of action… adopted at COP 6 in 2002…
[T]he aims of the IPI, [are] to:
- Monitor pollinator decline, its causes and its impact on pollination
- Address the lack of taxonomic information on pollinators;
- Assess the economic value of pollination and the economic impact of
the decline of pollination services; and
- Promote the conservation and the restoration and sustainable use of
pollinator diversity in agricultural and related ecosystems.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2005. Agriculture 21. Spotlight 2005. Online at http://www.fao.org/ag/magazine/0512sp1.htm, accessed on May 5, 2008.
The Global Environment Facility. No Date. Conservation and Management of Pollinators for Sustainable Agriculture through an Ecosystem Approach. Online at http://www.worldagroforestry.org/treesandmarkets/hvc07_meet/other_materials/gloabl%20partnership%20pollinators%20fao.pdf, accessed on September 5, 2008
8 August 2008 – A new project worth $26.45 million has been launched by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to better protect bees, bats and birds that are essential to the world’s crop production.
The unique five-year project “Conservation & Management of Pollinators for Sustainable Agriculture through an Ecosystem Approach”, which will be implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), will help ensure food security through the protection of the key pollinator species.
The project is coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and will be executed through partnerships with the Governments of Brazil, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan and South Africa in collaboration with stakeholders from different environment and agricultural communities at national and international level, including ministries, research institutions, agencies, academia, NGOs, private sector and farming communities.
The GEF will contribute $7.8million and leverage an additional $18.65 million from other partners which include multilateral organizations, governments and academic institutions.
Global Environment Facility. 2008. GEF: New $27 million project launched to protect bees, bats and birds. Online at http://www.gefweb.org/interior.aspx?id=22248, accessed on September 5, 2008
Colony Collapse Disorder
Beginning in October 2006, some beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. While colony losses are not unexpected during winter weather, the magnitude of loss suffered by some beekeepers was highly unusual.
This phenomenon, which currently does not have a recognizable underlying cause, has been termed “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). The main symptom of CCD is simply no or a low number of adult honey bees present but with a live queen and no dead honey bees in the hive. Often there is still honey in the hive, and immature bees (brood) are present.
Why should the public care about honey bees?
Bee pollination is responsible for $15 billion in added crop value, particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. About one mouthful in three in the diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. While there are native pollinators (honey bees came from the Old World with European colonists), honey bees are more prolific and the easiest to manage for the large scale pollination that U.S. agriculture requires. In California, the almond crop alone uses 1.3 million colonies of bees, approximately one half of all honey bees in the United States, and this need is projected to grow to 1.5 million colonies by 2010.
The number of managed honey bee colonies has dropped from 5 million in the1940s to only 2.5 million today. At the same time, the call for hives to supply pollination services has continued to climb. This means honey bee colonies are trucked farther and more often than ever before.
Honey bee colony health has also been declining since the 1980s with the advent of new pathogens and pests. The spread into the United States of varroa and tracheal mites, in particular, created major new stresses on honey bees.
Is there currently a crisis in food production because of CCD?
While CCD has created a very serious problem for beekeepers and could threaten the pollination industry if it becomes more widespread, fortunately there were enough bees to supply all the needed pollination this past spring. But we cannot wait to see if CCD becomes an agricultural crisis to do the needed research into the cause and treatment for CCD.
The cost of hives for pollination has risen this year. But much of that is due to growing demand. Some of the price increase may also be due to higher cost of gas and diesel and other increases related to energy and labor costs. Commercial beekeepers truck hives long distances to provide pollination services, so in particular they must deal with rising expenses.
Are there any theories about what may be causing CCD?
Case studies and questionnaires related to management practices and environmental factors have identified a few common factors shared by those beekeepers experiencing CCD, but no common environmental agents or chemicals stand out as causative. There are three major possibilities that are being looked into by researchers.
1) Pesticides may be having unexpected negative effects on honey bees.
2) A new parasite or pathogen may be attacking honey bees. One possible candidate being looked at is a pathogenic gut microbe called Nosema. Viruses are also suspected.
3) A perfect storm of existing stresses may have unexpectedly weakened colonies leading to collapse. Stress, in general, compromises the immune system of bees (and other social insects) and may disrupt their social system, making colonies more susceptible to disease.
These stresses could include high levels of infection by the varroa mite (a parasite that feeds on bee blood and transmits bee viruses); poor nutrition due to apiary overcrowding, pollination of crops with low nutritional value, or pollen or nectar scarcity; and exposure to limited or contaminated water supplies. Migratory stress brought about by increased needs for pollination might also be a contributing factor.
What can I as a member of the public do to help honey bees?
The best action you can take to benefit honey bees is to not use pesticides indiscriminately, especially not to use pesticides at mid-day when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar. In addition, you can plant and encourage the planting of good nectar sources such as red clover, foxglove, bee balm, and joe-pye weed.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Questions and Answers: Colony Collapse Disorder. News and Events. Online at http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572, accessed on August 20, 2008.
Also see: “Colony Collapse Disorder: A Complex Buzz” in the May/June 2008 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. Online at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/may08/colony0508.htm, accessed August 20, 2008.
Updated August 20, 2008.
Reference as: Ecological Society of America. 2008. Communicating Ecosystem Services Pollination Toolkit: Pollination Case Studies and Initiatives. Updated August 20, 2008. Online at www.esa.org/ecoservices