What Are Animal Pollinators and Why Can’t We Live Without Them?

Animal pollinators play a crucial role in flowering plant reproduction and in the production of most fruits and vegetables. Among the most familiar animal pollinators are birds, bees, bats and butterflies. Here’s why we need them:

  • Most plants require pollinators to produce seeds and fruit.

  • 80% of flowering plants and over three-quarters of the crop plants that feed us rely on animal pollinators.

  • Pollinators visit flowers in their search for food, mates, shelter, and nest-building materials.

  • More than half of the world’s diet of fats and oils come from animal-pollinated plants.

  • More than 150 food crops in the US require pollinators, including almost all fruit and grain crops.

  • The USDA estimates that pollinator-dependent crops are worth more than $10 billion per year.

If we don’t take care of pollinators, we lose them. Honeybees, for instance, are under tremendous stress. The prevailing theory is that the declining health of honey bees is related to multiple stressors including:

  • Pests, pathogens and viruses.

  • Poor nutrition due to the loss of foraging habitat, as well as increased reliance on supplemental diets.

  • Pesticides.

  • Bee management practices (e.g., long migratory routes).

  • Lack of genetic diversity.

Neither plant nor pollinator populations can exist in isolation–if one disappears, the other is a generation away from disaster.


–Sources: EPA and the US Forest Service


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