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What are Pollinators and why do we need them? by Ed Powers


Pollinators at Home
Courtesy yard map.org

 This blog is meant to introduce you to pollinators and pollination and their value to our economy.  We as Americans have become more focused on their value for many reasons; one of the most important is the reduction in the numbers of pollinators.  As an overview, pollination is an ecosystem process that has evolved over millions of years to benefit both flowering plants and pollinators. A pollinator is an animal that causes plants to make fruit or seeds. Pollinators visit flowers for many reasons, including feeding, pollen collection, and warmth. When pollinators visit flowers, pollen rubs or drops onto their bodies. The pollen is then transferred to another flower or a different part of the same flower as the pollinator moves from one location to the next. This pollen then fertilizes the plant. Only fertilized plants can make fruit and/or seeds, and without them, the plants cannot reproduce.

Pollinators are Not  Just Birds and Bees
Courtsey blog.nwf.org
Not only do pollinators provide essential services in nature, they are also necessary for healthy, productive agricultural ecosystems as they ensure the production of full-bodied fruit and fertile seed sets in many crops. Although some plant species rely on wind or water to transfer pollen from one flower to the next, the vast majority (almost 90%) of all plant species need the help of animals for this task. There are approximately 200,000 different species of animals around the world that act as pollinators. Of these, about 1,000 are vertebrates, such as birds, bats, and small mammals, and the rest are invertebrates, including flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, and bees.

 Value of pollinators is that they pollinate approximately 75 percent of the crop plants grown worldwide for food, fiber, beverages, condiments, spices, and medicines. It has been calculated that one out of every three to four mouthfuls of food we eat and beverages we drink is delivered to us by pollinators. As such, agricultural products that are produced with the help of pollinators make a significant contribution to the economy. For example, it has been estimated that insect-pollinated crops directly contributed $20 billion to the United States economy in the year 2000. If this calculation were to include indirect products, such as milk and beef from cattle fed on alfalfa, the value of pollinators to agricultural production would be raised to $40 billion in the United States alone.
Bee gathering food
Courtsey Honey Love. org
Not only do native pollinators provide us with a significant amount of the food we eat and contribute to the economy, they also perform key roles in natural ecosystem. By helping to keep plant communities healthy and able to reproduce naturally, native pollinators assist plants in providing food and cover for wildlife, preventing erosion, and keeping waterways clean. Pollinated plants produce fruit and seeds which are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent NRCS of bird species, as well as many mammals. The apple industry relies on insect pollinators. Plants also provide egg laying and nesting sites for many insects, including butterflies. Pollinators support biodiversity, and there is a positive correlation between plant diversity and pollinator. In conclusion we cannot do without pollinators and should take every opportunity to save them.

References
Colorado State University fact sheets
Wildlife Habitat Management Institute/ Native Pollinators
Colorado Department of Agriculture
Cornell Chronicle/Cornell EDU/ Insect Pollinators contribute $29 billion to US farm Income

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