Bees, bats, butterflies and why they matter

Bees, bats and butterflies aren’t pests. They’re hardworking pollinators, supporting plant life, ecosystems and agriculture.

They also are important enough for the Obama administration to take notice, calling pollinators “critical to the nation’s economy, food security and environmental health.”

About 75 percent of flowering plants need help from bees to reproduce. (Shutterstock / Timofei Iasinskii)

But there’s trouble in the pollinators’ world, and U.S. agencies are working to figure out how to give them a little help. For reasons not fully understood, honeybee colonies are collapsing, and agricultural enterprises could be negatively affected.

Monarch butterfly populations are declining sharply, endangering one of North America’s most wondrous migrations.

Bats also pollinate flowering plants and spread their seeds, but habitat loss and a fungal disease are diminishing their populations in North America.

After months of study, U.S. agencies are recomending new actions on public lands to offer habitats that will help pollinators thrive:

  • Protect and restore wildflower-rich habitats.

  • Provide locations for pollinators’ hives and nests.

  • Provide desirable plants for butterflies.

  • Provide winter refuge for other insects.

In a White House blog post, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology John Holdren urged private landholders and individual homeowners to create pollinator habitats, suggesting actions such as:

Fruit growers depend on honeybees to pollinate blossoms. (Shutterstock/Grandpa)
  • Planting a pollinator garden or leaving natural habitat undisturbed.

  • Applying pesticides with caution and care.

  • Learning more about the pollinator species in your area.

Three-fourths of flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some scientists estimate that one-third of what we eat exists because of the work done by birds and bats, and by bees, butterflies and other insects.

Find a way to help a pollinator, so they’ll keep helping us produce the crops of the future.